Plugging in and powering up is the future of mobility – but what does it cost to switch to electric vehicles?
A recent study by IAA Mobility demonstrated that South Africa was the only African country to register new electric and hybrid vehicles in 2020 – but even with those additions, there are still only about 1,500 voltage-driven vehicles on our roads.
To clarify, Electric Vehicles (EVs) are powered solely by batteries and generally need to be recharged, as you would refuel a combustion-engined car. A hybrid relies on a combination of complementary battery and combustion power to get you around.
They seem like the future – and look like fun to drive – so how come there are so few of them on our roads?
While plenty of South African motorists would ideally like to consider greener alternatives to the traditional dinosaur-burning models on our roads, one of the major things holding us back is that no electric or hybrid vehicles are produced here. What's more, as the Green Buildings Council points out, electric cars attract a 25% import duty, as opposed to petrol and diesel imports' 18%.
'Without any incentive by government to adopt electric vehicles, why should South Africans opt for them?' asks Dr Martyn Davies, Managing Director of Emerging Markets & Africa at Deloitte. 'There's next to no charging infrastructure and range anxiety remains an issue, with South Africa being such a large country. Most EVs have a range of 200km to 400km, making it impossible to travel between our major cities.'
Despite all that, if you're willing to splash out on a vehicle that relies partially or totally on Eskom to get you to the shops and back, what are your options in South Africa? And what does it cost to insure them?
Probably the best-known (and most maligned) hybrid vehicle in the world, the Toyota Prius retails here from R518,000 – making it the most cost-effective of the non-petrol or diesel options. It's still expensive though, if you consider you could very nearly get two Corollas for the same price.
MINI's Cooper SE is the most affordable EV on the market at R658,000. While it'd be handy – and fun – to drive around town, its 217km range won't have you road-tripping in a hurry. It's also nearly R130,000 more expensive than the petrol-powered 3-door MINI Cooper S.
The next step up is BMW's i3, with four models ranging from R754,200 to R914,000. A 42,2 kWh lithium-ion battery provides up to 260km of range, and charging from 0% to 80% will take about three hours when using a BMW Wallbox. Alternatively, you could also pick up a range-topping 330d in M Sport spec for R4,000 more than the top-end (but tight) i3.
The confusingly named Lexus range offers a number of self-charging hybrids, from the ES250 EX sedan, priced from R689,800, to the UX 250h EX SUV, from R719,600.
If you're looking for something more refined, prepare to start seeing some big numbers. The Jaguar I-PACE range starts at R1,942,600. It'll give you a 0 to 100km/h sprint in 4.8 seconds, top speed of R200km/h and 470km of range.
The price of admission into Porsche's Taycan club is R2,277,000, topping out with the Turbo S at R4,077,000. That'll give you proper sports car performance, though, with 0 to 100km/h acceleration in 2.8 seconds and a sprint all the way to 260km/h.
BMW's i8 plug-in hybrid will set you back R2,286,800, and the Roadster R2 542 900. BMW has an array of new hybrid and EV models coming soon, with range claims in excess of 500km – but no local pricing yet.
So you'll be saving the planet, but spending more money on the vehicle itself. How does what you'll save on petrol stack up against what you'll spend elsewhere?
Because EVs and hybrids are still relatively new – and scarce – in SA, most insurers have little experience with them. Will their higher purchase price (relative to fuel-burning vehicles) mean they're going to be more expensive to insure? And who's to say that replacing a battery is going to be any cheaper than replacing a gearbox or rebuilding an engine?
While you may be valiantly out to save the whales by switching to a greener car, it could end up costing you more greenbacks over the course of its life. The best way to get comparative insurance quotes for your would-be EV or hypothetical hybrid is to consult Hippo.co.za's car insurance comparison tool to see how you can save both the planet and the endangered South African Randela at the same time.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.