Electric car sales boom in South Africa — despite worst load-shedding yet

South African motorists have bought about as many fully-electric vehicles (EVs) in the first half of 2023 as they did during the entire 2022, despite scepticism over the ability to charge the cars amid intense load-shedding.

That is according to data from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) and data analysis firm Lightstone Auto, as reported by Electric Drive Africa writer Joey K.

In a tweet on Tuesday, 1 August 2023, the clean energy enthusiast said that 501 fully-electric cars were sold in South Africa from the start of the year to the end of June, just one short of the total number sold in the entire 2022.

By the end of the first half of 2022, only 205 new EVs were registered in the country. That means over 144% more units sold over the same period in 2023.

The number is also more than double the 235 sold in the first quarter of 2023, suggesting a gradual acceleration in sales.

As has been the case for several years, the most popular EV manufacturer by sales is BMW — which accounted for over half the units sold.

While it discontinued the most-sold EV in the country — the i3 — last year, the company now offers five fully-electric models in its place.

These are the large iX SUV, more compact iX3 and iX1 SUVs, i4 sports car, and the luxury i7 sedan.

The Mini brand, also owned by BMW, placed third with its single electric model — the Mini Cooper SE.

The second-best-selling manufacturer — Volvo — sold nearly 100 of its two electrified XC40 models in South Africa, the single-motor P6 Recharge and dual-motor P8 Recharge Twin.

In BMW, Volvo, and Mini’s favour is the fact that their cars are comparatively affordable when stacked against the ranges of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and Porsche.

The graph below shows the number of new EV registrations in South Africa for each brand with models in the country in the first half of 2023.

South Africans often express doubts about the feasibility of wide-scale EV adoption while the country is dealing with a power crisis.

2023 has been a record year for load-shedding— with more than 4,528 hours of rotational power cuts and well over 200 days on which load-shedding has been implemented.

The EV sales statistics suggest that concerns about range anxiety are exaggerated and that more people are willing to go electric than in the past.

While there are risks where a driver might get stuck at an offline charging station on a long-distance route, there would be barely any issues in the city.

A 7kW home charger could fill up around 80% of the capacity on a 75kWh battery in roughly eight hours, which is less than the time typically spent at home by most office workers.

The iX3 has an estimated WLTP range of 460km, while the latest XC40 Recharge Twin Motor has a rated range of 535km.

An 80% charge should therefore deliver around 368km on the iX3 and 428km on the Recharge Twin, more than enough for the average commute.

Even if you could only charge the car for 50% of the time due to overnight load-shedding, you would add 184km of range on the BMW or 214km on the Volvo.

Your added range will be even better if you install an 11kW charger instead of the 7kW unit.

There are also plenty of 22kW AC charging stations and 60kW DC chargers in the major metros and even some towns, where owners could add several 100km of range in a much shorter time, providing they consult their load-shedding schedules.

Naamsa’s latest data on new energy vehicles (NEVs) — including plug-in and traditional hybrids in addition to fully-electric models — shows a significant increase in local NEV manufacturing and imports.

Local production of hybrids jumped 122.9% by May 2023, while imports of hybrids and fully-electric cars surged by 229.4%.

Despite lagging behind other markets, the demand for EVs is impressive, considering South Africa is yet to see the introduction of more generally-affordable models, particularly in the popular SUV segment.

The recent arrival of the BYD Atto 3 and the scheduled launch of the Volvo EX30 in early 2024 could further bolster sales among those unwilling to spend over R1 million on an EV.

Both these models will be available in South Africa for under R800,000, with the EX30 being the most affordable.

In addition, the long-awaited publication of the government’s EV policy paper, expected by March 2024, is anticipated to reduce the high import duties levied on EVs and potentially provide subsidies in the near future.

It could also support local manufacturing of EVs by companies that are currently producing hundreds of thousands of petrol and diesel cars in the country.

Volvo EX30 compact SUV

Now read: Toyota battery breakthrough — full charge in 10 minutes with over 1,000km of range

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Electric car sales boom in South Africa — despite worst load-shedding yet