Volkswagen SA kicks electric vehicles into high gear

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 03 Nov 2021
The ID.4 is Volkswagen Group’s best-selling electric model.
The ID.4 is Volkswagen Group’s best-selling electric model.

Volkswagen (VW) has taken the next step in its electric mobility strategy, as the German motor vehicle manufacturer prepares to introduce its first fully-electric vehicles (EVs) in South Africa.

The move comes as more local vehicle manufacturers prepare to introduce plug-in hybrid vehicles or electric vehicles within the next year, including Volvo (XC40 Recharge), BMW (iX3), Audi (e-tron) and Mercedes-Benz (EQA / EQB / EQC / EQS).

As the shift towards electric mobility increasingly gains momentum, government is also making inroads in introducing policies to create a conducive environment for EVs. This includes the Automotive Production Development Programme introduced in June and the Draft Auto Green Paper on the advancement of new energy vehicles in SA, which was gazetted early this year.

The first phase of VW’s electric mobility strategy kicked off in 2020 with the launch of the e-Golf (electric-Golf) pilot project in SA. The six fully-electric e-Golfs were used for research purposes and testing by motoring media, as well as Volkswagen dealers, in an effort to gain valuable insights into the experience of living with an EV in SA, according to the automaker.

The second phase will see the introduction of VW’s first electric compact crossover SUV range, the ID.4 test fleet, in SA in 2022, while during the third phase, VW EVs will officially be sold in SA.

“It is important for us to conduct thorough research on electric vehicles before introducing them in South Africa. With the e-Golf test fleet, we exposed hundreds of Volkswagen customers to electric vehicles and over 90% of those customers indicated they would consider buying an electric vehicle in the future,” says Steffen Knapp, head of the VW Passenger Car Brand.

“This year, we also brought in a fleet of Volkswagen ID.3 vehicles, which were used for experiential events for corporate clients, dealers as well as motoring media. The introduction of the all-electric and best-selling ID.4 will assist us with gaining valuable insights, which will pave the way for Volkswagen to include electric vehicles in the future product portfolio in South Africa.”

VW used the e-Golfs for research and testing purposes in SA.
VW used the e-Golfs for research and testing purposes in SA.

E-mobility becomes core business

The Volkswagen Group says as part of its e-mobility roadmap for 2030, it also plans to ramp up its EV battery production and charging infrastructure in collaboration with its global partners.

The automaker, which develops EV components through its Germany-based Volkswagen Group Components unit, says it is pushing ahead at full speed with the development of production capacities, in order to meet the increasing demand for battery cells, which will be used across EV brands and in up to 80% of all of its EVs by 2030.

It has established co-operations in Europe with energy companies BP (Great Britain), Iberdrola (Spain) and Enel (Italy), to produce EV batteries, which will be made available globally.

Volkswagen’s battery offensive is being accompanied by a large-scale global introduction of its fully-electric Volkswagen vehicles, with two models expected to go on sale next year in South Africa – the ID.4 and e-Golf.

The e-Golf has a range of 190km. The ID.4, which is the current World Car of the Year and has a range of up to 522km, is billed as the Volkswagen Group’s best-selling electric model. It is expected to take on competitors such as the Mercedes-Benz EQC, which Mercedes South Africa startedpublicisingfrom as early as 2019.

According to the2021 Electric Vehicle Buyers Survey, conducted by online marketplace AutoTrader, consumer appetite for EVs is on the increase, with 72% of surveyed South Africans saying they are planning to buy an EV within the next five years.

However, while there is demand for EVs, the survey notes there are still barriers, including the high costs of EVs and lack of charging infrastructure.

“Most South African drivers currently prefer internal combustion engine cars. In order to be South Africa’s best-selling electric vehicle brand, we first need to educate our consumers by getting as many of them as possible to experience electric vehicles, with the hope of changing perceptions,” notes Knapp.