South African motorists — widely regarded as petrol heads, who place performance and value for money above everything else — have traditionally favoured the internal combustion engine. But now, thanks to the rising cost of fuel, motorists are singing to a different tune, and that tune is electric.
In fact, according to a current AutoTrader poll (conducted in September 2018), a surprising 55% of South African motorists would like to buy an electric car. According to George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO, this comes as a suprise. "South Africans have traditionally been wary of electric cars for a number of reasons: the relatively high purchase price and the limited range being topmost. Given these factors, the electric cars that are available in South Africa — the Nissan LEAF, BMW i3 and BMW i8 — have sold in extremely limited numbers. As such, we were quite surprised at the results of the poll," he comments.
Mienie believes that a number of factors have turned the buying aspirations of motorists on their head. "First and foremost —and by far the greatest factor — is the fuel price. Motorists are bleeding at the pumps. They are seeking financial relief, which could come in the form of an electric car," he contends.
Coupled with this, says Mienie, is the increasing realisation that electric cars are becoming more viable. "Motorists are become more educated — by the day! They now realise that it's far cheaper to maintain an electric vehicle, for instance.
"However, they are also seeing that it's becoming far easier to own and run an electric vehicle. I say this because of the expanding charging network at dealers, shopping centres and office blocks in South Africa. Nissan and BMW are working together in this regard. And I'm sure that other car companies — when they do bring electric vehicles to South Africa — will make every effort to making charging stations more widely available. This is key to the successful rollout of electric vehicles in South Africa, where we are spoilt for choice when it comes to traditional fuel stations," he says.
Based on the results of the AutoTrader poll, Mienie says that he expects electric vehicles to become commonplace on South African roads sooner than expected. "We believed that electric vehicles would be relatively common in South Africa in a decade. But this poll suggests that an electrifying future could be just around the corner!" he concludes.