Johannesburg - The Department of Trade and Industry is pulling out all the stops to ensure South Africa gets its rightful share of the production of energy-efficient vehicles, particularly electric and hybrid cars.
Rob Davies, the Trade and Industry Minister, said it had identified the need some time ago to position the manufacturing industry for the production of energy-efficient vehicles.
His department had already announced that there would be an additional premium for the manufacture of electric vehicles in the country under the automotive incentive scheme in the Automotive Production and Development Programme.
Davies said this was part of a bigger roadmap for the local production of electric vehicles, which included writing standards for these vehicles; a research project at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, which had developed a framework document that included commitments by the government to buy a certain number of electric vehicles; and discussions about a number of other potential incentive proposals.
At the official opening of the Johannesburg International Motor Show last week, Davies said his department was targeting the tabling of a final proposal for cabinet approval by the middle of next year.
He did not believe production of electric vehicles would take place this year or next year in South Africa.
But Davies stressed that in the medium term South Africa had to position itself so it did not produce only conventional motor vehicles at a time when the world was moving very rapidly towards the production of energy efficient green vehicles.
“We think this is an important contribution to avoiding catastrophic climate change. Our approach to our commitments in this regard is always to identify the manufacturing opportunities that arise from moving to greener technologies and the consumption of greener products. This is something we will be reviewing in the future,” he said.
In February Nissan South Africa entered into a groundbreaking partnership with the Environmental Affairs Department involving a pilot project that is a forerunner to the launch into the local market of the Nissan Leaf, the first mass-produced electric vehicle. In terms of the partnership, four Nissan Leaf test cars were made available to the department for its use and testing in the initial phase of the project, which will be run over three years.
Mike Whitfield, the managing director of Nissan SA, said at the motor show last week that the Nissan Leaf would be on sale next month, starting initially in Gauteng at a cost of R446 000, with a home charger sold for an additional R30 000.
Charging facilities would initially be available at nine dealers between Johannesburg and Pretoria but expanded in the second phase to small malls, Gautrain stations and airports.
Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) announced at the show that it would be launching the e-Golf, its first fully electric vehicle, into the local market in the course of next year.
David Powels, VWSA’s managing director, said it did not yet have any e-Golf sales forecasts. This would depend on its price positioning, which would only be determined much closer to the launch of the vehicle, he said. The launch had to be seen as a pilot project to test demand. - Business Report