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Electric cars got a lot cheaper in South Africa in 2023

Electric vehicles (EVs) are still a long way from ever becoming the norm in South Africa, but they have gotten significantly cheaper in recent years, with 2023 being a particularly good time for those looking forward to the electric revolution.

It’s no secret that EVs are very expensive, not just in South Africa but around the world, but the margin between EVs and internal combustion engine (ICE) cars has begun to shift as carmakers continue to prioritize the technology, and economies of scale mean that the relative cost of producing battery-electric models has dropped as more and more people start to purchase them.

Making progress

Unfortunately, EVs in South Africa are still much more expensive than they are in other countries for two main reasons; the first being that the government does not provide any tax incentives for EVs and in fact taxes them higher than normal cars if they are imported from Europe.

The second is that many carmakers have elected not to introduce their more affordable battery-powered models here, likely as a result of the incentive issue, and so most of the EVs currently sold on the tip of Africa come from luxury brands like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and Porsche.

Recently, though, this has changed, with the launch of several new models and even a new brand in 2023 collectively lowering the barrier to entry for electric transport by hundreds of thousands of rands.

At the start of 2023, there was only a single EV in South Africa that could be bought for less than R1 million – namely the Mini Cooper SE, which retailed from R723,000 in the first months of the year.

Since then, three new sub-R1 million models have entered the scene in the form of the GWM Ora, the BYD Atto 3, and the Volvo EX30.

The GWM Ora in particular now holds the title of the country’s cheapest EV at a starting price of R686,950.

This is still far from what you could reasonably describe as affordable in a South African context, but it is nearly R100,000 cheaper than the Mini, which has since had its price adjusted to R783,500.

Even more substantial is the introduction of the Atto 3 and EX30, which start at R768,000 and R775,900, respectively, making them way more affordable than the previous entry-level electric crossover – the Volvo XC40 Recharge – which now goes for R1,108,000.

This means that, within the space of a single year, the cost of entry to electric SUVs has gone down by a staggering R340,000.

Looking at the bigger picture, Europe is set to go all-electric by 2035, which has already presented the issue that South African-made ICE cars like the VW Polo may be scrapped in favour of the brand’s electric ID. units.

In light of this, it’s not hard to imagine that within the next decade automakers will start to introduce even more wallet-friendly EV options here in our small market, either by choice or out of necessity when these cars become the bulk of what they produce, bringing down the cost of entry to EVs even further.

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