Electric cars: what it means to give up an ICE vehicle for an EV in South Africa
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JOHANNESBURG - While South Africa has been lagging behind far too many countries when it comes to electric vehicle (EV) adoption – largely because of the prohibitively high price of these vehicles – all this could change soon. Trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel is due to announce the new SA Automotive Masterplan, which will come into effect on 1 July 2021 and govern the industry until 2035. The plan accommodates for the potential to reduce the cost of EVs in Mzansi – and the network of charging stations could also grow.
This could not come at a better time, says AutoTrader’s CEO, George Mienie: “Only a decade has passed since Nissan introduced its LEAF, the first mainstream EV of this generation of electric mobility. We have a little way to go before all motorists can or will embrace EVs, but the demand is there at the right price.”
An advocate for the broad adoption of electric vehicles, Mienie now pilots an all-electric Jaguar I-PACE as his daily driver. “Test yourself: Do you say ‘my phone is about to die’ a bit too often?” Mienie asks. “Does your car’s fuel light come on before you fill the tank, or have you ever run out of fuel? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you might have to give more focus to adapting to an EV life,” he explains.
Before jumping to the conclusion that EVs wouldn’t suit them, motorists should consider the advantages of electric ‘fuel’ he says. “It’s delivered to your home daily and turns any household plug into a fuel nozzle. You hardly have to visit a petrol station again,” he adds. He dismisses the perception that Eskom’s load-shedding is a deal-breaker. “Yes, supply interruptions are generally frustrating, but an EV doesn’t need charging 24 hours a day. I charge the I-PACE everyday and now spend about 70 percent less on ‘fuel’ than before. The Jaguar I-PACE generally charges for two to three hours a day to top up,” Mienie says.
And if by some chance you do run out of charge on the highway? “Well, then you have to call roadside assist, and your EV will be loaded onto a flatbed truck, as in a normal breakdown scenario,” he says. “But this won’t happen if you’re prepared,” he laughs.
Mienie adds that domestic roof-mounted solar panels, paired with batteries for electricity storage, are becoming increasingly popular. “These systems aren’t cheap (and this is another area we need to address with governing bodies) but they consign fossil fuels – whether used by Eskom for generation, or in a combustion engine – to the age of dinosaurs,” he says. “What’s more, because EVs are so efficient (they convert almost 80% of their stored energy to power on the wheels, whereas ICE vehicles convert roughly only 20% of its energy on the wheels), it’s a 60% ‘greener’ form of propulsion than burning petrol or diesel, even if the electricity came from a coal-fired power station,” he expounds.
But what about going on holiday with an EV? “The major routes have enough public chargers to get you to your destination,” Mienie explains. “But be aware, it can take as much as 40 minutes to recharge the battery. So, if you are rushing to your destination, rather use a ‘normal’ car,” (for now) he adds. “Some dealers and manufacturers will lend petrol or diesel cars to their EV customers, when they need them,” he concludes.