Elec­tric ve­hi­cle an op­por­tu­nity for cash-strapped Eskom?

Sunday Times - - Business Times - By ROX­ANNE HEN­DER­SON

● Fewer than 400 cars on South Africa’s roads, out of a to­tal ve­hi­cle pop­u­la­tion of more than 12 mil­lion, are fully elec­tric — de­priv­ing the coun­try of an op­por­tu­nity to re­vive cash-strapped power util­ity Eskom.

En­ergy and e-mo­bil­ity ex­perts be­lieve a boom in the lo­cal elec­tric car mar­ket could see Eskom sell the 30GW power sur­plus that is cur­rently cost­ing it mil­lions.

If ev­ery mo­torist on South Africa’s roads turned from the petrol pump and pur­chased elec­tric cars, Eskom would in­crease its sales vol­umes by 10%, said Carel Sny­man, gen­eral man­ager for the cleaner mo­bil­ity pro­gramme at the South African Na­tional En­ergy De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute.

Eskom’s sales are down 15%, and with the down­turn in the econ­omy and more con­sumers tak­ing ad­van­tage of South Africa’s sunny skies to gen­er­ate so­lar power at home, na­tional de­mand is in de­cline.

With this dim out­look, pol­i­cy­mak­ers should move quickly to make elec­tric cars an at­trac­tive choice for mo­torists, Sny­man said.

“The world is mov­ing away from fos­sil fu­els. By 2030 some coun­tries will not sell any in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines, by 2040 they will have them com­pletely off the road and by 2050 they will be emis­sion free.

“But in South Africa we are still think­ing about whether we should build another re­fin­ery or a coal-fired power sta­tion. That’s to­tally lu­di­crous.”

Im­port tax on elec­tric cars at around 43% is costly and there are no sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives to make them ap­peal­ing to con­sumers.

The man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try is also not ad­e­quately en­cour­aged by pol­icy to pro­duce elec­tric ve­hi­cles with lo­cal con­tent.

With these bar­ri­ers the e-mo­bil­ity move­ment has strug­gled to gather mo­men­tum for crit­i­cal mass adop­tion, said Hiten Par­mar, di­rec­tor of the na­tional uYilo e-Mo­bil­ity Technology In­no­va­tion Pro­gramme at Nel­son Man­dela Univer­sity.

“The Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion is work­ing with the Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try, and In­ter­na­tional Trade Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mis­sion for re­vi­sions to the im­port tar­iffs. Once the sup­port­ing poli­cies come into ef­fect we will have a much faster up­take of elec­tric ve­hi­cles,” he said.

In De­cem­ber 2016, BMW South Africa ap­plied to the In­ter­na­tional Trade Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mis­sion of South Africa for a re­duc­tion in im­port du­ties on pure elec­tric ve­hi­cles. The sub­mis­sion calls for a 0% duty for a pe­riod of three years and a 10% tar­iff there­after.

Par­mar said an in­cen­tive frame­work would only be nec­es­sary for a short time to en­cour­age adop­tion, which would help the gov­ern­ment reach the car­bon-re­duc­tion tar­gets set in the na­tional de­vel­op­ment plan.

South Africa’s sub­mis­sion to the Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change said the coun­try would have more than 2.9 mil­lion elec­tric cars on the road by 2050.

But this num­ber may be reached much sooner. The Depart­ment of Transport will ta­ble a draft Green Transport Strat­egy pol­icy doc­u­ment by the end of March which projects that 30% of the na­tional fleet will be fully elec­tric by 2030.

If a quar­ter of the na­tional fleet was con­verted by 2022, ac­cord­ing to Ted Blom, an independen­t en­ergy ex­pert, Eskom would have just enough power to serve de­mand.

Eskom had not re­sponded to e-mailed ques­tions on its pre­pared­ness at the time of go­ing to print.

Gov­ern­ment de­part­ments have been ac­cused of paral­y­sis and a lack of co-or­di­na­tion in deal­ing with the e-mo­bil­ity sec­tor and Eskom’s record of late does not in­spire con­fi­dence ei­ther.

“Eskom is bank­rupt so they can’t re­ally do any­thing. They are to­tally bank­rupt and cor­rupt. You can’t re­ally ex­pect any­thing from any­one that's sick, es­pe­cially in the head,” Sny­man said.

But if the gov­ern­ment can get out of its own way and the mass adop­tion of elec­tric cars were to be­come a re­al­ity, Eskom would not be the only ben­e­fi­ciary.

Elec­tric cars by both Nis­san and BMW, the only two man­u­fac­tur­ers cur­rently in South Africa, are cheaper to main­tain and charge than the costs as­so­ci­ated with petrol and diesel fu­elled cars.

It costs about R60 to fully charge a Nis­san Leaf in peak hours and R20 af­ter hours. Fully charged it can drive for about 150km. The BMW i3 BEV needs roughly 13.75 kilo­watthour per 100km, which means that it costs R15.16 to drive it for 100km.

Pic­ture: Reuters

Toy­ota’s ‘e-Pal­ette’ self-driv­ing elec­tric con­cept ve­hi­cle.

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