There’s a global buzz about Electric Vehicles (EVs), a new car design that runs on battery and charges (kinda) like a phone does. Is SA ready to plug and play? The world is gearing up for a quiet revolution, after all.

While only 2,5% of vehicles worldwide are EVs at present, regulations are encouraging their production. The Paris Agreement is an official treaty signed by 197 countries across the globe. It attempts to define regulations to help reduce the causes of climate change and it has set standards that are putting global roll-out of EVs in place. Its goals include ensuring that 20% of all road vehicles are EVs by 2030 and 35% of new vehicles are EVs. SA has only around 1000 of them on the roads at present but the number is growing.

“There are, of course, many challenges,” Malibongwe Tyilo wrote recently in the Daily Maverick, “such as the lack of nationwide charging stations, and the higher prices of EVs” and load shedding. Let’s unpack that.

Eskom is confident that it can supply power for these vehicles. In a statement on its website, the public utility promises that it is “actively involved in the EV sector as the primary electricity supplier for vehicle charging. Eskom’s main objective is to craft special tariffs for EV owners to charge their vehicles at off-peak times, thereby helping to flatten the demand patterns outside peak periods and ensure affordable power for EV owners.”

“Those concerned about Eskom’s ability to supply the necessary electricity need not worry – even a massive growth in EVs will not have a major impact on the overall demand during any normal day. Other than that, Eskom is also well advanced in its research on photovoltaic and battery storage options to power EVs in the future.”

Worry not worry aside, while we’re still talking public services, let’s unpack EV import tax.

Nobody in SA is producing EVs yet so buyers have the option of ones that have been produced elsewhere and imported. Instead of encouraging the uptake of these carbon-saving cars, reports, EV owners are charged extra to bring electric vehicles into SA. The reasons for the levy are unclear but you can be sure that you’re going to pay 25% import duties, which is 7% more than petrol and diesel vehicles are charged. What’s more, EVs there’s another 17% ad valorem (luxury tax duty). In all, that’s a whopping 42% tax on EVs and hybrid vehicles, which retail from around R500k upwards. It made Tesla turn tail and run, rescinding an earlier promise to start sending its EVs to Mzansi. “Would love to,” Tesla co-founder and product architect Elon Musk tweeted recently,  “but import duties are extremely high, even for electric vehicles.”

Like any moving vehicle, you’ve also got range problems and need regular stops to relax and recharge when you’re out and about. Jaguar South Africa and public EV charging stations installer, GridCars, launched a live map of charging stations across the country late last year.

“In addition to the publicly available charging stations to be installed in customer parking areas at every Jaguar Land Rover retailer in South Africa,” Jaguar’s website promises, “a total of 30 public charging stations will be erected at various points of convenience, such as shopping centres, in the country’s major hubs including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Bloemfontein.”

It further explains that “South Africa’s city centres will now also be connected by the Jaguar Powerway – a series of 22 charging stations along the N3 between Gauteng and Durban and the N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town. Cape Town will also be connected to the Garden Route with a series of charging stations along the N2 all the way to East London. The majority of charging stations on the public network will be 60kWh fast chargers, meaning 100km of range will take around 20 minutes for Jaguar I-PACE owners. A charge from 0 to 80% will take around 72 minutes.” Check out the map here.

If you are going to buy, Malibongwe explains that there are 3 fully electric vehicles on the SA market at the moment. They are the  Nissan Leaf, the BMW i3, and the Jaguar I-PACE. The Leaf, available since 2013, is now only available second hand.

The new Leaf, which has been upgraded, will be available sometime this year. It has a 62-kWh battery and 384 km range and will sell for around R504,975 according to (but remember those import duties). You can sign up for news about the imminent Leaf release here.  A fourth EV model, the Mercedes-Benz EQC, will also hit the SA market in 2020. says that Volkswagen plans to launch “a medium-sized SUV likely to be labelled the ID.4” though the date is not yet confirmed.

New or not so new, there’s another angle to consider. You’ll be charging your EV off the grid, and 80% of that power comes from coal, a fossil fuel that belches tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere to increase the greenhouse effect that contributes to climate change.

“We’re No 14 on the list,” Malibongwe points out,  “emitting some 460 million tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere in 2015.”

If you’re going EV for the environment, perhaps consider more cycle commuting or public transport. Or tweet Elon to set up one of his Tesla solar farms to charge earth-preserving drives. He was born here, after all.


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