Electric cars on SA roads soon

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pretoria - As the world battles to find ways to avoid the threat of climate change, South Africa says it will also show how vehicles powered by renewable energy could contribute to cutting carbon emissions.

In what officials have described as a ground breaking pioneering initiative for the South African automobile market, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa on Tuesday introduced the department’s zero emission electric vehicles, also referred to as the green cars.

The move is part of government’s efforts to ensure that South Africa practically contributes to the reduction of environmentally harmful gases, by promoting the use of cleaner sources of fuel by the automotive industry.

“We are here to celebrate a programme that will help us attain that carbon emission reduction we committed to in Copenhagen…at COP 17. We adopted a policy and now we are partly implementing that policy,” Molewa said.

She said the fleet of cars will be stationed at the department’s ‘green’ building in Pretoria for the initial testing period. She said the South African government was proud to join other countries in the world who had tried the innovation.

“The green transition in the automotive sector represents an enormous opportunity. We cannot miss that," Molewa said, noting that South Africa was the 18th largest manufacture of vehicles in the world and represented 80% of the continent’s vehicle output.

The technology has been tested in several countries and experts have said even in the cloudy country like the United Kingdom, a solar panel can provide enough power to drive an efficient electric vehicle for 5 000 miles each year for up to 30 years. Politicians at climate summits have pledged to ensure that more than 20 million electric vehicles were on the road by 2020.

A senior official in the Department of Environmental Affairs said the initiative to introduce electric cars in South Africa started shortly after the COP17 climate summit held in Durban in 2011.

“We had to walk the talk by greening all our projects…this department has to be the conscience of the nation through the greening all the government infrastructure and we are doing exactly that,” said Edwin Maseda, Chief Director for facilities management.

He said through this pilot programme the department was “setting an example” for other organisations to follow suit. “This is an exciting development for the environment and as we seek to transform the automobile industry to be climate friendly, we are aware of the challenges that lie ahead but we are ready for those challenges”.

Also speaking at the event, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said for government to achieve the greenhouse gas mitigation target of 42% by 2025, practical solutions needed to start now.

“We are no longer talking reduction but cutting emissions, it is important that we target zero emissions,” she said.

Peters said South Africa had “lost an opportunity” to ensure that the technology was used when government introduced the first consignment of BRT bussed in Gauteng.

She pointed out that the automobile sector was accountable for about 60% of oil consumption and 30% of carbon emissions in the country, making it “impossible” to reduce CO2 emission by this sector in a short term.

Nissan SA Managing Director Mike Whitfield said the company was unwavering in investing in these vehicles with global growth already surpassing expectation.

“What we see here today is only the beginning. We are thrilled to enter into this partnership with the South African government. The 100% electric vehicle has been successfully introduced to many countries around the world,” Whitfield said.

Electric vehicles are powered by electricity generated from solar panels so their drivers do not have to worry about going to a filling station.

To charge the vehicle at home can take about seven hours using the normal home charger while quick charging at a public station can take about 30 minutes. The challenge about these cars is that they do not produce any sound and in the UK this was raised as a safety concern. – SAnews.gov.za