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Govt policy, range anxiety hinder EV adoption in SA

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Government’s policy framework and consumers' anxiety around the perceived lack of public charging infrastructure are among the reasons SA is lagging behind its global counterparts in electric vehicle (EV) adoption.

These are some of the findings of the State of Electric Vehicles report, released by the national uYilo eMobility Programme, which highlights key elements of the EV industry in SA.

An initiative of the Technology Innovation Agency, an entity of the Department of Science and Innovation, the national uYilo Electric Mobility Programme was established in 2013 as a multi-stakeholder, collaborative programme focused on enabling, facilitating and mobilising electric mobility in SA.

According to the report, the five main areas which require serious attention in creating favourable conditions for the EV industry in SA are: air pollution, vehicle manufacturing, EV import tariffs, charging infrastructure and government policy.

By the end of 2019, a total of 1 119 EVs had been sold in SA, of which 545 were battery electric vehicles (BEV) and 574 were plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, notes the report.

The evolution of EVs in SA is an important development for the automotive industry, and the report recommends that certain hindrances must be overcome to chart a way forward.

“Manufacturing, imports, charging infrastructure and government policy are the main focal areas for the EV industry in SA,” says Hiten Parmar, director of the uYilo e-Mobility Programme.

“Each of these must be addressed in order for SA to follow the global transition to non-fossil fuel transportation, boost consumer adoption and remain competitive on the international stage.”

With the current EV import tariff at 25%, import conditions do not favour EVs in SA. Other factors considered curve balls for new or potential adopters of EVs include SA not manufacturing BEV to provide for the mass market, and range anxiety.

These issues impact consumer choices in considering adoption of electric mobility, notes the report.

EVs and hybrid EVs will account for an estimated 30% of all vehicle sales by 2025, according to a TrendForce report.

As the race to commercially introduce EVs heats up, manufacturers face growing pressure from strict emission regulations being enacted by governments worldwide to combat the impact of petrol or diesel vehicle-related emissions.

In February, the UK announced it plans to ban the sale of new combustion vehicles by 2035 − five years earlier than its previous target.

Some 14 countries and about 20 cities around the world have proposed banning the sale of passenger vehicles powered by fossil fuels such as gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas and diesel at some time in the future in order to reduce the level of carbon emissions.

SA government policy

SA continues to lag behind worldwide efforts to accelerate EVs into all markets, and requires accelerated efforts to be collaborative with government, industry and citizens, notes the uYilo e-Mobility Programme report.

As a signatory to the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework for Climate Change Convention adopted in December 2015, SA committed to a “peak, plateau and decline” emission trajectory through its Nationally Determined Contributions.

The National Climate Change Response Strategy is a supporting policy document developed by SA to guide climate change response across all government departments.

Government has implemented some policy instruments under this document, relating to addressing transport emissions, which include: Environmental CO2 levy, fuel levy, fuel economy and CO2-labelling, and the Carbon Tax.

However, the report notes these policy instruments have been implemented along with the ‘carrot-and-stick’ approach, as the respective revenue accrued within the fiscus through these instruments is not applied to the corresponding climate change actions.

“Broader policy frameworks need to be aligned towards addressing the global climate action within the context that SA faces the challenge of climate change as a developing country, with priorities to reduce poverty and inequality,” it notes.

According to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis that tracks government climate actions and measures them against the globally agreed Paris Agreement, as of December 2019, SA is listed as “highly insufficient” and not consistent to holding climate warming to below 2°C let alone the Paris Agreement’s stronger 1.5°C limit.

Infrastructural development

While range anxiety remains an issue for potential adopters of EVs, the report quells concerns that there are not enough charging stations across SA.

SA has an active footprint of 214 public charge points enabled by multiple initiatives and vehicle manufacturers across the country’s major highways, notes the report.

“International use cases indicate that as much as 70% of charging takes place at home and not at public chargers. Except for high mileage journeys, there is very little need for the typical car buyer to charge their vehicle in a public space and it always has full range when left plugged in at home.”

EVs are also supplied with a charging cable that allows charging from any standard residential outlet like other home appliances, providing the convenience to charge from existing electricity supply outlets within homes and businesses, notes the report.

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