Cape Town - As many countries from across the globe struggle with the rising petrol prices and high cost of living, South Africa plans to roll out a fleet of electric minibus taxis by 2023.
South Africa’s minibus taxi industry is seen as the heartbeat of the economy, with the typical commuter said to be spending up to 40% of their income on transport.
Stellenbosch University researchers along with a team of companies are set to conduct a trial to investigate the feasibility of an electric minibus taxi by January 2023.
The project team consists of GoMetro, a global mobility management technology company, software company MiX Telematics, HSW construction services company, and ACDC Dynamics, which is a leading electronics manufacturer.
GoMetro has already identified a number of viable electric minibus taxi models which would be on South African shores by the end of the year.
In an interview with eNCA, Thinus Booysen from Stellenbosch University said that electric vehicles are coming and that there’s no way to avoid this. However, the minibus taxi has been left behind “despite the fact that they carry 70% of the sub-Saharan populous every day”.
“Some of the questions that we want to answer is, how efficient these things are because one of the big questions is, does it even make sense to convert to electric vehicles for minibus taxis in South Africa given that our electricity grid is mostly dependent on fossil fuels,” said Booysen.
“We’ve been working on this for a few years actually, but getting the vehicle here is what we’re busy with right now,” he said.
Booysen added that all the work the team has done up to now has been using simulation models and estimations.
Looking further abroad, country’s such as China and Hong Kong launched their electric taxi projects more than nine years ago, while Singapore took the plunge in 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the aim of operating the largest EV fleet in Singapore by the end of 2021, its public transport company SMRT launched the first 15 electric taxis which could travel 300km on a full charge. Under the SMRT Strides banner, there are now more than 1 700 taxis under its brand, which will also reduce the nation’s carbon footprint by about 20 000 tons.
According to Channel NewsAsia, it takes about 40 minutes to charge the taxi's battery to 80% capacity and drivers have access to about 140 fast chargers across the island.