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The race is on for sub-R500,000 electric cars in South Africa

Electric cars are still very expensive in South Africa, but the cost of entry has dropped by an enormous amount in a relatively short time.

At the start of 2022, there was only a single electric vehicle (EV) in the whole country that cost less than R1 million, namely the Mini Cooper SE with its price tag of R723,000.

Since then, the number of EVs available in South Africa has grown at an exponential rate; bringing with it new, more affordable models that continue to chip away at the number that determines who can and cannot afford a battery-powered car.

The next big milestone

Last year saw two models enter the local market that have made great strides towards the goal of affordable electric transport.

The first is the BYD Atto 3, which arrived in June 2023 with a starting price of R768,000R340,000 cheaper than the previous “entry-level” electric SUV, the Volvo XC40.

Since then, Volvo has answered the call with a new competitor, the EX30, which goes for a similar retail sticker of R775,900.

These two models currently represent the price floor for electric crossovers in South Africa, which is the most popular body type for the majority of consumers these days.

The challenge then, is for a carmaker to step up with an electric SUV that costs less than R600,000, putting it in the same league as midsize internal combustion engine (ICE) units like the Ford Territory, Hyundai Tucson, and Kia Sportage.

However, the Atto 3 and EX30 are not the cheapest EVs in the nation, as there are actually two other cars with an even more appealing sticker.

The first is the GWM Ora, which took the Mini Cooper SE’s crown in November 2023 as the most affordable EV with prices starting at R686,950.

This title was short lived, as the Ora has already been beaten by Chinese rival BYD, which followed up on the Atto 3 with its second vehicle in South Africa – the Dolphin.

BYD Dolphin

This hatchback starts at R539,900, undercutting the Ora’s price tag by a staggering R147,050.

The goal now is to have an EV that costs less than R500,000, and it seems like that may soon come true.

Enviro Automotive, an importer and distributor of several Chinese brands, has announced plans to introduce budget EVs in South Africa that will cost less than R400,000 in the last quarter of 2024, meaning the entry cost of the technology may come down by more than R300,000 in roughly two years.

Whether this target is realized will come down to import duties and cost margins, but it illustrates just how quickly electric cars are becoming an obtainable goal for local motorists.

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