Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles like it or not, just as with digital photography and eBooks, are the future. The world has taken to digital cameras like ducks to water, but publisher greed and our love of a friendly, in-hand book or newspaper has proved more seductive.

Despite that, the sale of eBooks has surpassed hard copies.

E-books should be a tenth of the price of a paperback. There is no need for a mall store, no delivery charges, no pulping of unsold books, and fewer salaries to be paid.

It is all profit, yet very quickly eBooks became as expensive, and sometimes more costly than a real paperback.

And I must say it did not take me long to take to the digital Witness at half price; it is delivered every morning on time without fail, and I can access all the back copies.

But let us get back to EVs; they are proving problematic not just in South Africa, but the whole world. Again it is greed that is holding them back. Nevertheless, they will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions and benefit consumers not only in the future against climate change but immediately in fewer toxic exhaust fumes. On a personal note turning over a blue Leaf has been an electrifying experience; it is the best car I have ever owned, by a long mile.

Despite that, in Norway for example, because of government incentives, over half of the vehicles are now electric. But according to Luke Feltham, writing in the Mail and Guardian there are only 1000 EVs in South Africa out of 12.5 million cars.

The reasons are complex but at the top of the page is that the government, despite having committed at the Paris agreement to having 3 million EVs on the road in thirty years time, is dragging its feet and making life very difficult.

Those wanting to move to a car that will contribute to the solution of climate change, rather than adding yet more to the problem, will simply have to pay extra and there will be no state rebates.

The import tax on an EV is nearly 50 percent more than a petrol or diesel car. There are government disincentives to manufacture in SA according to the BMW. The troubles at Eskom are no doubt part of the problem. 

Despite that, we will soon have our own Nissan Leaf; it is five years old which means a relatively small battery and limited range, but the upside is that it does not come with all the bells and whistles; I can park my own car, thank you very much, though a few cameras would be nice.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Our green home
  3. Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles

The Nissan Leaf is the only moderately priced E-car in South Africa.

The Renault Zoe electric vehicle gets the equivalent of a R65,000 rebate, known as a plug in car grant, from the British government to encourage buyers. That means it is priced in the UK at under R350,000.

Alas, Renault has no plans to bring it to SA.

The above car is our Nissan Leaf; the E-car has landed.

Electric vehicles require far less maintenance so manufacturers are unable to make a profit out of servicing EVs; they are only building very sophisticated and expensive cars and motorcycles.

Starting at around R700,000 for the Nissan Leaf they are far out of range for the majority of South Africans; it is little wonder that so few are being sold.

The Zero motorcycle

The Zero electric motorcycle again is a very fine machine with great range, incredible acceleration, but priced around R200,000, is just out of range of the average South African.

Cost to charge an electric vehicle


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If electricity costs R1 per kWh, and a small car uses 20 kWh to travel 100 km, then the cost is R20 per 100 km; that is about one fifth of the cost of petrol.

To charge a Nissan Leaf Plus, with a range of about 300 km, having a 62 kWh battery, would cost around R60 if the battery was completely flat; that is enough for a week for the average commuter.

It could be charged only over the weekend.

It becomes even more interesting for those who have gone solar, whether off the grid or not. Generally speaking there is excess power during the day which could be used to charge your EV for free. It takes around 8 hours.

VW made its name originally by producing a people’s car in the Beetle; mass produced, and low in technology, it was affordable for the majority. I wonder which manufacturer is going to be the first to come to the party. Just imagine if Volkswagen South Africa became a world leader by producing an all-electric Golf for R250,000.


The cheapest EV in South Africa remains the Nissan Leaf. Whilst older models have very limited range, owners seem not to be unhappy.

“We basically charge it from the sun,” says Kim Lord from Somerset West of his 2014 Leaf, with a range of 120km, using a 24kWh battery. “The other thing is the maintenance on the car is so low. There is no oil, plugs, or fuel engines to deal with. Even when I take it in for a service it is a quick process; all they really have to check is the brake pads.

And because of regenerative braking, you do not actually use them that much. In my experience, everything seems to just last forever on these cars.”

Because of problems with the battery overheating, Nissan have withdrawn the Leaf for the time being, and will introduce a new model in 2020 with a 62kWh battery and a range of 384km.

Hopefully the new battery will be liquid cooled. But at what price will it come onto the market?

Fuel levy

Governments world-wide generate a lot of their income from a fuel levy. Also it pays for the road accident fund. Changing over to a electric vehicle would enable you to duck around these costs, but not for long one suspects. Perhaps the licensing will be more.

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