South Africa’s Electric Vehicle Journey: High Costs & Limited Infrastructure

Even as the world shifts towards greener alternatives, the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) in South Africa faces significant hurdles. The high costs associated with EVs, combined with an underdeveloped charging infrastructure, have left potential customers hesitant.

Gasoline vs Electric: Shifting Preferences

Deloitte’s 2023 Global Automotive Consumer Study presents an interesting snapshot of the South African automotive landscape. Preference for gasoline/diesel cars has seen a drop to 74% in the 2023 survey, a 10% decrease from the previous year.

  • The Breakdown of Preferences:
    • Battery-powered vehicles (BEVs): Remained steady at 2%
    • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) & plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV): Increased to 13% and 9% respectively

Deloitte comments, “The needle is moving toward an electric mobility future.”

Despite their higher upfront costs, EVs offer lower fuel costs and a more eco-friendly choice, which are the top reasons for choosing an EV. A superior driving experience, less maintenance, and personal health considerations round off the top five reasons.

South Africa’s EV Roadblocks

South Africans’ move towards EVs isn’t without hesitation. The survey reveals three main concerns:

  1. Charging Infrastructure: 53% of respondents flagged the lack of charging stations as their biggest worry. This highlights the need for public-private partnerships to bolster the charging network.
  2. Charging Time: Half of the respondents expressed concerns about the long charging times for BEVs.
  3. Affordability: The steep cost of BEVs was the third main concern. Most survey participants were only willing to pay less than R750,000 for their next vehicle, making affordability a critical issue.

The State of EV Market

Currently, South Africa’s cheapest BEV is the GWM ORA, starting at R716,900, with the top-spec model priced at R915,900. However, only 25% of EV hopefuls are willing to pay for the base model ORA. The only other BEV under R750,000 is the Mini Cooper SE, retailing at R742,102.

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With 52% of potential EV buyers being priced out of the BEV market initially, the financial barriers are undeniable.

Furthermore, a majority of potential EV owners plan to charge their vehicles at home. But, for those reluctant to install a home charging station, 47% cited high installation costs as the primary deterrent.

All in all, South Africa’s journey towards a more sustainable transport system is hindered by the high costs of EVs and a limited charging infrastructure. To accelerate the switch to green transport, these obstacles need to be overcome. Until then, the shift to an electric mobility future may be slower than anticipated.