Is South Africa ready for electric vehicle fleets

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Fluctuating fuel prices are digging their way deep into the pockets of businesses around the globe. Couple this with the increased threat of fuel theft and the need for companies to lower their carbon emissions substantially by 2030, you are left with business and fleet managers scrambling for sustainable solutions.

In walks the electric vehicles. These innovative vehicles have all the glitz and glam business, and fleet managers may be looking for when it comes to a sustainable solution. However, are South African businesses truly ready to transition over to electric vehicles? Let us take a closer look.

Why do we even need electric vehicles?

As the effects of global warming become more apparent, governments, businesses, and consumers are pushing towards more environmentally friendly solutions. This change in the way we approach sustainability has yielded some remarkable solutions, such as the electric vehicle (EV).

There are already a few countries that are set to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles after 2040. However, there are still various challenges and considerations that must be addressed, not only for consumers in general, but also for businesses throughout the country.

Are EVs cost effective for South Africans?

According to News24, South African motorists could save up to 76% of fuel bills by driving an electric vehicle. Based on this study, South Africa was ranked the 18th cheapest nation (out of 50) to charge an electric vehicle, with every 100km of driving costing just $1.94 (R36.71) worth of electricity.

Businesses and consumers can enjoy major cost-savings in the long-run. So, why don’t we see more electric vehicles around? Price and Infrastructure. Purchasing an electric vehicle can range anywhere between R650 000 – R850 000 depending on make and model, with the elevated costs being attributed towards the cost of the batteries and increased tariffs and import fees.

Not to mention, South Africa does not yet have a reliable infrastructure in place to support electric vehicles. There’s also time, nobody wants to have to wait 45 minutes or more waiting for their EV to charge, especially if you’re stuck in a small town without any appealing amenities or facilities close by.

Can Eskom support electric vehicles?

According to Eskom, Eskom, experienced a decline in both operational and financial performance, incurring a net loss after tax of R23.9 billion, a significant increase from the R11.9 billion net loss reported for the previous financial year. The operational aspect of Eskom has also worsened over time due to corruption, sabotage, and neglect. South Africans are subjected to prolonged periods of load-shedding, reaching Stage 6 at intervals earlier this year.

Load-shedding are planned rolling blackouts, implemented by the government in times when the demand for electricity outweighs the capacity at which it can be produced.

If we expect consumers and businesses to confidently transition over to electric vehicles (EVs), then South Africa needs to create a sustainable future utilising renewable energy resources, reducing our reliance on Eskom to provide the necessary energy to charge our vehicles.

Can we step away from fossil fuels?

Transitioning over to renewable energy  may seem as simple as 1,2,3 in theory. However, with the current energy shortages and lock-downs from COVID-19 having had a major impact on the South African economy, many may be hesitant to make the switch. If the government can implement renewable energy resources correctly, it may help resolve the country’s energy shortages and in time reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

But this takes time, skills, and finances that we currently do not have access to. Coal for the most part, is a cheap source of energy for South Africa, and with roughly 256 years’ worth at their disposal simply switching to renewable resources can be seen as a waste of valuable energy resources that are vital for the economy.

EVs aren’t as environmentally friendly as we think!

The energy required to manufacture the battery pack for an electric vehicle is more intensive than the energy used to manufacture a combustion engine vehicle. As such, the manufacturing process can emit more CO2 into the air, making the initial purpose of the EV redundant.

The same applies to the recharge factor. If we do not have a reliable renewable energy resource available, we will still rely on the burning of fossil fuels to generate enough energy to recharge and maintain our vehicles. Although an argument could be made that an EV can reduce the CO2 footprint of the manufacturing process over time, as it will not be adding to it, it still leaves the question “Is it really worth it right now?”.

Where is South Africa in the grand scheme of things?

South Africa is behind on many advancements and developments that we see taking place in other countries around the globe. Having said that, South Africa is still a decade away if not more from being able to fully support EVs on a consumer and business level. Despite this, businesses should still take the necessary time to do proper research on whether an EV will be a beneficial addition to their fleet, whilst still keeping their combustion engine vehicles available.