Nissan and BMW to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure in South Africa.Photo :Supplied

Roy Cokayne

NISSAN and BMW have joined forces to build a national grid for electric and hybrid cars to expand sales of these vehicles in South Africa.

The South African units of both Nissan and BMW announced yesterday they had signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly plan and build a national grid of electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) vehicle-charging stations for use by both Nissan and BMW vehicles. The agreement between BMW and Nissan is effective immediately and will run until 2017.

Nissan introduced its all-electric LEAF in South Africa in 2013, while BMW launched its i3 and i8 models in March.

The Nissan has sold 174 000 units of the LEAF worldwide.

Nissan spokesperson Veralda Schmidt was unable to confirm how many charging stations would be rolled out and their location but confirmed discussions with various stakeholders and third-party suppliers were under way.

“Possible sites have been earmarked and as soon as it has been installed, information in this regard will be released,” she said.

Schmidt confirmed that Nissan and BMW would jointly pay for the cost of installing the charging infrastructure but declined to comment on the cost of the charging-station roll-out “at this point in time”.

She added that the government did not at this time have any incentives or allowances to assist them with the cost of installing the charging-station infrastructure.

However, Schmidt confirmed that representatives of the BMW/Nissan steering committee “are in discussion with various government departments to take the initiative forward”.

Mike Whitfield, the managing director of Nissan SA, said the introduction of the 100 percent electric Nissan LEAF in 2013 was part of Nissan’s global drive to advance sustainable mobility and grow the market for zero-emission vehicles.

“With this in mind, we believe our partnership with BMW SA is a sound investment to create a future-proof automobile industry,” he said.

Tim Abbott, the managing director of BMW SA, stressed that industrywide co-operation was the key to the future success of electric vehicles.

Abbott said that BMW had successfully launched the BMW i3 and i8 and a key imperative of their strategy was to ensure that the necessary infrastructure was rolled out to help increase consumer confidence in the viability of electric vehicles.

“We therefore believe that for the introduction and expansion of electric vehicles as well as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to be successful in this market, we need to work together. Our partnership with Nissan is the first step towards that,” he said.

Consumers would charge all-electric cars such as Nissan’s LEAF by plugging into an outlet, while hybrid versions such as BMW’s i8 also have a gasoline engine.

Mike Schüssler, the chief economist at economist.co.za, said by sharing expertise, ideas and challenges, BMW and Nissan would accelerate the growth and consumer acceptance of the EV and PHEV market to the benefit of the entire automotive industry. – With additional reporting by Reuters