Jacqui Parkin

The future of your fleet: Changing legislation and what you should prepare for

The future of your fleet - Changing legislation_Featured blog image


Fleet legislation is constantly being reviewed and amended, especially with regard to emissions. Recent changes in European emissions legislation could have a direct impact on local fleet operations. 


In the early 1990’s the European Union (EU) signed a series of vehicle emissions standards that would gradually reduce the amount of pollutant emissions allowed to be released into the atmosphere per vehicle. 


According to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT):

On March 28, 2023, the European Union adopted a ground-breaking amendment to the EU light-duty vehicles (LDV) CO2 standards. With this amendment, the EU will be the first major region worldwide to introduce a 100% CO2 emission reduction target for all cars and vans newly registered from 2035 onwards. In addition, the current CO2 reduction target for 2030 was strengthened to -55% for cars and -50% for vans, compared to a 2021 baseline. 


Most vehicle manufacturers already have full electric or hybrid models in their line-up, but there is some concern that these deadlines will require unreasonable costs from manufacturers to re-tool all their plants within the specified time. 


According to CarMag:

Volkswagen is not the only carmaker to object to the new environmental restrictions. BMW and Renault have also voiced their concerns, however, Volkswagen’s brand boss, Thomas Schäfer, has acknowledged that the combustion engine’s days are numbered, and the company aims to have 80% of its annual sales be electric vehicles by 2030.”


South Africa, and many other countries, are not yet in a position to make such a commitment, but EU emissions standards affect our transport industry as most of our vehicles are imported from the EU. 


While some OEMs have voiced their concerns, the big picture remains clear: most vehicle manufacturers will stop producing combustion engines in the near future. Even if SA’s laws are not as strict, we will be forced to adapt as the availability of combustion vehicles will decline. 


What the OEMs say

To get a better idea of how vehicle manufacturers see this playing out, we spoke to some of the OEMs. It’s been ten years since BMW brought their first electric vehicle to SA and according to Phumeza Mxaku, Electromobility Manager at BMW SA, the company plans to offer an electric option in every small to medium passenger vehicle segment. 


In South Africa, however, BMW knows the transition to zero emissions will be slower and their strategy is to offer a combination of combustion, hybrid and battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles to bridge the gap. 


Phumeza further says that this approach will allow the local market time to adapt, but that there is no turning back. With EU regulations heading toward zero emissions, so will BMW, and markets such as SA need to plan accordingly. 


The concern many South Africans have is a shortage of electricity supply in South Africa and the electric vehicles will add further strain. Companies such as BMW, however, are working across various platforms to reduce their dependence on the local electric grid. Its local manufacturing plant in Rosslyn, for example, is moving off the grid and using alternative sources of energy - and BMW encourages consumers to look at similar approaches. 


Phumeza says BMW is actively working with industry partners to find public vehicle charging solutions that will allow electric vehicle owners to travel and recharge as needed around the country. While they are not able to outline initiatives that are still being finalised, it’s clear that many OEMs are working together to speed up the implementation of infrastructure needed to support electric and hybrid vehicles in South Africa.


And indeed, BMW is not the only manufacturer to take this approach. Megen Naidu, National Pre-owned Manager at Audi South Africa, and Bulelani Jayiya, who manages Corporate Sales for Audi SA, say Audi is actively working on expanding the local electric vehicle infrastructure along major routes across the country. 


In partnership with GridCars, Audi has already stationed more than 70 charging stations along key routes, including a 200kW DC charger in Gauteng at Mall of Africa. This year, the manufacturer will invest further in the charging network, bringing its total investment to more than R50 million. Audi has also incorporated several programmes such as guaranteed buy-backs of electric vehicles and various leasing options to help ease any concerns local buyers may have regarding electric vehicles.


Forward-thinking fleet owners should look at investing in vehicle charge points that run on renewable energy. This is a big investment now, but will see massive rewards down the line. 


A clash of two worlds 

The current electric/alternative fuel situation in SA is very much a clash of outdated local legislation and the inevitability of reduced combustion engine options. South Africa is a very small drop in the global automotive industry bucket and manufacturers must follow the needs of their biggest markets. It’s basic economics.


This means South African companies and individuals must educate themselves on alternative fuel /electric vehicle options, the existing and planned infrastructure, and the finance solutions around these products, because these will soon be the most cost-effective solutions for your business. 


What this means for fleet managers

The fleet industry is used to constantly adapting to new technology and changing customer needs, so in many ways, it is already prepared for the changes that will come as alternative fuel and EV options expand in our market. For example: 

  • Most fleet vehicles operate along planned routes or according to fixed distances. Many of these can easily be adapted to accommodate lower-emission vehicles.
  • Many offices, dealerships, shopping centres and fuelling stations are generating some kind of renewable energy and acquiring their own charging stations. This is a clear indication that SA is preparing for increased use of electric vehicles.
  • Finance deals on electric vehicles are becoming more enticing to fleet owners as a lot of the ownership risk is reduced. 


On the face of it, SA still seems very much in limbo between accepting an electric /alternative fuel future and sticking with combustion engines. The reality is that we’re fast approaching a point where we will have little choice. Many manufacturers will stop producing combustion engines within the next decade. 


Fleet managers need to start planning for this and gradually invest in diversifying their fleet where possible.


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