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Jaguar Land Rover makes push for electric cars in SA

Aug 25 2017 13:09
Yolandi Groenewald

Johannesburg - An electric Land Rover will be available from 2020, as Jaguar Land Rover pushes its expansion into the electric vehicle market. South Africans will have access to the model and will also be able to buy an electric Jaguar next year, according to Jaguar Land Rover chief executive Ralf Speth.

Speaking during a visit to Johannesburg on Thursday, Speth said his company is at the forefront of electrification. “Using the freedom of tech, we can offer our customers a bespoke product in future.”

Speth said the South African market will increasingly benefit from new electric car technology which offers more kilometres on a single charge. However, infrastructure needs attention.

So far Tesla and Nissan have led the electric car charge, but Jaguar Land Rover is also firmly committed to electrification.

Electric vehicles will be a big focus area for especially Jaguar, which will be competing in the same premium market targeted by Tesla.

The group has launched its first electric model, the I-Pace, under its Jaguar brand. The I-Pace, an SUV based on the Jaguar F-Pace, will go on sale in 2018 and is expected to make its debut in South Africa towards the end of next year.

The Jaguar I-Pace

Speth said from 2020 all Jaguar Land Rover cars will have the option of electrification, either through a hybrid or full electrification, which means the company is not ready to abandon the combustion engine quite yet.

“We are giving the choice to our customers,” he said. “We will offer the technology - whether customers will take it up, we’ll still have to see.”

Electric vehicle infrastructure in South Africa

Richard Gouverneur, managing director for Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and sub-Sahara Africa, said dealers in South Africa are already preparing for the arrival of the I-Pace.

“We are busy developing the roll-out. With the arrival of the I-Pace we will be offering the best in the electric vehicle class,” he said. “But we want to give our customers peace of mind that they will be supported.”

He said Jaguar Land Rover in South Africa has to invest in equipment, but must also prepare to provide technical support for electric vehicle customers. At the same time the business is engaging government about outside infrastructure, and possibly setting up incentives for South Africans to opt for electric vehicles.

But if electric vehicles are to be an environmental success, a renewable power source would have to grow, Gouverneur said.

He said Jaguar Land Rover has invested R1.1bn into its retailer network, which includes infrastructure to support electric car owners in future. “The investment has been an aggressive strategy.”

Speth said countries are increasingly going the electric car route, and infrastructure is being updated.

“We know that Europe and the US have thrown their weight behind infrastructure, but it is in the developing countries where the most exciting inroads are being made,” Speth said.

He said China is at the forefront, and that India is also gaining ground quickly.

Renewable energy

But he said while electric cars could bring down emissions, it should also be questioned where the electricity is produced. If the electrical grid is coal-dominated, much of the environmental gains are erased.

“That is also why we are throwing our weight behind renewable,” he said, adding that you only have to look outside in South Africa to see the immense promise renewable energy holds for the country.

Jaguar Land Rover’s growth strategy takes cognisance of the global trend to cut emissions and limit pollution. The group had done its homework on electrification, Speth said. “If you take the current technology available, and if you do the calculations of what is needed to cut emissions, electrification is the only option currently.”

But going full electrical tomorrow is simply not possible. He said bridging technologies such hybrid cars, which combine combustion and electric engines, will pave the way. Diesel technology will continue to play a big role in the company's strategy.

Jaguar Land Rover is investing over-proportionately in research and development, Speth emphasised. “This kind of investment will increase our operational footprint.”

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