These were Mzansi's most popular electric cars in 2023 as sales spike

EV sales increased 85.4% last year off a low base as more models were launched at better prices

The upcoming Volvo EX30 is one of several EVs priced below R1m.
The upcoming Volvo EX30 is one of several EVs priced below R1m.

Sales of new-energy vehicles (NEVs) reached new highs in South Africa in 2023 as more models were launched and prices became more affordable.

Speaking at the company’s annual state of the motor industry event in Midrand on Thursday, Toyota SA Motors president and CEO Andrew Kirby said in line with global trends, South Africa experienced heightened demand for NEVs which include hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles (EVs). Sales of NEVs increased to 7,693 units in 2023, a 65% spike over the year before, while the number of models available grew from 40 to 66.

The sales improvements were off a small base — NEVs accounted for 1.45% of new cars sold in 2023 — and the biggest volume contributors came from hybrid variants (84%). EVs contributed 12% of NEV sales last year and plug-in hybrids 4%.

There were 6,495 hybrids sold in 2023, 60% more than the 4,050 units the year before. The Corolla Cross Hybrid is by far the most popular car in the segment while rivals include the Haval Jolion and H6 hybrids and Honda Fit hybrid.

Sales of pure electric vehicles increased 85.4% from 502 to 931 units year-on-year as more EV models were introduced and prices became more affordable.

The number of EVs offered for sale grew significantly from 17 variants in 2022 to 31 last year, with the introduction of cars such as the GWM Ora, BYD Atto 3, Volvo C40 and Mercedes-Benz EQS, among others.

Toyota SA Motors CEO Andrew Kirby provides figures on new-energy vehicle sales during his address on Thursday.
Toyota SA Motors CEO Andrew Kirby provides figures on new-energy vehicle sales during his address on Thursday.

When premium brands such as Jaguar, Audi and Porsche introduced EVs in South Africa a few years ago they were sold at seven-figure prices, some well over R4m, and were aimed at well-heeled early adopters of zero-emission cars. The high prices, coupled with long charging times and a limited charging network, kept sales at a trickle.

The past few years have seen the introduction of more affordable, sub-R1m battery-powered cars, such as the Mini Cooper SE, BYD Atto 3 and GWM Ora 03 — the latter being the country’s least expensive EV with a starting price of R686,950.

Sales are expected to be further stimulated by the launch of several new models this year, including the Volvo EX30 which arrives in the next few months and will be South Africa's most affordable electric SUV with a starting price of R775,900 for the entry-level version. BYD is expected to launch the Dolphin as a cheaper hatchback option alongside the R768,000 Atto 3 crossover it introduced last year.

In 2024 the EV ranks will be further bolstered by the Volvo EX90, latest generation Mini Cooper SE and Countryman SE, Fiat 500e, Lotus Eletre, JAC T9 double-cab and Maserati Grecale Folgore.

In early 2025, Toyota SA will launch the bZ4Xand Lexus RZ 450e as the first fully electric models from the two brands.

For the foreseeable future, local EV sales are expected to continue their high percentage annual growth without making a serious dent in the overall new vehicle market — the 931 EVs sold last year represented just 0.17% of the 532,098 sales.

While sub R700,000 prices are putting EVs into reach of more buyers, prices are still too high for mass-market adoption and this isn’t expected to change soon with the government not planning tax incentives to reduce the price gap between EV and internal combustion engine (ICE) cars as in other countries.

EVs attract an import duty of 25% compared with 18% for ICE cars, which contributes to battery-powered vehicles carrying significant price premiums, but trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel recently said EV duties would not be reduced in the short-term as load-shedding and the small public charging infrastructure made it impractical to promote the sale of more EVs in South Africa.

SA’s ten best selling EVs in 2023

  1. Volvo XC40 Recharge — 150
  2. BMW iX — 129
  3. BMW iX3 — 129
  4. Mini Cooper SE — 96
  5. BMW iX1 — 72
  6. BMW i4 — 54
  7. BMW i7 — 36
  8. Volvo C40 — 31
  9. Mercedes EQA — 28
  10. Audi e-tron — 27

* Source: Naamsa


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