I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Colin Kgari from Kaya FM to discuss the intriguing insights uncovered in the AutoTrader and Smarter Mobility 2023 EV Buyers survey. The South African automotive industry is on the brink of a transformative shift, with electric vehicles (EVs) taking centre stage. 

In a recent survey conducted by AutoTrader South Africa, a compelling trend has emerged: a growing interest in EVs among South African car shoppers, especially among the younger generation aged 25 to 35. As the CEO of AutoTrader South Africa, I’m excited to delve into the rich findings of this survey, offering you an in-depth exploration of South Africa’s evolving perspective on electric vehicles.

Evolving Attitudes: What South Africans Truly Think About EVs

The survey paints a picture of shifting perceptions and a burgeoning acceptance of electric vehicles. In 2022, only 15% of surveyed consumers had experienced driving an EV. Fast forward to 2023, and this number has surged to nearly 20%, indicating that South Africans are increasingly becoming familiar with EV technology.

The Cost Conundrum: Affordability Challenges

However, as promising as this growing awareness is, significant challenges continue to hamper the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. One of the most prominent obstacles is the cost. While EV sales are rising, we are starting from a small base, with just over 500 new EV sales in the first half of 2023. Given that there are around 12 million vehicles on South Africa’s roads, it’s clear that EVs still have a long way to go to achieve mass adoption.

Affordability on the Horizon

The issue of affordability is a crucial one to address. It’s a struggle to find an EV priced under R1 million in South Africa. Nevertheless, signs of change are emerging. For instance, Volvo’s plans to launch the XC40 Recharge at a more accessible price point, around R799,000, are promising. Additionally, second-hand options, such as the BMW i3, which can be found in the R450,000 to R500,000 range, suggest that EVs may become more accessible to a broader range of consumers in the near future.

Charging Challenges: Separating Fact from Fiction

Another prevalent concern centres around charging infrastructure and time. Many South Africans believe charging an EV takes significantly longer than refuelling a traditional vehicle. However, this perception is primarily due to a need for more information rather than a real issue. In reality, most EV owners charge their vehicles overnight, taking advantage of when their cars are parked and unused. Charging an EV typically takes just a few hours, making it a practical and convenient choice for daily use.

Charging Infrastructure: More Accessible Than You Think

Another myth to dispel is that South Africa lacks sufficient charging infrastructure. Contrary to this belief, our country boasts more public charging stations per EV than many European nations. With over 300 fast chargers located along our major highways, the convenience and accessibility of charging infrastructure are essential messages to convey.

Hybrids: A Transitional Step

The 2023 survey findings also highlight the influence of hybrid vehicles on the EV market. Hybrid vehicles, which offer a more affordable alternative to fully electric ones, are gaining popularity and may explain a slight decrease in EV ownership inclination. These hybrids are a transitional step toward a cleaner, greener automotive future and are particularly attractive to budget-conscious consumers.

Policy and Regulation: Paving the Way for Electric Mobility

In closing, the journey to mass adoption of electric vehicles in South Africa is still in its early stages. However, the potential for growth and change is undeniable. Key drivers of progress include government policies and regulations that incentivise consumers and manufacturers alike. By addressing affordability barriers and promoting EV adoption, we can align South Africa with the global trend toward electric mobility.

AutoTrader South Africa’s 2023 EV Buyer Survey provides valuable insights into the shifting automotive landscape in our country. As consumer awareness and experience with electric vehicles continue to grow, the future of EVs in South Africa holds great promise, provided that regulatory support and affordability challenges are adequately addressed. Together, we stand on the threshold of an electric vehicle revolution, and it’s our shared responsibility to accelerate its momentum.