A project to pilot and test the feasibility of electric vehicles and associated supporting infrastructure in South African conditions was launched by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa in Pretoria on Tuesday.
It is a multi-stakeholder partnership between primary partners Nissan South Africa and the Environmental Affairs Department, with support from the Departments of Trade and Industry, Transport, Energy, Science and Technology, Eskom and the South African Revenue Services, among others.
"The fundamental motivation for embarking on this project is the urgent need for South Africa to transition to a job creating, sustainable, low carbon and green economy as clearly outlined in the National Development Plan," Molewa said.
The automotive sector is one of the most carbon-intensive and currently accounts for approximately 20% of emissions; it is also the third largest contributor to air pollution.
South Africa is a major player in the industry and is the 18th largest manufacturer of vehicles in the world, representing 80% of Africa's vehicle output, according to Molewa.
The need to move towards a more energy efficient economy presents opportunities for the country, Molewa said.
'Becoming an engine of development'
"The transition to a low carbon and sustainable economy can create large numbers of green jobs across many sectors of the economy and indeed can become an engine of development," she said.
"To this end the government has already put in place policies to enable this transition that is pro-development, pro-poor and pro-job creation."
These policies include the national climate change response policy, the Public Enterprise Department's guidelines for state-owned enterprises and the electric vehicle industry strategy by the Department of Trade and Industry.
"This electric vehicle industry strategy prepares for the future transition into design and production of alternative propulsions systems in order to maintain or increase South Africa’s global market share in the automotive sector while still responding to its commitment to decrease its carbon footprint," she said.
The green car partnership will be informed by the strategy.
The initial phase of the project involves four Nissan Leaf test cars being dispatched to the Environmental Affairs Department for three years.
"The Leaf is the world's first mass-produced electric vehicle, which will be launched later this year in South Africa by Nissan as the first car manufacturer to introduce a 100% electric vehicle into the country," Molewa said.
The cars are charged at dual-grid connection charging stations. Looking at the viability of the charging stations and other necessary supporting infrastructure is part of the green car project.
Charging the cars is done with a solar tracking device, and the department has just completed the installation of a 15 kilowatt device at its green building in Pretoria.
"It is envisaged that in future these tracking devices will be installed on the major commuter routes for the direct charging of vehicles in real time," she said.
"An e-transport location analysis which will be conducted in partnership with other government agencies, to inform the roll-out of the solar e-cars installation package at key transportation and commuter hubs countrywide such as key government precincts, Gautrain stations, OR Tambo, key commercial centres and business districts."