Car manufacturers in South Africa have said that electric vehicles are unlikely to become common in the country until the government plays its part.
This primarily involves financial actions that are required to drive initial demand – including a reduction in import duties and providing incentives for the purchase of electric cars.
Until this happens, electric vehicles will remain relatively uncommon in the country.
MyBroadband spoke with Nissan and BMW about their electric vehicle businesses in South Africa.
Both companies said that South Africa’s regulations around the import and sale of electric vehicles need revision to improve adoption.
Nissan said that before electric vehicles can become popular in South Africa, the cost of these vehicles needs to be reduced.
“To succeed, EVs have the same requirements in South Africa as other markets, namely an initial period of government incentives, expanding charging infrastructure and public education and familiarisation programme,” said Nissan.
It noted that import tariffs are necessary to protect local production and said that any tariff reduction on electric vehicles would be an interim measure to establish market growth.
Despite this, import duties remain the main barrier to accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles.
“Once the government has decided to reduce the 23% import tariff on electric vehicles, South Africa will experience a boost in the domestic sales of EVs,” said Nissan.
However, it said, tariff reductions may not be enough to grow sufficient demand.
“Other incentives and infrastructure development must be combined with enabling legislation in order to successfully fast track establishment of a local EV market,” said Nissan.
It noted that infrastructure and range anxiety are steadily becoming less of a concern due to the development of newer and longer-range battery technologies.
Nissan also said that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the sale of electric vehicles, as it has on the automotive market as a whole.
As part of its plan for the future, Nissan South Africa is aligning with the company’s global four-year plan as a regional and local market.
“This includes a focus on crossover vehicles, accelerating EV adoption, and leveraging our Rosslyn plant,” it said.
“We continue to invest in the upskilling of employees, which enables us to respond to the new needs of the market, imposed on us by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
BMW told MyBroadband that the COVID-19 global pandemic has had a negative effect on its business, but said it will continue to innovate in the electric vehicle market.
“Despite the effects of the current COVID-19 global pandemic on our business, we will continue driving the expansion of electromobility,” said BMW South Africa.
“Temporary closures of a number of our global production facilities to implement COVID-19 measures, including BMW Group Plant Rosslyn outside Pretoria, might affect the stated timelines.”
“Our commitment to electromobility, however, remains steadfast.”
It said it plans to offer 25 electrified vehicle models on global markets by 2023, including 13 all-electric models.
In South Africa, BMW currently offers two plug-in hybrids in South Africa – the X5 xDrive45e and the 745Le xDrive.
It said that globally, it delivered over 140,000 electrified vehicles to customers in 2018, while this number increased to 145,815 BMW and Mini vehicles in 2019 – which was an increase of 2.2%.
However, it was unable to discuss local volumes.