South Africans move to hybrid cars

New energy vehicle (NEV) sales in South Africa have skyrocketed in the past two years, with manufacturers selling 6,850 more NEVs in 2023 than in 2021.

This means more motorists in the country are ditching their petrol and diesel-powered cars for newer, cleaner technologies.

According to data from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), traditional hybrid vehicles (HEVs) have had the most sales in recent years, reaching nearly 6,500 units in 2023.

During the same period, manufacturers sold 929 fully electric and 333 plug-in hybrid vehicles locally. Although these numbers are much lower than the HEV figures, they are significantly higher than they were five years ago.

In 2018, only 58 fully electric and 89 plug-in hybrids were sold locally.

Sales began to increase significantly after 2020. 896 NEVs were sold in South Africa in 2021, compared with 324 in 2020.

Plug-in hybrid sales in 2021 were low compared to previous years. However, traditional hybrid and fully electric sales more than doubled between 2020 and 2021.

627 HEVs and 218 EVs were sold in 2021, compared to 155 and 92, respectively, the year before.

NEV sales then took off in 2022, with 4,674 units sold — 3,778 more than in 2021.

Traditional hybrids contributed most of this growth, with sales for the drivetrain technology reaching 4,050 units in 2022.

In the same year, 122 plug-in hybrids and 502 fully electric vehicles were sold in South Africa.

EV sales nearly doubled in 2023, with manufacturers selling 929 fully electric units during the year.

However, traditional hybrids proved most popular again, with nearly 6,500 units selling locally in 2023.

South Africa’s government is buying into the transition from internal combustion vehicles to newer technologies, and the incentives it announced in February 2024 could go a long way to expanding the options available to motorists.

“[It] is a crucial step in attracting investments, fostering innovation, and enhancing the growth of the sector within South Africa,” said Naamsa.

“An electric vehicle stimulation policy is something the sector has been working towards for some time.”

Finance minister Enoch Godongwana revealed that the National Treasury had reprioritised R964 million in the medium term to support the country’s transition to NEVs.

He said the incentive was designed to attract investment in South Africa’s motor vehicle manufacturing industry.

“This will allow producers to claim 150% of qualifying investment spending on electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles within the first year,” said Godongwana.

“The incentive will be implemented in addition to the existing support under the Automotive Production Development Programme (APDP).”

The allowance for new investment into NEV technologies in South Africa begins on 1 March 2026. However, no consumer-focused incentives were announced.

In December 2023, Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition Ebrahim Patel released the country’s white paper on EVs, outlining a roadmap and suite of policy interventions to support the transition to NEVs.

The white paper’s first phase focuses on the manufacturing sector and its transition. Phase two of the NEV white paper will prioritise motivating buyers to purchase NEVs.

However, Patel said this is only expected to kick off in roughly seven years.

The chart and table below track NEV sales in South Africa from 2018 to 2023.

New energy vehicle (NEV) sales in South Africa from 2018 to 2023. Data from: Naamsa.
NEV sales in South Africa: 2018 to 2023
Type 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Plug-in hybrid 89 72 77 51 122 333
Traditional hybrid 55 181 155 627 4,050 6,484
Electric 58 154 92 218 502 929
Total 202 407 324 896 4,674 7,746

Strong sales growth to kick off 2024

Naamsa’s quarterly review for Q1 2024 shows that NEV sales got off to a strong start in 2024.

According to its data, 3,042 NEVs were sold in South Africa between January and March 2024, compared to 1,665 vehicles sold during the same period in 2023. This represents an increase of nearly 83%.

Traditional hybrids saw the most significant sales jump year-on-year.

Between January and March 2023, manufacturers sold 1,408 traditional hybrids, while 2,574 HEV units were sold locally in the first three months of 2024.

However, plug-in hybrid sales saw the highest proportional growth, increasing from 25 units in Q1 2023 to 138 in Q1 2024 — a more than fivefold increase.

Regarding fully electric vehicles, manufacturers sold 98 more units locally in the first quarter of 2024 than in the first quarter of 2023.

Moreover, total NEV sales during the year’s first quarter equal nearly 40% of all NEV sales during the entirety of last year.

In South Africa, 3,042 NEV units were sold during Q1 2024, compared to 7,746 during 2023 as a whole, which was already a record year for NEV sales in the country.

“NEV sales breached the 1% for the first time and comprised 1,45% of the total new vehicle market in 2023 compared to 0,88% of total new vehicle sales in 2022,” said Naamsa.

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South Africans move to hybrid cars