Road transport vehicles in South Africa towards 2050: Factors influencing technology choice and implications for fuel supply

Keywords: energy; electric vehicles; hydrogen; modelling; GHG emissions


The South African transport sector is estimated to emit 60 MtCO2eq and require 800 PJ of energy, similar in scale to industrial energy demand and emissions. The sector is forecast to potentially eclipse industry in this regard if conventional vehicle choices and travel modes persist. This paper explores scenarios of transport technology choices and demand in a future of uncertain fuel and technology costs, and the consequences for energy supply and greenhouse gas emissions. It explores the extent of electric vehicle (EV) adoption and the implication of fuel migration from petroleum products. The preference for alternative fuels such as hydrogen, liquid biofuels and natural gas is also investigated. The evolution of road transport in South Africa towards 2050 is investigated utilising the South African TIMES model, a full energy sector least-cost optimisation model that relies on a rich technological database of the entire energy supply and demand system. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are shown to be a viable option in freight and public transport, potentially meeting 70% of travel demand by 2045. The private passenger and light commercial sectors emerge as the main market for electric vehicles, potentially accounting for 80% of new vehicle sales by 2045. Electricity as a transport fuel could account for 30% of fuel supply and reduce transport emissions to half of present day estimates. However, the key uncertainty driving EV adoption is future vehicle costs and crude oil prices, which could dampen EV uptake. Another main finding is that petroleum-dependent vehicles remain an important vehicle class, and that re-investment in existing crude oil refineries to conform to Euro5 standards is a likely requirement. There seems to be little indication, however, that additional refining capacity would be economically viable within the planning horizon.


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