State-owned EVs to pave way for SA’s e-mobility future

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 20 Oct 2022
Public transport and roads infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo.
Public transport and roads infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo.

Government is planning the national rollout of electric vehicles (EVs), as part of a long-term plan to wean South Africa off fossil fuels and onto renewables.

This was the word from public transport and roads infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo, speaking to ITWeb on the side-lines of the Smarter Mobility Africa Summit 2022 held in Tshwane recently.

Discussing SA’s smarter mobility strategy, the MEC noted government is committed to accelerating the rollout of EV charging infrastructure across national roads – a plan that is expected to lead to the national rollout of state-owned EVs.

This, as the City of Joburg (COJ) is preparing the initial phase of the Electric Vehicle Readiness Support Programme, which will see the city and its partners pave the way for EVs, and the arrival of electric buses and e-taxis.

The initiative, which forms part of the COJ’s Integrated Development Plan, aims to make the case for EV-related business models, with a particular focus on assessing the feasibility of e-taxis, e-buses and solar-powered EV charging stations across the city.

“As a province, we have adopted the concept of smart mobility, which will position Gauteng as Africa’s e-mobility hub and take us into the global conversations as far as smart mobility is concerned,” commented Mamabolo.

“As government, we need to take the lead and also buy electric vehicles so that the public and communities can see that electric vehicles are a way to go because government is also using these vehicles. First, we need to ensure there are sufficient public charging stations and infrastructure to recharge these vehicles. This is government’s way of providing leadership and guidance to the communities, while building trust in renewable energy, saving the climate, and also creating a new economy that is sustainable.”

Governments across the globe have been increasingly introducing policies to ensure an uptake in EV purchases, in efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

SA is seeing slow but steady growth of EV adoption compared to the rest of the globe, reaching a total of 1 559 EV units sold at the beginning of 2022.

While SA is leading other African countries in EV adoption, in comparison to other emerging markets like India and Mexico, the country is falling behind.

In 2020, the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport introduced its Smart Mobility Vision 2030, with the aim of growing the province’s economy and changing mobility patterns within the city region.

Titled “Growing Gauteng through smart mobility”, the strategy looks at taking advantage of the province’s current standing as a gateway to Africa, to position it as the freight and logistics hub for the country and the continent, while eradicating transport challenges in the province.

Accelerating infrastructure

As part of Smart Mobility Vision 2030, Mamabolo officially unveiled the Gauteng Transport Authority (TAG) in May. The body is tasked with overseeing integrated planning for transport in the province and promoting the development of an integrated and accessible public transport network in the province.

“As a province and as a country, we need to rollout charging infrastructure. In doing so, we have mandated the TAG to set out the guidelines for the rollout of infrastructure for electric vehicles. We have already directed that even train stations, such as the Gautrain station, should have electric vehicle charging capacity.

“Once we have rolled out the network of the Gautrain across the province, we will ensure public charging stations are also made available there,” he continued.

According to the 2022 AutoTrader Mid-Year Industry Report, although there is demand for EVs from South African customers, the high prices and range anxiety due to the lack of charging infrastructure are among the biggest hurdles to increased adoption.

The local public charging network currently consists of 250 charging stations, according to charging infrastructure mapping website PlugShare.

In August, Audi South Africa, in partnership with EV charging systems manufacturer GridCars, finalised the installation of 33 EV charging stations across the country.

Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Nissan and e-mobility systems manufacturer ACDC Dynamics are among the companies that have also been working to accelerate the national deployment of public charging infrastructure as part of ecosystem collaboration efforts.

Mamabolo highlighted the important role of using renewable energy sources for EV charging infrastructure, which would help in contributing to grid stability amid SA’s ongoing power crisis.

In future, government intends building more large solar farmsas a response to the ongoing black-outs, he added.

“Renewable energy can play an important role in ensuring efficiency of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. We are looking at taking advantage of the competitive ability that we have as a country, which is blessed with the richness of the sunshine, to ensure we build new sources of energy using solar power and to a large extent wind energy.

“If you look at the value chain of smart solutions, using renewable energy provides an opportunity to invest in the production of solar panels, which we are currently importing from other parts of the world because we do not yet have the capacity to produce them locally,” he concluded.