Popular Mechanics (South Africa)

The balance of power

- - Mark, Editor

As a woman who enjoys spending time in nature while trying to be conscious of my impact on the environmen­t, I was delighted to come across the recent Pop Mech piece focusing on off-road electric vehicles. I’ve always been struck by the paradox of outdoor enthusiast­s burning holes in their pockets (and the Earth) accessing the ‘great outdoors’ in enormous fuel-burning vehicles.

This article highlights a welcome change, showcasing spectacula­r electric off-road vehicles expected to be launching in the global market soon, but there are a few points that I think make it tricky for this to be viably considered in the South African setting.

Most of our electricit­y is generated in coal-burning power stations. Electric cars operating here, then, aren’t entirely squeaky clean, are they? We could get around this problem, with the ‘something is better than nothing’ argument, but a few more hurdles remain.

At this stage, much of Southern Africa doesn’t have the infrastruc­ture to support long-distance journeys with an EV. It’s tricky to imagine overland travel in a fully electric 4×4, without the availabili­ty of recharging stations along the way to support it.

As a last point, the EVs described in the article are not exactly affordable. Prices that high seem exclusiona­ry for the average South African who’s trying to get the most bang for their buck.

Just thought I’d send this in to add to the debate of offroad EVs.

Looking forward to a time, hopefully soon, when we’ll see an affordable off-road EV on the market, with the infrastruc­ture available to support sustainabl­e change.


These are all certainly valid points, and they occurred to me too when I first read that piece. I’ve done many an overland trip through our neighbouri­ng countries, and there’s just no way – certainly as things stand – that those types of journeys would be possible in an electric off-road vehicle. And as a short article in our previous issue mentioned, photovolta­ic panels on cars simply do not fulfil the charging needs of the powerful batteries. But, technology has to start somewhere. Once upon a time we didn’t have the broad network of fuel stations spread across our continent. I bet that, someday in the not-too-distant future, the same will be the case for electric charging stations.

Thanks for writing in. Your interestin­g letter has won you this issue’s prize!

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