With Europe, China and the US speeding ahead “on the Autobahn” of e-mobility with plans in place by many OEMs to manufacture only electric vehicles (EV) in the next 5 to 10 years, South Africa needs to gear up for the changes ahead.

Interest in EVs even amongst local customers are growing, according to South African EV retailers like Volvo, due to the technological advancements of a range of up to 700 – 800 km on the vehicles, as well as increased affordability.

At Exporters Eastern Cape’s recently hosted AGM (13 July), both guest speakers from the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers (NAACAM) and Volkswagen (VW) stressed the importance of policy development not just in South Africa, but on the entire continent of Africa when it comes to e-mobility and the readiness of both component manufacturers and OEMs for the changes to come.

Volkswagen Passenger Cars Brand CEO, Thomas Schäfer, said VW plans to exclusively manufacture only e-cars in Europe by 2033 and that it is the automaker’s mission to make e-mobility accessible to everyone.

While locally in Kariega, VWSA will most likely still be producing combustion engines along with the e-models in ten years’ time, according to VWSA’s current Managing Director Martina Biene, VW will continue to drive the e-campaign and advocate for policy development on the continent.

NAACAM Executive Director Renai Moothilal reiterated that the policy environment needed to be developed for e-mobility to take off in South Africa. He said it was important to “get into the space and get in quickly”, since South Africa – and the Eastern Cape – was ideally placed with its access to raw materials, existing manufacturing capabilities and ports.

As Exporters Eastern Cape, in the interest of representing our members in the region, we advocate with a sense of urgency for the South Africa government, in consultation with industry, to develop a sound policy framework on EV manufacturing, procurement, beneficiation, and exports.

While component manufacturers are highly reactive towards the decisions made by OEMs, it is expected that they will adapt their technology as and when needed. In turn, the major multinational OEMs based in South Africa are reliant on the direction taken by their global counterparts – and certainly in the case of VW the electric vehicle programme is a priority in Europe.

We have also seen trends in Africa amongst the emerging young middle class opting for greener transportation solutions. In countries like Rwanda, the government has put in place several strategies to serve as incentives for e-mobility in the country. These include the introduction of lower electricity tariffs for electric vehicle charging as well as the exemption of duties for electric vehicles and their accessories.

A conducive business environment would be key to any further investments by the Eastern Cape OEMs and component manufacturers – and policy certainly, would be a critical factor in this decision-making.

An early adapter and local Exporters Eastern Cape member, who is leading by example, is Toyota Material Handling, a business unit of CFAO Equipment SA. They have grown exponentially since 2020 and a big chunk of this growth can be attributed to the sales and services of their battery-operated forklifts and warehouse equipment.

Toyota Material Handling is on top of the latest global technological developments in the field, and retail and service the batteries and material handling vehicles, on their premises here in Nelson Mandela Bay – for the Southern and Eastern Cape regions at large.

We certainly have all the local expertise to make the e-revolution on our roads a reality, and with sound collaboration between the private and public sector the economic benefits for the Eastern Cape are immense.