Thursday, February 23, 2017

SA not ready for electric cars: Expert

SA not ready for electric cars: Expert
SABC News interview with Dr Peter Mukoma, Demand Response and Energy Efficiency Program Manager at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Despite the negative angle of the article title, the interview is quite a positive one and Dr Mukoma makes some very good points.
“We don’t see a lot of electric vehicles on the road, so that shows that somehow people do not know that these vehicles are available now on our market and honestly speaking I haven’t seen any advert for these vehicles from the vehicle dealers and they are supposed to communicate that these vehicles are available on the market, they must communicate the benefits of driving an electric car.”
Exactly, why don't we see adverts from Nissan and BMW for their electric cars they sell in South Africa? They'd prefer to carry on promoting their petrol and diesel models because they know they are more or less guaranteed recurring business because of the regular servicing an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle needs. They know buyers of their ICE cars will bring them back at regular service intervals to get the oil, plugs, filters, brakes etc. changed. This, more than anything is an incentive for the dealer to try and sell an ICE vehicle over an electric car, as they are the ones usually doing the servicing. Electric cars need very little in the way of maintenance, from what I can tell it amounts to rotating the tyres, checking the brake fluid and filling up the windscreen washer fluid. Not much to keep the service department busy there, though it does look like Nissan do require regular dealer services, at least in the US, to maintain the vehicle warranty. Obviously giving some sort of incentive for their dealers to sell the Leaf.
“They are expensive but you have very low operating costs, the cost of charging these vehicles is very low and you can get a lot of other benefits, there are no CO2 emissions, so you have a lot of environmental benefits, the other thing is there is range anxiety, people are scared of getting stuck on the road with discharged batteries without any chance of recharging them , so South Africa is not ready from the infrastructure point of view, there are a number of charging stations that are coming up in shopping malls and office parks, other than that we haven’t seen charging infrastructure on the high ways, this is something that obviously has to be taken care of.”
South Africa unfortunately is far from ready for the onslaught of electric cars. I don't think it will be the existing motor manufacturers with a presence in the country or the government who will really get the ball rolling. The electric revolution on our roads will really start when, as CEO Elon Musk has promised, Tesla launch their Model 3 in the country. As Tesla have done in every other country they sell their vehicles, they will surely install a network of their own 'Supercharger' charging stations. Presumably at first in the major cities and along the main routes connecting the big metropolitan areas. This will then hopefully persuade other manufacturers that their electric vehicles have similar charging opportunities. I'm sure the Tesla Model 3 won't be cheap when it gets here but I'm sure it will sell well as many other premium priced vehicles do in this country do.
Dr Mukoma says, "The other thing is there has to be some sort of incentives from government in order to encourage the uptake of these vehicles, in all the markets in the world where the population of electric vehicle is increasing they always have some sort of government incentives, some sort of subsidies, so that people can acquire these technologies and get the benefits.....I think if you look at our BRICS partners, which we usually want to compare ourselves to, if you look at India and China, they are far much ahead of us, there are some local manufacturing of these vehicles in China and I think its leading the world in these aspects, so we do need policy to try to drive the uptake of these vehicles.” 
Incentives from the government would be nice to try and encourage people to buy and the manufacturers to try and sell electric vehicles. This would only have to be a temporary arrangement as it's predicted by 2020 the price of electric cars will have fallen to that of their ICE counterparts and with the added fuel cost saving they will pretty much sell themselves. China are already having some influence on the electric vehicle market in South Africa. Cape Town has bought ten electric buses for use in the city from BYD in China. Hopefully we will see more Chinese electric cars in South Africa soon.

Though South Africa is far from ready, at least it seems some people realise the onslaught of the electric car is inevitable.

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