SA to see more electric vehicles

Article first published in City Press

South Africa could see more electric cars on the roads soon if a new industry body succeeds in its lobby for government to allow zero duties on imports.

Carel Snyman, a senior manager in the SA National Energy Development Institute’s cleaner mobility programme, said the Electric Vehicle Industry Association, which was launched this week at the Industrial Development Corporation, would lobby government for zero duties on electric vehicle imports, a more favourable policy dispensation for electric vehicles and incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles.

The key reasons to encourage the use of electric vehicles were to avoid contributing to climate change, to reduce South Africa’s dependence on oil imports and to improve local air quality, Snyman said.

At present, pure electric vehicles in South Africa number about 500 out of 7 million cards on our roads.  Electric vehicles get charged a duty of 25%, while conventional vehicle imports get charged an 18% duty.  Snyman said that, on top of the import duty, and ad valorem tax, which is usually charged on luxury items, also applied to electric vehicles, and so the tax on electric vehicle imports stood at about 42%.

The only local vehicle manufacturers that sell electric vehicles are BMW and Nissan.  BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Toyota sell hybrid vehicles.

A hybrid vehicle uses two or more types of power, such as an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.  Snyman said that the association was liaising with six government departments, as well as major local cities, to boost the case for electric vehicles.

The founding members of the Electric Vehicle Industry Association are the SA National Energy Development Institute, which is a unit of the department of energy, BMW SA, GridCars, Nissan SA and the uYilo e-Mobility Technology Innovation Programme.

Themba Tenza, the chief director of research and innovation at the department of transport, said government was working on a green transport strategy.
Bopang Khutsoane, another department of transport official, said government had identified the transport sector as the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Philip Ninela, the deputy director for green industries at the department of trade and industry, said a study was under way to understand the policy and legislative landscape in South Africa with respect to green transportation.

Ninela said there were plans afoot to phase down import duties on electric vehicles to stimulate trade in the components required for vehicle assembly. A tax incentive for electric vehicle buyers had been rejected by the National Treasury, he added.“Electric vehicles go hand in hand with renewable energy – only then can we talk of zero-emission electric vehicles,” Ninela said.

Bert Witkamp, a representative of the European Association for Electromobility, showed that battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles sales had been growing from a low base in 2011.  Witkamp also showed that the top five plug-in hybrid electric vehicles made up three-quarters of the sales in Europe.

China is showing the strongest growth in electric vehicles sales, with 400 000 units expected to be sold this year, up from just fewer than 200 000 last year. The sharp growth in electric vehicle sales in China is due to the decision by the Chines government to push for electric mobility.

The key issues that were hindering electric vehicles were cost, range and charging times.  Witkamp said that there were a number of non-traditional players entering the vehicle manufacturing market.  He said that technology disruptions were rarely foreseen by industry insiders and experts.

Worldwide, there were about 1.1 billion vehicles, of which about 2 million were electric vehicles. Government policy was a key driver of electric vehicles, Witkamp said.

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