EV Options remain steady

While we never expect to see major changes to the list of hybrid and electric vehicles available to the South African buyer, it’s still interesting to review one’s selection on a regular basis, and see what the market is doing.

Pretty much across the board, car prices have gone up. This is particularly noticeable in the cars that cost over a million Rand, where several have seen price increases of R200,000. A large amount, even given the already high price.

Besides that, your options have dropped to 19 different cars, down only one from last year’s review. Although, depending on who you talk to, that may be changing in the next few months.

First on our list, alphabetically, is Audi. Although they have yet to offer any type of electric vehicle in the South African market, they are currently advertising the new Audi E-Tron, and allowing interested buyers to be kept up to date with the latest developments.

In a similar vein, Mercedes-Benz are currently advertising their EQC-class. An all electric variant of the popular GLC. Although Mercedes have offered a number of hybrids in South Africa over the years, this will be their first all electric offering. Let’s hope it comes through, as their current offering of hybrids is unusually lacking, including the removal of the locally produced C350e.

Someone we have more confidence in is Nissan. Although they’re halting sales of the current gen Nissan Leaf, they have started to advertise the new Nissan Leaf. With their investment in local charging infrastructure, we’re guaranteed to see this car on the roads later this year.

BMW have just introduced the new 3 series. As is common with new models, the hybrids are not available as an option at first. As such we’ve lost the previous generation 330e. That being said, we’re still lacking a 5 series hybrid.

Lexus as always continues to offer a steady selection of hybrids across their range. They’re no longer selling the CT 200 in any form, but have recently updated the ES 300, at the same time introducing two new products to the market in the form of the IS 300 and UX 250, both available as hybrids.

Tesla continues to make promises, but have yet to deliver. A tweet last year from Elon Musk indicated the sale of Tesla cars becoming a reality later this year. We expect them more likely in 2020. However the longer they take to get here, the less of the already small market is going to be available for them.

And lastly something exciting. It’s not often that a new brand brings in an EV, but that’s what we’ve got with Jaguar’s offering of their new all electric SUV, the I-Pace. It is by no means a cheap vehicle, but it stands in direct competition with the upcoming Mercedes and Audi offerings.

At the same time, the sister brand Land Rover, has introduced their Range Rover and Range Rover Sports with hybrids as an option.

Furthermore, Jaguar have invested R30 million into developing the South African charging network. Not only installing chargers at dealerships (like Nissan and BMW), but also adding stations along highways. Helping make the decision to purchase an EV, that little bit easier.

All in all it’s going to be an exciting year for electric vehicles in South Africa.


South African Hybrid and Electric vehicle offerings slightly up in 2018

Compared to a year ago, there are two more vehicles available to South African consumers that fall into the category of hybrid and electric vehicles. That brings the total to 20, up two from this time last year. You can see the full list here, but the changes are summarized below.

BMW have introduced their roadster i8 to the market along with the facelift variants of their existing i3 and i8. The first gens are still available, up about R5,000 in the last year, while the facelift i3s cost an additional R30,000 and the i8 coupe R80,000. Continuing to lead the way in electric and hybrid offerings BMW have also reintroduced the X5 xDrive40e and a 3-series electric in the form of the 330e, an F30 facelift.

Although the Bolt was never released to the South African market, the ceasing of Chevrolet sales in the country is a disappointment, as it indicates we will never see one of the most efficient all electric vehicles on our shores.

chevrolet.com

Inifiniti continue to offer the lone Q50 hybrid, while their website and online presence seems to have dwindled. Nissan obviously had high hopes for the brand initially, but don’t seem to be investing much in it anymore.

Lexus neither added nor removed items from their purchase list, continuing to offer four hybrid vehicles. All took a slight price knock, easily explained by inflation and recent VAT increase.

As Mercedes-Benz adds one plugin-hybrid to their name in the form of the GLE 500e; at the same time the S-class hybrids (one of the first introduced to the local market) are now oddly absent. This is surprising, as a new S-Class is still a few years out. It could however be a delayed break to introduce the facelifted S-Class.

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As promised, Porsche have now brought their Panamera hybrids to the market, in the form of both their Panamera 4 and Panamera Turbo S models, in both Sport and Standard shapes. The Cayenne S is also still available in E-Hybrid variant, with a promise of the new Cayenne coming soon.

While ex-South African Elon Musk did promise that the Tesla Model 3 would be available in South Africa, local purchasers are still waiting. Pre-orders were initially taken in 2016, with early introduction estimates set at late 2018. The Model 3 website currently indicates the production of right-hand drive vehicles only starting in 2019.

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Toyota have dropped their Yaris Hybrid from the lineup, most likely due to the new product introduction, but maintain their Auris hybrid as well as flagship Prius.

While many companies like Honda, Hyundai, Audi and VW sell electronic variants internationally, they have still been conservative in bringing these vehicles to South Africa. And can one really blame them? Earlier this year the Sunday Times reported that just 400 vehicles in South Africa were pure electric.

The formation of the South African Electric Vehicle Industry Association created a lot of optimism for government support of projects around the industry, but beyond desires to reduce import taxes and offer incentives to South Africans to purchase such vehicles, they don’t seem to have achieved anything solid yet. Their fancy looking website boasts a news page with only two articles, the last one posted a year ago; an events page which lists their annual conference; and a forum with zero posts, no apparent way to create threads, and an insecure login.

