An Audi Aicon concept car is unveiled on the stand of Volkswagen during the first media day of the International Frankfurt Motor Show IAA in Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, which runs through Sept. 24, 2017. From frighteningly fast hypercars to new electric SUVs, the Frankfurt auto show is a major event for car lovers wanting to get a glimpse of the future. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
An Audi Aicon concept car is unveiled on the stand of Volkswagen during the first media day of the International Frankfurt Motor Show IAA in Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, which runs through Sept. 24, 2017. From frighteningly fast hypercars to new electric SUVs, the Frankfurt auto show is a major event for car lovers wanting to get a glimpse of the future. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

JOHANNESBURG - German premium vehicle brand Audi is to launch a full electric vehicle in South Africa in 2019 and it believes there will probably be about another 10 full electric vehicles available in the domestic market from other vehicle brands.

Trevor Hill, head of Audi South Africa, said yesterday that the Audi full electric vehicle would be a sport utility vehicle (SUV) with anticipated sales of between 80 and 100 units a year in the beginning.

Hill said Audi saw a strong development in electric vehicles in South Africa in the next five to 10 years, but stressed the market would not move to 80percent electric vehicles. “We will have combustion engine vehicles in South Africa for many years to come,” he said. Hill said Audi planned to expand its full electric range after launching its first full electric vehicle model and had already set up an electrification project for e-tron, the trade name for Audi’s electric vehicles.

He said the key issue was to get high power charging stations installed in Audi’s dealer network, create separate storage areas for batteries and a separate service bay. “There are physical things we need to do in the dealer network so as we build new dealers now we are already laying the high-power charging stations and building them into refurbishments.

“We are doing e-tron readiness for our company and our dealers,” he said. However, Hill said not every Audi dealer in South Africa would initially be selling e-tron vehicles.

Hill said Audi’s sales and marketing of electric vehicles would initially be focused on certain pockets of the country, such as Sandton and Bryanston in Johannesburg; Constantia, Claremont and Bishopscourt in Cape Town; and uMhlanga and Ballito in Durban, because those were confined areas and the people who lived there had the wealth and means to buy these vehicles.

Beginning

He said Audi South Africa had not defined these areas yet, but the focus would be on these kinds of areas in the beginning, because this would be where they believed they would have the best chance of success.

Hill said there were very few electric vehicles on South Africa’s roads at the moment and admitted that range was still an issue, because they could not, for instance, drive to Durban on a single charge. However, Hill said the full electric vehicle Audi would be launching into the South African market had a current range of about 500km and it could be about 800km by the time they launched the model, because battery development was progressing “in leaps and bounds”.

Hill stressed the importance of legislation and policies to cater for electric vehicles and autonomous driving to prevent the country lagging. He confirmed Audi was lobbying the government on these issues to ensure the South African market was prepared for what was coming in the future.

Hill said Norway’s vehicle market today was 80percent electric vehicles, but three years ago between 50percent and 60percent of sales were combustion engine models. “But the Norwegian government decided to change it quickly and they put incentives in place for electric cars, dropped the duties and gave electric cars preferential treatment to drive into cities.

“If you want to have electrification, that is good for the environment. But then there have to be benefits,” he said. Hill admitted the South African government's reliance on tax revenue from the fuel levy was a challenge.

- BUSINESS REPORT