I was fortunate enough to attend two trade shows in Germany recently, Automechanika in Frankfurt and the IAA in Hannover. It was the first time that both these shows were presented following the global COVID-19 pandemic. What was impressive to see was how quickly things have progressed in the last few years despite COVID-19, global supply chain shortages and hard lockdowns around the globe. A virtual world filled with zoom meetings seems to have been good for productivity, especially when it comes to the development of new technology.
While the products showcased at these international trade shows might not always be relevant to the South African automotive market, these events are always a good barometer of where the industry is headed.
The global automotive industry is well and truly ready for emissions free mobility, with all the major OEMs and aftermarket suppliers presenting solutions to make this possible. Companies like Bosch have developed the tools necessary to look after these vehicles and charging solutions were showcased in abundance. Big players like Continental and Schaeffler have seen this new era as an opportunity and presented a variety of innovative solutions aimed at working with OEMs or supporting consumers in the aftermarket.
Electric commercial vehicles not ready for South Africa, yet
Unfortunately the latest electric commercial vehicles still fall short in terms of the range and load carrying capabilities that South African users require, especially when it comes to long haul operations. However, things are progressing at such a rapid rate, with on going research into battery technology and fuel sources such as hydrogen, that I believe the range conundrum will be sorted sooner than later.
South Africa is getting left behind
Both these trade shows and the products exhibited placed a big emphasis on zero emissions vehicles and the eco systems surrounding them.
Unfortunately back home, the introduction of a 10ppm sulphur content cap and 1 percent benzene limit in petrol, which was planned for September 2023, has been delayed until July 2027, according to the Government Gazette. The knock on effects of this is that in future many manufacturers who are already producing vehicles according to Euro 6 standards might no longer be able to supply us with a full range of products that can work in our market, with our dirty fuel.
If government can’t even get this right, especially now that we are importing most of our fuel, how long will it take them to approve the legislation necessary to make alternatively powered vehicles with electric or hydrogen drivetrains feasible for local introduction. I fear that the industry could be severely constricted by copious amounts of red tape.
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