More South Africans than before are ready to drive EVs if the price is right. Picture: REUTERS
More South Africans than before are ready to drive EVs if the price is right. Picture: REUTERS

South Africans shopping for cars are beginning to show a stronger interest in electric vehicles (EVs). AutoTrader’s midyear industry report shows a 211% increase in searches for battery-powered cars on its website during the first six months of 2021.

Though it was off a low base, with 285,384 searches for EVs out of a total 319-million car searches, it shows that local interest has significantly increased into what is the future of cars, says AutoTrader CEO George Mienie. Searches for EVs on the platform were dominated by the BMW i3, Porsche Taycan and Jaguar I-Pace.

SA is only in the starting blocks regarding EV adoption and just 92 battery-powered vehicles were sold here last year, says Mienie. Only about 1,000 of the 12.7-million cars on SA’s roads are electrically powered.

Overseas sales of EVs have boomed in recent years and new-energy vehicle sales (including EVs and plug-in hybrids) are expected to overtake those of internal-combustion cars by 2038 globally.

EVs are still too expensive for most South Africans and 79% of respondents polled in AutoTrader’s most recent survey (up from 66% a year before) were willing to pay up to R500,000 for an EV — well under the price of the cheapest new EV in SA.

The long charging times and short ranges of EVs are also keeping buyers away, though the latter is becoming less of a factor. In AutoTrader’s latest poll, 28% of respondents would consider buying an EV if it had a range of up to 300km, an increase from the 18% in the previous report.

More consumers said they would require faster charging times to consider buying an EV. About 80% of respondents stated they would consider an EV if it had public fast-charging of less than an hour.

The government has committed to the advancement of EVs and aims to incentivise their local production, and possibly reduce import duties, to improve their affordability.

AutoTrader’s 56-page report gives insights into car shopping behavioural patterns, including which brands and model derivatives are popular with prospective buyers searching for used cars online.

It reveals that BMW is the most searched-for car brand, the most searched-for model is the Toyota Hilux, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is the most searched-for individual variant, and SUVs have the highest number of body type searches.

It notes that the average price of a used vehicle in the first half of 2021 was R389,145 with an average mileage of 77,830km.

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