SA’s Transition To Electric Vehicles Not Beneficial Without Access To Clean Power

There has been discussions about the move to electric vehicles in South Africa for many years with some vehicle brands launching a range of electric vehicles, and the pressure is on for SA to make the transition from internal combustion engines (ICE) to EV, with more than 100 countries and other entities at the COP26 Climate Summit committing to phasing it out by 2035. Currently, there are around 30 EV’s expected to be available in South Africa by 2023, but can SA handle it?

According to an article by Tech Financials, a 2020 survey by AutoTrader showed that 74.3% of respondents would consider buying an electric vehicle in the next five years or sooner. This means that the market is ripe and receptive as a wider range of models become available and prices reduce. The switch to EVs will help the reduction of carbon emissions in the country which is currently responsible for a quarter of emissions. Switching to EV’s however, will not be enough to make a significant impact on the industry’s wheel-to-wheel emissions; the measure of the total carbon and greenhouse gas emissions produced during the lifecycle of a vehicle, from sourcing and manufacturing to its energy use during its active years.

When it comes to EV’s, they have zero tailpipe emissions from driving, however, they will not have a massive advantage over ICE vehicles if they are powered by dirty power sources. Currently, according to a technical report by NREL (National Laboratory of the US Department of Energy) shows that an EV powered from a 93% coal-powered grid has roughly the same wheel-to-wheel emissions as an equivalent ICE vehicle. When an EV is powered by a 97% renewably powered grid it has around nine times less wheel-to-wheel emissions when compared to an equivalent ICE vehicle.

South Africa is currently sitting with a grid powered by 84% coal, which means that before SA can make EV’s mainstream, it would need to take care of the energy crisis and its current use of coals and other climate-affecting energy sources by means of introducing renewable energy sources. With the amount of sunshine that SA receives which is higher than its counterparts in both the US and Europe, solar PV is one of the best options – especially considering its affordability and ease of installation at any home or office, and start paying for itself almost instantly.

If you care for the environment, are considering an EV and don’t have solar, then getting solar installed in your home or business is a must. By installing solar on your property to charge your EV, you will dramatically increase the sustainable advantage that your EV has over conventional internal combustion vehicles. In addition, if you go solar now, you immediately benefit from being off the grid and being unaffected by the continuous loadshedding issues which plague our country and will continue to, according to Ramaphosa.