I’m heartsore. I’m really into green stuff … but this is clearly not a trait shared by many South Africans – especially when it comes to cars.
I say this because we’re just not into buying green cars! And they make more sense than you would think …
Take the Nissan LEAF, for instance, which was recently named “2018 World Green Car” by the World Car Awards. It is the world’s best-selling electric vehicle. Since it launched in 2010, Nissan has put more than 300 000 zero-emission electric vehicles on the road worldwide, helping to reduce carbon footprints around the globe. But here in South Africa? I have only one thing to say: EISH. Because it just doesn’t sell.
According to Nissan LEAF product manager, Janus Janse van Rensburg, the market for EVs in this country is tiny. “We sold 34 cars in 2013, 14 cars in 2014, 35 cars in 2015, seven cars in 2016 and two cars last year, because the model is being run out,” he reveals. Thus, a total of 92 cars to date. BMW has done a bit better, selling 131 of its i3s (excluding those with a range extender) to date.
Janse van Rensburg says the market for electric cars in South Africa is extremely tough thanks to a lack of two things: infrastructure and education. “Globally, Nissan was first with an electric car. We were also first in South Africa. We’re expecting new entrants next year. We’ve paved the road for what’s coming – we’ve been working on the infrastructure and so the other companies will piggyback on this. However more infrastructure is still needed. Education is the second major factor. We are preaching to the converted at sustainability events; they understand the benefits of going electric. We now need to convey this message to the greater public,” he tells CYBERSTOEP.
But what is “this message”? It’s the message that, when it comes to the total cost of ownership, EVs aren’t necessarily out of the ballpark – because maintenance costs are surprisingly low. In fact, worldwide studies have revealed that EVs are 35% cheaper to maintain than their internal combustion-engined counterparts!
This is because an EV has an extremely simple motor, while internal combustion engines are made up of hundreds if not thousands of parts. “With an EV, the only maintenance required is brakes, tyres, fluids and a battery health check,” explains Janse van Rensburg. Naturally, running costs are low too; the LEAF, for instance, requires a mere R19 of electricity to do a distance of 130 km.
Some will say that the problem child is the price of the battery, which makes the purchase price of an EV high. But the price of batteries is dropping! Tesla’s battery price hovered around $400/kWh a few years ago, got down below $190/kWh in early 2016 if not earlier, and may be around $150/kWh today. Pack prices are expected to drop below $100/kWh by 2030.
Let’s hope that this translates into lower retail prices for EVs. Because, at current prices, South Africans ain’t biting. Guess how many LEAFs Nissan will sell in South Africa this year? Not one. And that, for me, is truly sad.