Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel yesterday unveiled South Africa’s policy proposals to accelerate electric vehicle (EV) production. Picture Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.
Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel yesterday unveiled South Africa’s policy proposals to accelerate electric vehicle (EV) production. Picture Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.

Government switches on to faster production of electric vehicles

By Edward West Time of article published May 19, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - TRADE, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel yesterday unveiled South Africa’s policy proposals to accelerate electric vehicle (EV) production.

Patel said in his budget vote that the policy would create a strategy to put South Africa at the forefront of advanced vehicle and vehicle component manufacturing.

Dr Norman Lamprecht, the executive manager for trade, exports and research at Naamsa, the Automotive Business Council, said the Green Paper was necessary to speed up the creation of the “vast” ecosystem that went with EV production.

Lamprecht said this would include charging infrastructure, battery waste facilities, and incentives to stimulate demand for EVs in the local market before local production could ensue because locally-made EVs would have to be 60 percent local content to be able to be exported to European markets, also considering that more than 50 percent of the EV’s value was in its battery.

Patel said climate change represented “a very real and grave threat to our future economic prospects”, not least because global markets were changing fast.

“We must not get left behind, with stranded assets and a carbon-dependent economic model. We must step up efforts to build full EVs in SA, to maintain our capacity to export to key markets such as the EU and UK,” he said.

Patel said both countries, to which most of the country’s vehicle exports are destined, had set new deadlines to reduce the number of fossil fuel reliant vehicles on their roads.

“We need charging infrastructure – and must expand the existing 200 charging points for EVs in SA using the agreed SABS standard,” he said.

Only 96 EVs were sold in South Africa last year, said Lamprecht.

Patel said the big opportunity would be in the advancing technologies based on green hydrogen energy, which with time was projected to be the best solution to humanity’s energy needs.

“SA is well-positioned to become a key player, with our reserves of platinum group metals used as a catalyst in green hydrogen fuel-cells; as well as vanadium used in battery storage technologies,” he said.

On hybrid vehicles, Patel said Toyota South Africa planned its first production-run later this year.

He said he had mandated the IDC to be the industry commercialisation agency, and a panel led by Dr Johann van Zyl, an experienced global carmaker, would be appointed to finalise a report on practical actions to be taken on the green hydrogen economy.

On renewable energy, the IDC had been mandated to partner with viable solar, wind and other renewable energy projects with the private sector, said Patel.

The Green Paper made proposals to make South Africa a “highly competitive location, not only within the African continent but globally, for EV production.”

It also made proposals to support the expansion and development of new and existing manufacturing plants for the production of new EVs and components, and to grow the level of employment in the sector.

New EV component technology and expansion of the electric supply chain would also receive policy support, as would support towards reskilling and upskilling of the workforce.

The proposals also included policies to adopt new and sustainable manufacturing processes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to ensure research and development investment was targeted at activities likely to give South Africa a competitive advantage.

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