Electric vs petrol costs from Joburg to Cape Town — the winner is clear

It is much cheaper to recharge the electric vehicle with the best range in South Africa than filling up a comparable petrol-powered model, even when using expensive fast-charging infrastructure, a MyBroadband comparison shows.

South Africa is set to get just over a dozen new electric vehicle (EV) models in 2022.

Among these is the BMW iX xDrive50 with a beastly 111.5kWh battery promising around 570km of range on the European WLTP cycle.

Combined with an extensive Grid Cars network, it should allay any range anxiety on long-distance trips along South Africa’s main highways.

According to the GridCars Live Map at the time of publication, there were around 10 fast-charging stations between Johannesburg and Cape Town, not counting those in the major cities themselves.

But the question needs to be asked — is it economically sensible to drive an electric vehicle in South Africa, particularly given our rising electricity costs?

BMW iX xDrive50 “filling up” at a fast-charging station

EVs are not only attractive because they are better for the environment (depending on how you recharge — South Africa still has a high dependence on coal) but because they should cost less to run, both in terms of energy usage and maintenance costs.

Based on current electricity tariffs, it would cost you less per kilometre when charging your EV at home, compared to the cost of petrol per kilometre in a comparable vehicle.

But charging at the 22kW, 30kW, and 60kW fast chargers at fuel stations and other stops along South Africa’s highways cost substantially more per kWh of energy.

At most of the chargers on the GridCars network, you can expect to pay R5.88 per kWh, around double the typical tariff for domestic users.

The BMW iX xDrive50 would therefore cost R557.50 to fill up when charging only via these chargers.

To calculate the cost per kilometre of range, you can use the range calculator on BMW South Africa’s website.

While it has an advertised WLTP range of 570km, this reduces significantly when using a typical long-distance driving scenario in South Africa.

Adjusting the calculator for 100% highway travel with the air conditioning turned on at a 30 degrees celsius outdoor temperature brings the estimated range down to 395km.

That translates to an economy of about 3.75km/kWh, based on the battery’s useable capacity of 105.2kWh. Each kilometre of range would, therefore, cost R1.57 when paying R5.88 per kWh.

The most similar petrol-driven vehicle in terms of power, speed, and specifications is the BMW X5 M50i.

This model has a highway-based fuel consumption of 9.4l/100km, or around 10.64km/l.

With the current price of unleaded 95 petrol at R19.61, each kilometre would cost roughly R1.84.

That means it would be cheaper to drive the iX xDrive50 on a highway than an X5 M50i.

The BMW iX xDrive50 costs R2.175 million, whereas the X5 M50i starts at R1.873 million.

But with free charging offered at BMW dealerships and the lower overall cost per kilometre, you might be able to make up the difference in a few years.

From Joburg to Cape Town

Over the roughly 1,400km distance between Johannesburg and Cape Town, it would cost R2,198 to charge the EV using only fast-charging stations.

If the car is first charged to full at home in Johannesburg, that would cost R284 based on the domestic Block 3 tariff of R2.55 for prepaid customers.

Assuming that provides 395km of range, only another 1,005km of range would have to be added via fast charging at a cost of R1,578.

So when charging at home beforehand, the total cost would be R1,862.

Over the same distance, the X5 would consume about R2,576’s petrol as of January 2022.

While you would have to stop more frequently using the EV, it would be highly inadvisable to only stop one time with the petrol car over 1,400km in any case.

The table below compares the cost of charging the iX xDrive50 with filling up the X5 M50i.

It should be noted that some of the numbers have been rounded off. The Department of Minerals and Energy also announced a fuel price increase today, which will increase the rand per kilometre cost for the BMW X5.

BMW iX xDrive50 vs X5 M50i — Joburg to Cape Town
BMW iX xDrive50 (EV) BMW X5 M50i (petrol)
Rand per kilometre cost R1.57 R1.84
Estimated range on single charge/tank on highway 395km 722km
Estimated consumption between Joburg and Cape Town 373kWh 132 litres
Stops needed between Joburg and Cape Town (starting fully charged/filled) 3 1
Cost from Joburg to Cape Town R2,198 R2,576
Cost from Joburg to Cape Town (starting fully charged/filled) R1,862 R2,576

Now read: These are the real worst drivers in South Africa

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Electric vs petrol costs from Joburg to Cape Town — the winner is clear