The Future of Electric Cars in South Africa

What’s the future of electric cars in SA, and what are the pros and cons of owning and driving an electric vehicle? We explore the available options.

Published: November 2018
Video/Photos: Supplied

Another month, another fuel price hike. We may be a nation of diehard petrol heads , but the ever-increasing costs of running an internal combustion-powered vehicle do make the thought of an electric vehicle an increasingly tempting one.

 

What, then, are the pros and cons of owning a car that draws its power from an electrical socket rather than a fuel pump?

 

Running costs

 

This is, of course, a big pro. With around 30 times fewer moving parts, an electric vehicle has a significant advantage in terms of reliability and maintenance. Then, of course, the big one: the significant fuel cost saving. On an annual mileage of 20 000 km per annum, the average motorist will spend around R26 000 to R27 000 on fuel. Do that same mileage in an electronic vehicle and you’re looking at just under R7 000 to charge your car over that same period. That’s quite a saving.

 

Range anxiety

 

The perceived downside, on the other hand, is range. Petrol and diesel-engine  vehicles are usually capable of anything between 600 km and 1 000 km on one tank, but the key factor here is the plethora of petrol stations dotted all over the country. You really have to get your route planning wrong to run out of petrol. Public electronic-vehicle charging facilities, however, number far fewer. Having said that, two upcoming BMWs should put those range fears to rest.

 

The first will be the BMW iX3 (set for launch in 2020), which employs BMW’s fifth generation of BMW eDrive technology , generating more than 200 kW and offering a range of over 400 km. Charging time is another critical factor in the electric vehicle equation, and the upcoming BMW iX3 has a new charging control unit that allows the vehicle to be hooked up to fast-charging stations generating up to 150 kW. We’re now talking just 30 minutes to charge the vehicle at one of these stations.

 

In 2021, we can look forward to what will be BMW’s technology flagship – the BMW iNext. This large SUV, with a unique interpretation of the iconic kidney grille, will have an impressive range of 700 km. In fact, BMW has promised that by 2021, its all-electric vehicles will be able to achieve that 700 km range.

 

In 2021, we can look forward to what will be BMW’s technology flagship – the BMW iNext.

With a range of 700 km, there shouldn’t be any concerns around charging your BMW for a work commute.
“The iNext project will provide our building blocks for the future, from which the entire company and all its brands are set to benefit.” – Harald Krüger, BMW Group Chairman of the Board of Management
By 2019, BMW anticipates selling around 500 000 electric vehicles globally. In South Africa, there are already 45 BMW Charge Now stations across the country.
 
On an annual mileage of 20 000 km per annum, the average motorist will spend around R26 000 to R27 000 on fuel. Do that same mileage in an electronic vehicle and you’re looking at just under R7 000 to charge your car over that same period.

 

Charging stations

 

With a range of 700 km, there shouldn’t be any concerns around charging your BMW for a work commute, but it does become a factor for longer holiday or weekend-away journeys. That’s a question of investment in infrastructure, and it’s one BMW is certainly committed to. By 2019, the company anticipates selling around 500 000 electric vehicles globally and has declared an investment of €7 billion (R117.6 billion) in its electric vehicle initiatives. In South Africa, there are already 45 BMW Charge Now stations across the country.

 

While an electronic vehicle is still a premium purchase in most markets around the world, with the kind of investment BMW is making, and the projected number of sales, consumers can only benefit. The wider charging infrastructure will mean increased demand and the subsequent increased production economies of scale will result in more affordable electric vehicles.