Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles like it or not are the future.

By Bernard Preston

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

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

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

eBooks 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, that 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 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.

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 M&G there are only 1000 EVs in SA 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 for those wanting to change to a car that will contribute to the solution of climate change, rather than adding to the problem.

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

Electric vehicles

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.

Electric vehicles require far less maintenance so manufacturers are only building very sophisticated and expensive cars and motorcycles.

And secondly, unable to make a profit out of servicing EVs, motor companies are only manufacturing highly sophisticated and very expensive electric cars. Starting at around half a million rand for the Nissan Leaf they are far out of range for the majority of South Africans; it’s little wonder that so few are being sold.

The Zero motorcycle

Zero motorcycle is all electric.

The Zero 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

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’s about 1/5th 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’s enough for a week for the average commuter. It could be charged once a week 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.

Volkswagen 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.

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