After the excesses of the festive season, New Year’s resolutions typically centre around improving eating and exercise habits in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. Holistic wellness extends into caring better for the planet and choosing cleaner ways to travel, and this has recently become more feasible with the rise of electric vehicles (EVs), which produce no exhaust emissions.
Cynics rightly point to Eskom’s load-shedding woes as a barrier to going electric, not to mention that EVs are mostly powered by “dirty” electricity produced by coalburning power stations. But one has to start somewhere, and it is clear that EVs will play an important role in reducing the burden on the environment once cleaner power stations become part of a holistic carbon-reducing infrastructure. The future of the automotive industry is electric, and it seems there is no turning back. In the US, Europe, and China, adoption of battery-powered cars is booming in the auto industry’s biggest transformation in a generation.
For the first three quarters of 2022, global sales of battery-powered vehicles grew around 63% from the previous year, with the final figure expected to be around 10.6-million units. This is up from 6.6-million in 2021 and 3.1-million in 2020. South Africa has been slow to enter the EV revolution, but the sleeping giant is awakening. Mass-market EVs with budget-friendly prices still elude us, but premium buyers wishing to reduce their C02 footprints have a growing number of batterypowered vehicles to choose from. In the past few years, the local market has sprouted a number of executive EVs that deliver luxury and performance to match any premium petrol or diesel car, with better refinement.
On the sporting side, the new BMW i4 M50 was launched here last year as the electric version of the 4 Series Gran Coupé, the first EV from BMW’s M division. Priced at R1 637 900, it is available in a single high-performance model called the M50, which matches the petrol-powered BMW M4 in acceleration with its 3.9-second 0-100km/h sprint, though the electric car offers a lower 225km/h top speed. The i4 has a claimed range of up to 510km on a single charge.
For ultimate EV luxury look no further than the Mercedes-Benz EQS, launched here last year as the electric version of the sumptuous S-Class sedan. Your R2 620 500 buys premium comfort and the ability to silently blaze from 0-100km/h in just 6.2 seconds. Porsche’s electric Taycan offers spacious luxury in a sportier package, with the top-of-the-range Turbo S capable of 0-100km/h in a scintillating 2.8 seconds.
Similar silent but violent performance is offered by the Audi RS E-tron GT, the most potent electric Audi with its power output of 440kW, with its 3.3-second 0-100km/h time putting it right in the ballpark of supercars with growling V8 or V12 engines. In this electric Audi you can whisk along almost unheard, if you want — or press a button that simulates a sporty sound resembling a large petrol engine through internal and external speakers.
The RS E-tron GT is the flagship of the six-model E-tron range recently launched by Audi SA to kickstart the brand’s electric era. By 2026 every new Audi launched on the global market will be all-electric. The need for family practicality often trumps such indulgences, and alongside the aforementioned low-slung beasts is a lineup of zero-emission SUVs. The BMW iX SUV is the German brand’s flagship EV in terms of performance, prestige and range, available as the xDrive40 for R1 735 000 and the xDrive50 for R2 270 000. It’s a business-class lounge on wheels with the powerful xDrive50 blitzing the 0-100km/h sprint in a sportscar-like 4.6 seconds. With your inner boy racer on mute, this electric Beemer has a claimed driving range of up to 630km.
Also launched last year was the BMW iX3, the battery-powered equivalent of the X3 SUV. It boasts a range of 460km and a top speed electronically limited to 180km/h. At R1 306 400 it’s relatively affordable, priced almost the same as the diesel-powered X3 3.0d. Even more of an EV “bargain” is the R1 174 000 Mercedes-Benz EQA 250, the entry model of the German brand’s EQ range, which can travel about 400km before needing a charge. The next level up is the larger EQB 350 priced from R1 379 000 with a similar range and a respectable 6.2-second 0-100km/h time, while the EQC 400 brings an even sportier flavour and better interior space for R1 679 000.
Moving up in the electric SUV realms, the SA car-of-the-year-winning Jaguar I-Pace provides spacious luxury with off-road ability for R2 074 700.