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The cost of driving from Johannesburg to Durban – Electric vs Petrol showdown

If you are planning to drive from Johannesburg to Durban, then it is cheaper to travel in an electric car.

This is what TopAuto found when looking at the total cost of driving between the two cities.

The route and the tolls

For the calculation, we used the N3 road between Johannesburg and Durban – a 570km stretch of tar that includes five toll gates.

The Gauteng province, as part of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, will then see four additional e-tolls that need to be paid.

This amounts to a total of 10 toll gates and eight e-tolls that you will drive through on your way to Durban and back again to Johannesburg.

The cars

For our hypothetical trip, we selected the electric BMW i3 – as it is among the most affordable, has a long range, and is simply the electric vehicle I’ve seen the most on our roads.

It has a battery capacity of 42.24kWh and a range of 335 kilometres, leading to a “fuel economy” of 12.61kWh/100km.

This equates to a usage of 71.87kWh one way, and an approximate total usage of 144kWh for both directions.

On the side of the petrol cars, we have the best-selling passenger car in South Africa – the VW Polo Vivo 1.4 Trendline.

It has a 1.4-litre petrol engine that produces 55kW, and has a claimed combined fuel consumption of 5.7l/100km.

According to this consumption figure, we will use 32.49 litres of petrol on our way to Durban – and roughly 65 litres for the whole trip.

The prices

Inland petrol prices as stated on the Automobile Association website on 3 March 2021 were:

  • Petrol Unleaded 93 – R16.15 per litre
  • Petrol Unleaded 95 – R16.32 per litre
  • Petrol LRP – R16.15 per litre

The average cost of charging your electric vehicle at a GridCars charging station is then:

  • GridCars charging station – R5.88/kWh

The 2021 updated toll gate fees for the Johannesburg-Durban route are as follows:

  • De Hoek – R53.00
  • Wilge – R73.00
  • Tugela – R78.00
  • Mooi – R55.00
  • Marianhill – R13.00

The e-toll fees for an unregistered user between Buccleuch interchange and the N3 Gauteng border are as follows:

  • One-way – R23.76
  • Return trip – R47.52

Based on the toll rates, the price of 95 petrol, and a charging rate of R5.88/kWh, you will pay the following to drive from Johannesburg to Durban in a BMW i3 and VW Polo Vivo.

Car Tolls E-tolls Fuel Total
BMW i3 R544 R47.52 R847 R1,439
VW Polo Vivo R544 R47.52 R1,061 R1,653

It must be noted, however, that while an electric car is marginally cheaper to drive than a petrol car, your journey could take longer in the BMW i3.

This is because on the Johannesburg to Durban route, you will have to stop to charge your car.

The VW Polo Vivo can make the trip on a single tank of petrol if needed – although it is advisable for drivers to take short breaks at regular intervals when travelling on a long journey.

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