Volkswagen’s rejection of electric cars in South Africa also hints at India


South Africa must wean itself off coal if locally produced electric vehicles – a key element of the government’s decarbonisation plan – are to be climate friendly, Volkswagen’s country head said on Wednesday.

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Updated on:
December 8, 2022 at 07:59 am

An employee performs a final quality check on a Volkswagen ID.4 SUV at its EV factory in Zwickau, Germany.  (Bloomberg)
An employee performs a final quality check on a Volkswagen ID.4 SUV at its EV factory in Zwickau, Germany. (Bloomberg)

Rich countries have pledged $8.5 billion to help Africa’s most industrialized country cut emissions. The South African government is seeking roughly 10 times that amount, including 128 billion rand ($7.5 billion) to finance the transition to electric vehicles.

Martina Biene, managing director of Volkswagen South Africa, told Reuters there was little point in bringing electric vehicles to the domestic market because South Africa still relies on fossil fuels for electricity generation.

“It is fundamental that in the long run the ultimate source of power cannot be coal so that we can make electric vehicles something that is not just an emission-free vehicle but helps save the climate,” she said.

South Africa gets nearly 90 percent of its energy supply from coal and has struggled to implement plans for new renewable energy capacity.

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Johannesburg, Biene said Volkswagen was counting on progress in decarbonizing the electricity sector to help it meet its own emissions reduction targets.

“We want to be carbon neutral as a manufacturer, as a global manufacturer, by 2050 is the ultimate goal . It only makes sense for renewable energy,” she said.

South Africa’s auto industry accounts for 5% of GDP, supports more than 100,000 jobs and exports three-quarters of its vehicles, mainly to European countries.

But with Britain planning to ban the sale of new internal combustion engine cars from 2030 and the European Union set to follow suit in 2035, South Africa’s government has warned the industry faces an existential threat.

Biene told Reuters last month that the German automaker’s South African plant likely would not produce electric vehicles until 2035, while developing new markets for its petrol and diesel vehicles in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

First published date: Dec 8, 2022 at 07:59 AM CST

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