Electric vehicle an opportunity for cash-strapped Eskom?
● 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.