Some promising news is that NAAMSA recently mentioned government promises to reduce import duties by 7% on EVs, but no implementation date has been specified. In the grander scheme of things, this is not a major decrease, but is at least a starting point. And maybe an indicator of things to come.


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Electric and Hybrid vehicles in South Africa. 2017, where do we stand?

Although the formation of the South African Electric Vehicle Industry Association is certainly a step in the right direction, it appears to not have done much for the local market just yet. Since October last year the number of electric and hybrid vehicles on sale in South Africa has dropped by two. Cape Town did gain one new charging station though, located at the Constantia Village mall.

Much like we saw the BMW 3 series active hybrid fall from our list last year, the 5 series has followed suit. What is surprising to see is that even the fairly recently released BMW X5 xDrive 40e is no longer available. What is left of their electric and hybrid offerings all got a marginal price increase.

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Infiniti, Lexus and Nissan have all maintained their selection, as well as prices. Surprising considering the major Rand fluctuations since October last year. Mercedes-Benz posted some slight price adjustments.

Toyota also posted marginal price increases, but kept their car selection steady. Porsche meanwhile are still offering their Cayenne S E Hybrid, and have been promising to offer the Panamera 4 E Hybrid since last year already, but still without a confirmed date or price.

This brings the total number of available electric and hybrid cars in South Africa down to 18. Of which, only two are pure electric vehicles. Worryingly, not a single new vehicle has been brought to the market in the last 8 months. While the market hasn’t ever been strong locally, the decline and lack of new vehicles doesn’t bode well for the rest of the year.

You can see a full list of available cars here, and a map showing all local charging stations here.


The Overseas Market

We recently had the opportunity to attend the OC International Auto Show in Los Angeles, and what an eye-opener. Smog used to be a major issue in LA, but thanks to a number of efforts and legislation, a major turn around has been seen. Part of this relates to car regulations surrounding emissions. Along with this came a major push towards EVs support by a Clean Vehicle Rebate Program.

As such you see a lot of EVs driving around LA, a lot more than in South African in any case. And the OC Auto Show showed similar trends with majority of manufacturers featuring at least one hybrid or alternative energy vehicle.

There are several reasons for the very limited availability of EVs in South Africa, one of which which is often overlooked is price. At $30,000 the Nissan Leaf is one of the entry level vehicles in not just the EV market, but the hybrid market as well. This translates to about R400,000 and is sold locally for about R450,000.

That is a lot of money for a car, but you can see the Dollar-Rand exchange doesn’t affect it that much. Where are the R200,000 EVs. Although $30,000 is still a lot for a vehicle in the States, with a minimum wage in California eight times higher than in SA, and an overall higher income group, more people are able to afford such vehicles.

This then has the rollover effect that because there are vehicles, more charging stations are built, because more charging stations are built, more people feel like it is not a hassle to purchase an EV.

It was refreshing walking around the Anaheim Convention Centre and viewing all the EVs and hybrids on offer, that we just don’t get in SA. Some of which include:

  • Audi A3 e-tron
  • Ford C-max Hybrid
  • Honda Clarity – Fuel Cell
  • VW e-Golf
  • Toyota Rav Hybrid
  • Toyota Mirai – Fuel Cell
  • Hyundai Ioniq
  • Hyundai Tucson – Fuel Cell

Surprisingly absent were Tesla, although they don’t really do things in a conventional manner. Although Mercedes had a large offering of their vehicles, their hybrids were completely absent.


What’s happening in the local EV Market

The last few months have seen a number of changes to the local EV market, although none of them major. Most changes relate to model changes. Across the board we’ve seen an increase in EV car prices. This isn’t unique to EVs, and is more related to inflation and the volatile Dollar-Rand exchange.

BMW i8 & i3 at the recent OC AutoShow

BMW i8 & i3 at the recent OC AutoShow

  • BMW are no longer offering their 3 series hybrid (Active Hybrid 3). This should be making space for the upcoming 330e which has already been released overseas.
  • The BMW 740e has taken over from the Active Hybrid 7; with this came a R200k price jump.
  • Chevrolet’s only local electric offerings continue to be windows and mirrors, besides a new Volt overseas.
  • Honda has dropped their only hybrid offering in the CR-Z. This was an international decision and is claimed to make space for an upcoming Accord hybrid.
  • Mercedes-Benz have released their locally produced C350e plugin-hybrid to the market. The C-Class is an all time local favourite and it will be interesting to see the rate at which it is purchased in South Africa, especially with a pricetag R200k more than the C300.
  • Contrary to the rest of the market, Nissan’s main product, the Leaf, saw a R20,000 price drop over the last few months.
  • Porsche’s Panamera hybrid has fallen away, but will be replaced by the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid in upcoming months
  • Toyota have bumped up their lineup with the new Prius. Currently only offering a one model choice of 1.8l hybrid. What is reassuring is that it costs only R8,000 more than when the previous model left the market.

On the charging station front, BMW having rolled out an additional station at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, and continue the promise of more stations. While an extra station is great, roll-out is still slow, maybe the the promise of a Tesla 3 for SA will help increase the rate of roll-out of new stations.