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South Africa’s E-mobility Awaits Mining, Automotive Collaboration

by Oluwatosin Alabi

Johannesburg’s manganese mine may witness a surge in demand, potentially increasing ninefold by 2030. This is a direct result of the escalating production of electric vehicles.

South Africa’s mining and automotive sectors are urged to unite. By doing so, they can stimulate growth and innovation in the e-mobility arena.

This significant perspective arose during the Green Energy Africa Summit in Cape Town. The summit had a panel discussion dedicated to e-mobility, focusing on the future of batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, and e-fuels as energy propellants.

Greg Cress, who oversees Sustainable Energy & E-mobility at Accenture South Africa, emphasized South Africa’s rich mineral resources suitable for EV battery production. “Linking our mining and automotive sectors can elevate South Africa to a prominent global position in the e-mobility domain,” Cress stated.

Drawing a parallel, Cress compared the gradual adoption of EVs in South Africa to the initial hesitancy in embracing cellphones.

Cress further elaborated that the market’s vision should extend beyond private EVs to include trucks, light delivery vehicles, and buses. “In the coming half-decade, the automotive sector will undergo more transformation than it has in the past century,” he highlighted.

Nevertheless, there are hurdles to cross, including affordability, higher EV import duties compared to traditional vehicles, and widespread misconceptions about EVs. An informative campaign, Cress proposed, is vital to dispel these myths.

While panelists agreed on the tentative pace of EV adoption in Africa, mainly in sub-Saharan regions, they recognized its growth potential. Kenya showcases advancements in the public transport e-mobility segment. However, private EV ownership in Africa lags behind global trends.

Mike Peo of Nedbank CIB expressed concerns over the sluggishness in policy and regulatory reforms. This inertia, he believes, is hampering e-mobility’s growth potential. “South Africa is on the cusp of a more open energy market,” Peo remarked, emphasizing the need for governmental intervention to remove barriers and foster a conducive investment atmosphere.

Andries Malherbe, of the Zero Carbon Charge, remains optimistic about South Africa’s e-mobility future. He foresees a time, within the next few years, when EVs will dominate South African streets, aligning with global trends. On the topic of hydrogen fuel, Malherbe acknowledged its feasibility for trucking, albeit the current high costs.

Michiel Baerends, during his talk on e-mobility, highlighted the critical role of carbon capture technology in e-fuels production. Achieving a carbon-neutral stage, he pointed out, would necessitate significant investments.

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