FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2017 file photo the car marques badge of Volkswagen, VW, is photographed on a car in Berlin, Germany. Despite only 66 electric vehicles sales in SA last year, VW is considering introducing electric vehicles into the Rwanda market. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file)
JOHANNESBURG - Despite only 66 electric vehicles sales in South Africa last year and virtually zero in the rest of Africa, Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) is considering introducing electric vehicles into the Rwanda market.

Thomas Schaefer, the chairperson and managing director of VWSA, confirmed this last week, adding that Rwanda had the right mindset as to why they would want to move to electric vehicles.

“We did a grid check in Rwanda together with GRZ (Technologies) and Siemens last year and they are ready. They already get their electricity from 70percent renewable energy and that will change to 100percent in the next 10 years.

“They are trucking their fuel from the Middle East to Dar es Salaam, then 3000km by road into Kigali. What for? They could immediately go electric.”

Schaefer said fuel was “super expensive” in Rwanda and it destroyed their foreign exchange reserves, because they had to import it and pay for it in dollars.

“Now they can create their own electricity and go a different route. We will see,” he said.

Schaefer did not believe Africa was likely to adopt new technologies at a slower rate than the developed world and, as had happened in the telecommunications industry with the growth of mobile phones, believed countries would leapfrog to new technologies.

“When we had discussions with Rwanda in the last year, they said their drive is on green and sustainability and environmental protection and to bring electric cars,” he said.

VWSA in June last year launched the first integrated mobility solution in Africa, and possibly the world, in Rwanda. This was part of a strategy to play a leading role in the emerging automotive industry in Africa and comprised semi-knocked down local assembly, a new vehicle business and innovative mobility services in Rwanda.

Andrew Kirby, the president and chief executive of Toyota South Africa Motors, said sales trends for hybrid and electric vehicles in South Africa were completely contrary to global trends. He said hybrid vehicle sales declined to 135 units last year from 646 in 2014, while only 66 electric vehicles were sold compared to the 2015 high of 117 sales.

He said sales of electric vehicles in Africa were “close to zero”.

Kirby believed there would be a much quicker and stronger move towards hybrid vehicles in South Africa over the next five years, with electric vehicles becoming mainstream later on. He attributed this to both these segments and the technology still being fairly expensive.

“With the pressure on affordability in South Africa and the fact we don't have any specific targeted government support in those two areas means we haven't seen South Africa starting to follow what is happening around the world,” he said.

Martyn Davies, the managing director for emerging markets and Africa at Deloitte, said 1.1 million electric vehicles were sold in China last year.

Kirby said if sales of electric and hybrid vehicles were stimulated in South Africa, it would be stimulating the sale of imports and expensive vehicles, which was not a solution for South Africa.

- BUSINESS REPORT