March 31, 2018
Wouldn’t it be great having an electric car, and not have any engine noise, or pollution? In addition, you will be able to smile at the ever-increasing fuel prices that cannot touch your pocket anymore. It seems ideal to use an electric car in the city. But how well prepared is South Africa really to accommodate you, should you wish to buy an electric car?
The term ‘electric cars’ in this article refers to those ‘all-electric cars’ cars that run on electricity alone, and not on both a fossil fuel and electricity (commonly known as ‘hybrid’ cars). From the below account you will see that there are not many electric cars available in South Africa – in fact, there are only two, and both are quite expensive.
Although the electric Nissan Leaf was introduced into South Africa since 2013, it has not been selling that well. Perhaps the 2018 starting price of R474 900 may have something to do with it.1,2 A 24-kWh lithium-ion battery connected to an 80-kW electric motor provides all the power.3 Unfortunately, the traveling range of the Nissan Leaf is not that great – only 190 km, after which the battery has to be recharged.
This high quality design BMW i3 won the 2016 ‘Design of the Year’ award as well as the ‘Game Changer of the Year’ award.3 The cost of the car in 2017 was R606 800,2 and it was rated as one of the world’s best-selling electric cars.4 The travelling range of this car is also not fantastic, but a range extender model increases the range to 300 km, through the additional use of a small petrol motor.
A July 2017 Business Tech article refers to a report by Ashburton investments, recommending that South Africa should get ready to accommodate more electric cars. 2 Possibly if the Nissan Leaf price begins to decrease and the fuel price continues to increase, the option of buying one of these all-electric cars becomes increasingly attractive. Although one will have to consider the cost of charging.
Although the electricity cost of running a Nissan Leaf is less than the fuel cost of an equivalent car, one has to also take into account the cost of time involved in charging an all-electric car battery. 2
According to a survey, 55% of South African drivers are only willing to wait for 1 hour for their batteries to be recharged. 2 This is quite divorced from reality, because it takes 3-4 hours for a battery to be fully charged at a super-charging station, and 6 – 8 hours at home. Perhaps, in the near future, when electric cars are everywhere one would be able to take an empty battery out of the car and exchange it with a charged one at any station. This will only be something that we will see in the future.
If you wish to charge your car battery at home and 30% faster, then you need to buy a charging station called the BMW Wallbox at a cost of about R22 000. An additional cost could arise if your house’s electrical system has to be upgraded because of the extra demands made on it by the Wallbox. 2
In the same survey, more than 50% of motorists require a minimum range of 400 km, which is too optimistic, as current electric cars can only deliver about half that on a single charge. 2 The vast distances found in South Africa are not like those in Europe, and thus it looks like that the use of electric cars in South Africa would be restricted exclusively to large cities just because of the range.
Nissan has provided a total of 9 charging stations in Gauteng, as well as 5 extra stations not attached to any dealers. 2 Unfortunately, Nissan doesn’t have any charging stations outside Gauteng. Although these charging stations provide free electricity, most of them are AC stations, which means they take longer to charge than their DC counterparts. BMW, however, has excelled in providing a national network of 38 charge points at dealerships in 8 provinces. However, there are 5 stations in KZN, 2 in Mpumalanga, 1 in Limpopo Province, 2 in North-West Province, 2 in the Eastern Cape, and 1 in the Free State. 2 If one considers all the information above, one gets the idea that the electric car scenario has definitely begun in South Africa, but perhaps it is not yet the right time to buy an electric car? Perhaps we have to wait for electric car prices to come down, or for a faster charge rate somehow, or for a substantial increase in the number of charging stations countrywide? This is something to consider and, who knows, for some individuals it may be feasible to consider buying an electric car.
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