Over the last 2 decades, there has been a massive increase in the number of people (and organisations) that have become environmentally aware. The effects of climate change have become increasingly prevalent in our daily lives and many individuals have become motivated to mitigate their impact in some way. Capitalising on this passion, many vehicle companies have developed electric options that do not require the use of harmful fossil fuels. Led by the game-changing Tesla brand, electric vehicles (or EVs) are becoming more and more common in 1st world countries like the USA. The question is, is it time for South Africa to fully embrace this likely future?

Plug Into Tomorrow

In a survey conducted in 2020, results found that 75% of respondents would purchase an EV within the next 5 years. The excitement is clearly present in many citizens but will this result in actual sales? Only time will tell but we can look at recent data to make an educated guess. In 2020, only 92 electric cars were sold in South Africa. In comparison, 231 000 were sold in the United States. This means that approximately 0.02% of vehicles sold in SA were electric while in the USA it was 2%. 

So why were there so few electric car sales in South Africa last year and can we expect the number to change any time soon? The answer is perhaps more simple than you might think. Electric vehicles are very expensive. Many individuals in the country can barely afford a petrol option and certainly won’t have the financial means to choose electric at this stage. With the pandemic showing no end in sight, the economy is in a dire state and everyone is choosing to cut their expenses. Even if EVs were more affordable, the issue of a reliable charging network is present. There are 80 charging stations in South Africa, with more on the way. At some point, the number of stations won’t be an issue but the lack of a reliable power grid will be. It is unlikely that Eskom will be able to handle the petrol-to-electric switch when we consider their recent problems with regard to SA’s energy needs. 

The facts are clear, South Africa isn’t quite ready for the electric revolution. However, there is hope that they will be sooner rather than later as the future of our environment depends on it. With zero tailpipe emissions, electric cars do far less damage to the world around us. On a large scale, this reduction in pollution will greatly benefit the air quality of towns and cities. One electric car on the road can save an average of 1.5 million grams of CO2. The electric future is a guarantee at this point, it just depends on how long it will take South Africa to get there.

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