In­no­va­tion key to fu­ture SA trans­port

IN­DUS­TRY NEWS/ Ex­perts say the coun­try needs to be­come more in­no­va­tive in its so­lu­tions — with an em­pha­sis on in­te­gra­tion — be­fore it is too late, writes Mark Smyth

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

Look at a graphic show­ing the places in the world where the air is not suit­able for our lungs and the re­sults are alarm­ing. Huge swathes of red blan­ket parts of Africa, the Mid­dle East, In­dia and China. In SA the sit­u­a­tion also does not look great, par­tic­u­larly in Gaut­eng which shows up as a big red spot.

SA’s gov­ern­ment and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are putting in place plans to over­turn the sit­u­a­tion, but Carel Sny­man of the South African Na­tional En­ergy De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute says th­ese need to be ac­cel­er­ated.

Sny­man says trans­port will be one of the only sec­tors in SA where en­ergy de­mand will in­crease by 2050. The trans­port sec­tor uses 34% of the coun­try’s en­ergy but Sny­man says this will in­crease to 44%.

This is com­pared to a de­cline in en­ergy de­mands of the in­dus­trial sec­tor from 37% to 34% and res­i­den­tial from 11% to 8%.

He points out that SA ex­ports gold to pay for the im­port of oil and, alarm­ingly, SA will de­plete its gold within 20 to 30 years. Oil stocks are also de­clin­ing.

Our re­liance on tra­di­tional trans­port meth­ods has to change, he says. In Cape Town, 91% of trips are in pri­vate ve­hi­cles, but Sny­man says trans­port is about mov­ing peo­ple, not cars. It is com­mon knowl­edge that the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine is not ef­fi­cient. “The car is a bet­ter heater than a mo­bil­ity tool,” says Sny­man.


The fig­ures back up his claims. If one looks at the amount of en­ergy con­sumed by a type of ve­hi­cle over one kilo­me­tre based on its num­ber of pas­sen­gers, a petrol car uses 2.19 mega­joules per pas­sen­ger kilo­me­tre. In com­par­i­son, a packed minibus taxi uses just 0.36 mega­joules per pas­sen­ger kilo­me­tre.

In SA a mas­sive 81% of en­ergy con­sump­tion in the trans­port sec­tor is used for pri­vate ve­hi­cles. Break that down fur­ther and pas­sen­ger trans­port is 91% pri­vate and just 9% public. Of Cape Town’s en­tire en­ergy con­sump­tion in 2012, 64% was used for trans­port, with the sec­tor ac­count­ing for 34% of all emis­sions.

The City of Cape Town has com­mit­ted to a 37% re­duc­tion in en­ergy us­age by 2040, but Sny­man says it is not enough.

He says we need to fo­cus on true sus­tain­abil­ity. “Sus­tain­abil­ity means not burn­ing things to do work,” he says.

How­ever, he says other so­lu­tions such as so­lar power “do not have the ap­peal of fos­sil fu­els be­cause some­one can­not take it and sell it”. Sny­man sug­gests that Eskom should switch from be­ing a power provider to be­ing a power bro­ker, tak­ing power from what­ever source and al­lo­cat­ing it ef­fi­ciently in a way that is sus­tain­able and prof­itable.

Eskom is, of course, fac­ing ma­jor chal­lenges. It is work­ing on plans to mi­grate to a smart grid sys­tem, but its in­fra­struc­ture is age­ing.

While Medupi and Kusile are ca­pa­ble of al­le­vi­at­ing the short­term sit­u­a­tion, an Eskom rep­re­sen­ta­tive told us that most of the 12 older power sta­tions will have to be re­tired by 2030, hence the pres­sure to go nu­clear.

The De­part­ment of Trade and In­dus­try re­cently is­sued a re­port out­lin­ing many of the bar­ri­ers and op­tions when it comes to mov­ing to al­ter­na­tive fu­els and tech­nolo­gies. The re­port looks at ev­ery­thing from ex­ces­sive im­port du­ties on elec­tric ve­hi­cles to the pos­si­bil­ity of lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing as the global trans­port sec­tor goes through nec­es­sary changes.

It re­quires buy-in from many gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and the pri­vate sec­tor, but progress is slow.

Is it all about elec­tric ve­hi­cles? Sny­man says car­mak­ers will con­tinue to build what the con­sumer wants. If the public de­mand more elec­tric ve­hi­cles, then man­u­fac­tur­ers will change their fo­cus. How­ever, he does not see elec­tric ve­hi­cles as the so­lu­tion. If ev­ery­one switched to elec­tric ve­hi­cles tomorrow, the roads would re­main congested.

“We should move to a sit­u­a­tion where roads are dom­i­nated by peo­ple,” he says, point­ing out that the coun­try’s cur­rent trans­port so­lu­tions are not prop­erly in­te­grated.

They are not al­ways as for­ward-think­ing as gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials would like you to think ei­ther. A prime ex­am­ple is the City of Johannesburg’s green Metrobuses. Th­ese dual-fuel buses are any­thing but green be­cause they use an old Euro 2 emis­sion diesel en­gine.


There is an op­por­tu­nity to adopt more vi­able long-term so­lu­tions, says Sny­man. One op­tion is to move to above-ground rail, such as a Frac­tional Rapid Tran­sit sys­tem.

This al­lows full in­te­gra­tion with other trans­port ser­vices and, most im­por­tantly, with per­sonal trans­port such as elec­tric scoot­ers, bi­cy­cles or on foot.

Prop­erly in­te­grated sys­tems could also mean a re­duc­tion in costs for in­di­vid­u­als. Sny­man points to statis­tics that show that the poor in SA spend about 20% of their in­come on trans­port. Wealth­ier in­di­vid­u­als spend half of that.

“Why is the gov­ern­ment not do­ing more to al­le­vi­ate the high trans­port costs of the poor? “You can be a sad city or a smart city. It’s your choice,” Sny­man says.

Eskom is fac­ing ma­jor chal­lenges in fund­ing and power gen­er­a­tion and will have to re­tire 12 power sta­tions by 2030.

Left: Eskom says it will fund charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture for elec­tric ve­hi­cles. Right: Cape Town is aim­ing to re­duce its en­ergy us­age by 37% by 2040.

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