Audi sets 2019 for switch to bat­tery cars

Top Ger­man brand to of­fer SA its full elec­tric SUV

Pretoria News - - NEWS - Roy Cokayne

GER­MAN pre­mium ve­hi­cle brand Audi is to launch a full elec­tric ve­hi­cle in South Africa in 2019 and it be­lieves there will prob­a­bly be about an­other 10 full elec­tric ve­hi­cles avail­able in the do­mes­tic mar­ket from other ve­hi­cle brands.

Trevor Hill, head of Audi South Africa, said yes­ter­day that the Audi full elec­tric ve­hi­cle would be a sport util­ity ve­hi­cle (SUV) with an­tic­i­pated sales of between 80 and 100 units a year in the be­gin­ning.

Hill said Audi saw a strong de­vel­op­ment in elec­tric ve­hi­cles in South Africa in the next five to 10 years, but stressed the mar­ket would not move to 80 per­cent elec­tric ve­hi­cles. “We will have com­bus­tion engine ve­hi­cles in South Africa for many years to come,” he said.

Hill said Audi planned to ex­pand its full elec­tric range af­ter launch­ing its first full elec­tric ve­hi­cle model and had al­ready set up an elec­tri­fi­ca­tion project for e-tron, the trade name for Audi’s elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

He said the key is­sue was to get high power charg­ing sta­tions in­stalled in Audi’s dealer net­work, cre­ate sep­a­rate stor­age ar­eas for bat­ter­ies and a sep­a­rate ser­vice bay.

“There are phys­i­cal things we need to do in the dealer net­work so as we build new deal­ers now we are al­ready lay­ing the high-power charg­ing sta­tions and build­ing them into re­fur­bish­ments.

“We are do­ing e-tron readi­ness for our com­pany and our deal­ers,” he said.

How­ever, Hill said not ev­ery Audi dealer in South Africa would ini­tially be sell­ing e-tron ve­hi­cles.

Hill said Audi’s sales and mar­ket­ing of elec­tric ve­hi­cles would ini­tially be fo­cused on cer­tain pock­ets of the coun­try, such as Sand­ton and Bryanston in Jo­han­nes­burg; Con­stan­tia, Clare­mont and Bish­op­scourt in Cape Town; and uMh­langa and Bal­lito in Durban, be­cause those were con­fined ar­eas and the peo­ple who lived there had the wealth and means to buy th­ese ve­hi­cles.

Be­gin­ning

He said Audi South Africa had not de­fined th­ese ar­eas yet, but the fo­cus would be on th­ese kinds of ar­eas in the be­gin­ning, be­cause this would be where they be­lieved they would have the best chance of suc­cess.

Hill said there were very few elec­tric ve­hi­cles on South Africa’s roads at the mo­ment and ad­mit­ted that range was still an is­sue, be­cause they could not, for in­stance, drive to Durban on a sin­gle charge.

How­ever, Hill said the full elec­tric ve­hi­cle Audi would be launch­ing into the South African mar­ket had a cur­rent range of about 500km and it could be about 800km by the time they launched the model, be­cause bat­tery de­vel­op­ment was pro­gress­ing “in leaps and bounds”.

Hill stressed the im­por­tance of leg­is­la­tion and poli­cies to cater for elec­tric ve­hi­cles and au­ton­o­mous driv­ing to pre­vent the coun­try lag­ging.

He con­firmed Audi was lob­by­ing the govern­ment on th­ese is­sues to en­sure the South African mar­ket was pre­pared for what was com­ing in the fu­ture.

Hill said Nor­way’s ve­hi­cle mar­ket to­day was 80 per­cent elec­tric ve­hi­cles, but three years ago between 50 per­cent and 60 per­cent of sales were com­bus­tion engine mod­els.

“But the Nor­we­gian govern­ment de­cided to change it quickly and they put in­cen­tives in place for elec­tric cars, dropped the du­ties and gave elec­tric cars pref­er­en­tial treat­ment to drive into cities.

“If you want to have elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, that is good for the en­vi­ron­ment. But then there have to be ben­e­fits,” he said.

Hill ad­mit­ted the South African govern­ment’s re­liance on tax rev­enue from the fuel levy was a chal­lenge.

PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

The 2018 Audi AG SQ5 sports util­ity ve­hi­cle on dis­play at the 2017 North Amer­i­can In­ter­na­tional Auto Show in Detroit, Michi­gan. Audi an­tic­i­pates ini­tial sales of between 80 and 100 units a year of its fully elec­tric SUV in South Africa.

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