Sales of battery electric vehicles breached the 500 units per year mark in South Africa for the first time ever. Last year, 502 BEVs were sold in South Africa, up from 218 in 2021. There has been a slow but steady increase in BEV sales in the country, punctuated by a sharp decline in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
With only 1024 BEVs sold since 2018, it’s clear to see that sales of BEVs have been slow in South Africa compared to similar auto markets around the world. This is due to the limited variety of BEV models in the country, coupled with the high import duties and taxes levied on electric vehicles. This means most of the vehicles available in the global market would end up being quite expensive compared to their equivalent ICE vehicles if they were introduced in South Africa. This price difference would be more prominent in the smaller vehicle segments, making it a bit challenging to sell those EVs.
Taxes in South Africa are set at 18% for ICEV imports vs 25% for EV imports. There is also the ad valorem tax for EVs, which pushes the cost of an EV to more than 2× that of the average price of a new ICE vehicle of a similar make/model in most cases. This is probably why the majority of EV models in South Africa are the more premium models where pricing is more competitive than in the smaller vehicle segment. Then again, people who buy $100,000 cars probably aren’t too worried about an extra $10,000.
BEV Models Available in South Africa
Here is the list of BEVs available in South Africa:
- BMW i3
- BMW i4
- BMW i7
- BMW iX
- BMW X3
- MINI Hatch 3-dr
- Jaguar I-PACE
- Mercedes AMG EQS
- Mercedes EQA
- Mercedes EQB
- Mercedes EQS
- Porsche Taycan
- Audi e-tron
- Audi e-tron GT
- Audi e-tron Sportback
- Volvo XC40
- JAC N-Series
Of all these models, only the MINI Cooper SE is priced below R1 million ($58,000). The MINI Cooper starts from about R713,000 ($41,000). This means none of the EVs available for people to buy in South Africa are under the R600,000 ($35,042) that the majority of would-be buyers are willing to pay according to a recent survey by AutoTrader South Africa. This is a missed opportunity for South Africa. Dealers and their international OEM partners should seriously start looking into expanding the range of EVs that are available in South Africa to cater to the majority.
Here is a chart of the top selling BEVs in South Africa for 2022:
BMW has traditionally dominated BEV sales in South Africa. The i3 led the sales charts for several years, as it was for a long time the only BEV sold in South Africa after the first-generation Nissan LEAF’s sales were stopped in the market. BMW South Africa has been consistent in introducing new BEV models to the South African market as soon as they become available on the global market. This is probably one of the reasons why BMW continues to rule the BEV charts in South Africa.
In 2022, BMW was top yet again. This time it was the BMW iX3 topping the charts with 106 units registered. Although the numbers are still low, the BMW iX3 sold more units in 2022 than all BEVs combined in 2020! The MINI Cooper SE, another one from the BMW stable, was in second place. The MINI Cooper SE had 96 sales, also selling more in 2022 than all BEVs combined in 2020. The BMW iX landed with a bang in 2021, getting 63 sales, and was steady in 2022 with 70 sales. The Volvo XC40 interrupted the BMW Group rankings at last by coming in fourth with 49 sales. The BMW i4 rounded out the top 5 with 35 sales. Audi’s e-tron, e-tron GT, and e-tron Sportback had, interestingly, almost identical sales of 24, 24, and 26 units, respectively, in 2022.
A notable new entry in the charts was the flagship BMW i7, with 10 sales, which is pretty good for a model that was launched just recently. The Mercedes EQS sedan was another interesting new entry. It got 2 registrations after having being introduced late last year. I am looking forward to seeing how well these two executive sedans can do this year.
The selection of BEVs available in South Africa is set to increase this year, giving hope for another jump in sales. Reports from South Africa say the list of new BEVs to expect this year includes the Ora Good Cat. This model would be expected to join the MINI Cooper SE as one of the more affordable BEVs in the country and could be priced just below the MINI Cooper.
Loadshedding Not A Main Concern For EV Buyers
Electricity rationing (the loadshedding programme) from South Africa’s national utility company, Eskom, is structured in “stages” — stages in which Eskom sheds a certain quantum of load from the grid to stabilise the grid. Depending on the severity of the crisis, loadshedding is implemented in degrees from Stage 1 to Stage 8, where Stage 1 sheds 1000 MW of load from the grid and in a Stage 8 scenario Eskom takes out 8000 MW of load from the grid. Loadshedding is implemented over 2-hour or 4-hour blocks on a rotational basis depending on the severity of the crises. Stage 8, however, means most consumers will experience a blackout for about 12 hours. Currently, Eskom is implementing Stage 6 loadshedding, Although loadshedding is probably here with us for the next two or so years, one can have a relatively normal experience with EVs in Southern Africa’s loadshedding-stricken countries, which include South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The jump in EV sales in 2022, a year in which electricity rationing was the worst ever in South Africa’s history, shows that loadshedding is probably not the main concern for EV buyers in South Africa. In fact, AutoTrader South Africa’s Buyer Survey showed that there were other concerns on potential EV buyers’ minds. 65.4% of respondents said that the high initial cost of purchase was the main concern. Duration of charging as well as the perceived lack of public charging infrastructure were the other major concerns. It’s interesting to note that although range anxiety was further down the list, with 20.9% saying it was one of their main concerns, 37% said they would want an EV with a range of 500 to 700 km (310 to 435 miles) per charge. 700 km of range is Mercedes-Benz EQS territory, and there are not many affordable EVs with that kind of range.
Overall, it’s good to see EV sales in South Africa are on the up. Could 2023 be the year BEV sales breach 1,000. I hope they do, and kick on from there.
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