In the rapidly evolving landscape of electric vehicles (EVs), staying ahead of the curve is crucial. For the fourth consecutive year, in partnership with Smarter Mobility Africa, AutoTrader has undertaken an extensive EV Buyer’s Survey to unearth valuable insights into consumer perceptions and expectations regarding electric vehicles in South Africa. Ben Pullen, Group Director of Mobility at VUKA Group, and I are excited to share the key findings and shed light on the state of the EV market.

The EV Awareness Spectrum

Our survey delved into various aspects of consumer awareness and expectations surrounding EVs. One noteworthy trend is the growing awareness among South African consumers. Almost 20% of respondents reported having driven an EV, a significant increase from the 15% reported in the previous year. This statistic demonstrates that more South Africans are getting behind the wheel of electric vehicles, providing them firsthand experiences of this innovative technology.

However, regarding the desire to own an EV in the future, the numbers have remained relatively stable, with 58% expressing interest. This figure suggests a latent demand for electric vehicles, but barriers still hinder mass adoption.

Barriers to Entry: Perceptions vs. Reality

Understanding the barriers that deter potential EV buyers is essential for driving progress. The survey highlighted several areas where perceptions don’t necessarily align with reality.

First and foremost, South African consumers continue to prioritise reduced emissions as the primary reason for considering EV ownership. While this is undoubtedly an essential factor, it’s fascinating to note that cheaper running costs ranked third among the advantages of owning an EV. This finding suggests that consumers may underestimate the significant cost savings associated with electric vehicle ownership.

On the flip side, consumers also identified disadvantages related to EVs. Notably, the cost of EVs has surged to the forefront of their concerns. Over the past year, the perceived cost barrier has escalated, underscoring the importance of addressing pricing concerns in the EV market.

Charging infrastructure and charging times remain prevalent concerns among consumers. In particular, many South Africans expect fast public charging to take less than an hour. However, we need to deploy even faster chargers to meet these expectations rapidly. Educating consumers about charging times and strategies is crucial to managing these expectations effectively.

The Holy Trinity: Adoption Challenges and Solutions

Our survey categorises the main adoption challenges into the “Holy Trinity”: home and public charging, range anxiety, and price point. While we’ve made progress, there’s still work to be done in each of these areas.

For instance, regarding range, 42% of respondents believe that the average EV can travel 300 kilometres on a single charge, which aligns with reality. However, 56% expect more than 500 kilometres of range, indicating the need for more education. Consumers often make comparisons with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, which boast longer ranges.

Regarding purchase intent, our survey found that 58% of respondents are open to buying an EV in the future, with some still hesitant. Interestingly, hybrid vehicles serve as a transitional step before leaping over full-battery electric vehicles (BEVs). This insight offers a glimpse into the future, where new energy vehicles, including hybrids, hydrogen, and BEVs, are set to play significant roles.

Trust the Tech, Trust the Brand

Regarding trust, South African consumers place more faith in the technology than the brand. This perception could indicate consumers trust the electric vehicle technology more than the automaker’s brand. BMW remains the most trusted brand for EVs in South Africa, closely followed by Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

Looking Forward

In conclusion, our latest EV Buyer’s Survey paints a promising picture for the future of electric vehicles in South Africa. Increased awareness, growing acceptance, and consumer trust in the technology are encouraging signs. However, to overcome the existing barriers, such as pricing and range perception gaps, we must prioritise education and continue advocating for EV adoption.

The clock is ticking with the 2030-2035 deadlines set by many countries for phasing out internal combustion engines. Collaborative efforts between automakers, government bodies, and industry stakeholders are imperative to ensure a smooth transition to electric mobility.

As we progress, AutoTrader remains committed to providing valuable insights into the electric vehicle market. We encourage manufacturers to consider hybrid options as a stepping stone toward electrification. The automotive industry is critical, and embracing change is the only way forward.

With the right strategies and a united approach, we can accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in South Africa, bringing us one step closer to a sustainable future of mobility.