The Electric Vehicle Transition: Is South Africa ready?
As electric vehicles (EVs) grow in popularity globally, they made less than 1% of vehicles purchased in South Africa in 2022. If the country is looking to match its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, that percentage must rise - and quickly.
With the year-to-year growth of EV interest in South Africa, more fully equipped EVs are becoming available. The Mini Cooper SE is currently the most affordable at a little under R750 000. The Haval Ora will soon be enroute to South African shores to become the cheapest EV on the market, at R600 000.
It is certain that the influx of EVs into the country will only grow this year, as it has done exponentially in previous years. While a total of1400 electric vehicles were purchased in 2022, this was more than previous years combined. At this rate, South Africa’s automotive landscape will soon require more sustainable resources to continue EV growth, and equally as important, well-equipped and trained EV automobile engineers and technicians. This means we need an updated automotive training curricula led by knowledgeable and qualified lecturers and facilitators in tertiary education.
"I would say that on a scale of 1 to 10, I would say that we are at 2,” - Surveyed Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Lecturer
In new research executed under the direction of the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and funded by the British High Commission in South Africa, a lecturer opined that most automotive engineering lecturers in Post School and Education Training (PSET) were unaware of developments in EV technology, and that very few of them had basic knowledge of “what makes an electric vehicle”.
Another lecturer alluded to the fact that most lecturers in the automotive training sectors had studied 8 to 10 years ago, and that their knowledge had been limited to what they studied. This shouldn’t in anyway be viewed as tardiness from TVETs and tertiary institutions. The vocational training centres focus on providing students with viable skills that are required when they enter the automotive engineering industry.
In fact, many TVETs have been incredibly hands-on in expanding the field’s curricula through a long-running collaboration with IYF’s engineering offshoot, High Gear, which has introduced practical and up-to-date industry training for both lecturers and students - as well as digitising learning through the online platform, Yakh’iFuture. The collaboration has been a success, but High Gear soon realised that it wouldn’t be long before the curricula would require further drastic overhauls.
Vitally, the research found that TVET colleges lack “electric vehicle competency frameworks, which lecturers can use to teach the students”. In other words, the existing curricula is obsolete and requires a modern facelift.
This is why the research that IYF has commissioned is so incredibly valuable, as it has been curated around finding the knowledge gaps in the automobile training sector and the resource gaps in TVETs - gaps that need to be identified so that the sector and its collaborators can start implementing sustainable solutions.
The research is in its final stages of consolidation and is being prepared to be handed over to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) this May. The handover is a landmark in reshaping the DHET’s existing relationship with the IYF and High Gear- and a huge step forward for South Africa’s place in the global EV revolution.
So, is South Africa ready for the EV Transition? If anything, this research provides the foundations for a positive start by creating a roadmap for the IYF, TVETs and the DHET (as well as their partners, collaborators and stakeholders) to follow in what is sure to herald the beginnings of an exciting journey towards a more environmentally sustainable and efficiently resourced EV sector in South Africa.