Surge in SA’s EV adoption as prices drop

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 05 Apr 2024
Despite power issues, 2023 saw a growing interest in EVs among South Africans car buyers.
Despite power issues, 2023 saw a growing interest in EVs among South Africans car buyers.

The influx of more affordable electric vehicles (EVs) into the South African market has contributed to the surge in EV adoption among local consumers.

This is one of the key findings of the 2023 Annual Car Industry report compiled by automotive marketplace, AutoTrader. It analyses vehicle selling and buying patterns and vehicle shoppers’ preferences based on data from its motoring platform.

Despite 2023 being a hard year for the SA economy, the online marketplace witnessed a 132% surge in EV sales. This is attributed to the growing momentum toward sustainability and the introduction of a wider variety of EVs entering the local market.

By the end of December 2023, the country experienced a downturn in new passenger vehicle sales, which ended the year with 174 049 units sold (internal combustion engine vehicles and EVs).

Notwithstanding this and other factors including continued power issues and ‘range anxiety’, there has been a growing interest in EVs among South Africans car shoppers.

“This report reveals that EV sales increased by 132% last year on our site,” explains George Mienie, Autotrader CEO.

“There is no secret that the world is gearing up for a greener and more sustainable future, and the local automotive industry is rapidly transitioning towards new energy vehicles. In 2023 SA witnessed a surge in the inclusion of EVs in the market, with more models and configuration options available... This shift prompted increased attention and adoption of hybrid cars with an aim to move to fully battery EVs.”

AutoTrader's data also shows that EV advert views increased by 40% compared to the previous year, with over 1 million advert views opened by car shoppers in 2023.

EV sales in South Africa have been steadily increasing since their introduction to the market, with a notable uptick in interest observed over the past four years, adds Mienie.

According to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), new energy vehicle sales across SA surged nearly 65% in 2023, with 7 694 units sold across 19 brands.

Market research firm Rho Motion notes that EVs are no longer considered niche oddities globally; instead, adoption has become mainstream as more automotive firms commit to phasing out internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Year-to-date figures indicate a 32% increase in global EV sales compared to the same period in 2023, with 1.9 million units sold.

In 2023, total global sales of fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles rose by 31% compared to 2022.

Pre-owned vehicles favoured

AutoTrader reveals that last year a total of 2 666 EVs were listed, reflecting a growth of 139% of year-on-year available stock in the market, and a 75% increase in model options compared to 2022.

The listed EVs commanded an average price of R1.4 million, accompanied by an average mileage of 16.6km and an average year model of 2022.

In 2023, a total of 332 pre-owned/used EVs were sold on the platform, marking another positive year in EV sales, it says.

Amongst the available used cars listed, the Audi E-tron led the pack in listings during 2023. There were two pre-owned EV models in the top 10 vehicles sold on the platform with an average listing price of below R600 000 – namely the MINI Cooper SE Hatch and BMW i3.

However, when observing sold used vehicles across all price categories, the high-end Volvo XC40 emerged as the top-selling used EV on the platform, says the report.

“Our research has shown that the average South African is hesitant to purchase an EV unless it falls below the R600 000 price range; despite this, we can see that early adoption is still growing,” adds Mienie.

According to AutoTrader, advancements in battery technology, making EVs more affordable and efficient, along with incentives for EV buyers, could accelerate further their adoption.

“It is good to see that South African manufacturers are already focusing on net-zero practices and decarbonisation.As this popularity in EVs continues, it is important for AutoTrader to continue measuring sentiment, supply and sales surrounding EVs. By understanding consumer perceptions towards EVs and the supply anddemand of the new energy vehicles, stakeholders and dealers can make informeddecisions to address challenges, stock correctly and propel the market’s growth.”