New cars set to give SA a volt jolt

Audi and Mercedes to launch elec­tric ve­hi­cles lo­cally

Sunday Times - - Business Times - By ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

● Con­fir­ma­tion by Audi and Daimler-Benz that they will bring elec­tric ve­hi­cles to SA for the first time in the next two years has set the scene for the coun­try to join the global elec­tric ve­hi­cle (EV) rev­o­lu­tion.

Until now, only Nis­san and BMW have brought fuel-less cars into the coun­try, and in­stalled sparse charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

At the same time, the ve­hi­cle in­dus­try in SA fi­nally ap­pears to be mak­ing progress in lob­by­ing the gov­ern­ment to sup­port EV ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing low­er­ing du­ties on im­ports and pro­vid­ing in­cen­tives for lo­cal bat­tery man­u­fac­ture.

An au­to­mo­tive pro­duc­tion and devel­op­ment pro­gramme (ADPD) was re­cently agreed on be­tween the depart­ment of trade and in­dus­try and key lo­cal au­to­mo­tive stake­hold­ers. It will be in ef­fect from 2020 to 2035.

Hai­ley Phi­lan­der, BMW Group prod­uct com­mu­ni­ca­tion spe­cial­ist, told Busi­ness Times: “Sus­tain­able mo­bil­ity thrives wher­ever there is an ef­fec­tive com­bi­na­tion of three fac­tors: customer de­mand, leg­is­la­tion and in­no­va­tive part­ner­ships. While there has, to this point, been very lit­tle gov­ern­ment sup­port for elec­tric ve­hi­cles, we are con­fi­dent that the ADPD will fa­cil­i­tate closer co-op­er­a­tion on dis­cus­sions around EV im­ports and fu­ture in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ments.”

Trevor Hill, head of Audi SA, said it and other man­u­fac­tur­ers had “taken an au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try stance in lob­by­ing dis­cus­sions with the South African gov­ern­ment in sup­port­ing EV im­ports, man­u­fac­ture and in­fra­struc­ture roll­out in our coun­try”.

The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers of SA has brought all man­u­fac­tur­ers into this process through an Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion steer­ing com­mit­tee.

“While progress on this topic has seemed to be rel­a­tively slow, in­di­vid­ual man­u­fac­tur­ers have taken in­de­pen­dent ac­tions to progress the in­tro­duc­tion of their re­spec­tive EVs to meet cer­tain busi­ness and prod­uct plan­ning ob­jec­tives,” said Hill. “We are gear­ing our busi­ness to­wards the in­tro­duc­tion of the Audi e-tron by the end of 2019.”

The e-tron is a mid-sized sport util­ity ve­hi­cle with a 400km range on one charge.

Last month, at the un­veil­ing in Cape Town of a fu­tur­is­tic con­cept car called the EQA, Mercedes-Benz SA co-CEO Jo­hannes Fritz an­nounced the EQC, an EV with a range of more than 450km, will ar­rive in SA in 2020.

He fore­cast that bat­tery-elec­tric mod­els will ac­count for 15%-25% of total unit sales by 2025.

“The big vari­a­tion in fore­casts is a re­sult of uncer­tainty around both customer pref­er­ences and pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture,” he said. Nev­er­the­less, mar­ket­ing direc­tor Selvin Govender con­firmed at the launch of the Con­cept EQA that Mercedes-Benz, along with other man­u­fac­tur­ers, had seen talks with the gov­ern­ment be­come more ad­vanced re­cently.

“In pre­vi­ous years any talks were re­jected, but it is be­com­ing a bit more open with re­gard to sub­si­dies pro­vided by gov­ern­ment.”

Mike Whit­field, MD of Nis­san SA, pointed out that the gov­ern­ment had re­cently launched its Green Trans­port Strat­egy (GTS) through the depart­ment of trans­port.

“The EV ecosys­tem is an im­por­tant part of this strat­egy and we are there­fore op­ti­mistic that the dis­cus­sions with gov­ern­ment will pick up mo­men­tum and fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the in­cen­tive pro­gramme will be re­alised,” he told Busi­ness Times.

“Gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try need a com­pre­hen­sive

With longer-range bat­tery tech­nol­ogy, range anx­i­ety is be­com­ing a se­condary concern

Mike Whit­field MD of Nis­san SA

plan to ac­cel­er­ate the adop­tion of EV mo­bil­ity in SA. With­out this, we be­lieve we could be left be­hind in terms of adop­tion ver­sus the rest of the key mar­kets glob­ally.”

The Nis­san LEAF is the world’s best-sell­ing EV, with more than 370,000 sold since its in­tro­duc­tion in 2010. A few hun­dred have been sold in SA, while BMW has de­liv­ered more than 600 i3 elec­tric and i8 hy­brid (elec­tric and fuel) ve­hi­cles to cus­tomers here since 2015. BMW sold more than 110,000 elec­tri­fied ve­hi­cles glob­ally this year.

“BMW cur­rently has 57 ChargeNow charg­ing sta­tions in SA, with six shared with Nis­san,” said Phi­lan­der.

“There are five DC fast charg­ers at deal­er­ships na­tion­wide that al­low for charg­ing of the i3 from 0% to 80% in around 45 min­utes. We hope to add an ad­di­tional 30 ChargeNow sta­tions to the South African charg­ing net­work by the end of 2019.”

By 2025, she said, the BMW Group will have at least 25 elec­tri­fied ve­hi­cles in its model line-up, 12 of which will be fully elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

Ac­cord­ing to Hill, all Audi mod­els will have an elec­tri­fied drive from 2025 on­ward.

Nis­san ex­pects sub­stan­tial growth in the EV mar­ket in the next five to 10 years but, said Whit­field, fac­tors in­flu­enc­ing up­take would in­clude more con­sumer ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes, com­peti­tor ac­tiv­ity and reg­u­la­tory cer­tainty around in­cen­tives.

“With newer and longer-range bat­tery tech­nol­ogy be­ing de­ployed, in­fra­struc­ture and range anx­i­ety are steadily be­com­ing se­condary con­cerns for EV con­sump­tion,” he said.

Audi, too, ex­pects EVs to be­come main­stream here in the next five to seven years.

Said Hill: “As more EVs are in­tro­duced by the dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers and there is in­creased vis­i­bil­ity of these prod­ucts on the road, so will ed­u­ca­tion around elec­tric mo­bil­ity and its ben­e­fits be­come more fa­mil­iar with South Africans.

“This will in­di­rectly re­sult in a con­sumer mind­set change to adopt these new ve­hi­cles as part of their mo­bil­ity and lives.

“This in turn puts pres­sure on the South African gov­ern­ment to in­tro­duce re­bates and in­cen­tives into the mar­ket, which in turn makes EV own­er­ship and adop­tion a con­ven­tional trend.”

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages/T Seel­iger/Ull­stein

An elec­tric car from Tesla charges at a sta­tion in Ber­lin. Man­u­fac­tur­ers ex­pect elec­tric ve­hi­cles to be­come main­stream in SA in the next five to seven years.

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