With fuel prices at an all-time high, we’re all looking at ways to reduce our fuel consumption and spend less on this expensive and unsustainable energy source. There’s no guarantee that we’ll see a significant reduction in the price of fuel anytime soon, and the one way out of this conundrum is electric cars.

Electric vehicles have been around for some time now, and the concept of a car running solely on electric energy is no longer as uncommon as it used to be. In South Africa, we may not have a wide range of EV’s to choose from but there are certain models available to us. Nissan’s Leaf was one of the first production electric vehicles to enter Mzansi, subsequently, we’ve had the BMW i3, Jaguar I-Pace, Porsche Tycan and the recent Mini Cooper SE, all joining the slow but imminent EV revolution. In a country with little to no exposure to EV’s, many are averse to this way of commuting, for reasons ranging from range anxiety to an unreliable electricity supply from the beloved Eskom.

Hurdles to an electrifying future

For starters, electric-powered vehicles don’t come cheap. Since it’s still a relatively new technology that’s not as widespread as the internal combustion engine (ICE), electric cars still cost a premium to purchase. A Jaguar I-Pace will set you back in the region of R2 million, while the BMW i3 has a starting price of R754 200. Unlike European countries, our government has little interest in subsidizing the cost of these vehicles, making them inaccessible to most South Africans. 

To have major cities abuzz with eco-friendly electric cars, we need to have the correct infrastructure in place. Aside from affordability, South Africa, although we’re making progress, still doesn’t have enough EV charging stations to flood the market with electric cars. As things stand, manufacturers are constantly improving the electric range of their vehicles, but this needs to be in conjunction with more charging infrastructure.

One of the biggest hurdles to an imminent future in electrification is the mindset. With very little education on how electric vehicles work and the benefits attached to them, people may still opt for the tried and tested ICE. It will take some time before South Africans are ready to embrace an electric future with open arms. In the meantime, there is a solution.

Hybrid cars

Hybrid vehicles are less understood than their fully electric counterparts, but they may be the crucial bridge between ICE vehicles and eco-friendly EV’s. Hybrids use a combination of combustion and electric energy, meaning they have both an engine and an electric motor running the vehicle. The two alternate as you drive. With two types of hybrids available, a standard hybrid and plugin hybrid (PHEV), the latter can charge its battery cell through a charging socket, while the former only generates electric energy as you drive. With a combustion/electric duality, hybrid cars will give consumers the comfort of having the proven internal combustion engine on board, while exploring the nature and benefits of electric energy.

Gugu Masuku