South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Print version ISSN 0038-2353
Electric vehicles have been seen by some policymakers as a tool to target reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.1,2 Some researchers have shown that the full environmental impact of electric vehicles depends very much on the cleanliness of the electricity grid.3 In countries such as the USA and China, where coal-fired power plants still play a very important role in electricity generation, the environmental impact of electric vehicles is equivalent to, or even higher than that of cars running on internal combustion engines.4,5 In this study, the environmental impacts of electric vehicles in South Africa were investigated. We found that, as the bulk of South Africa's electricity is generated from relatively low-quality coal and the advanced exhaust clean up technologies are not implemented in the current coal-fired power plants, the use of electric vehicles in South Africa would not help to cut greenhouse gas emissions now (2010) or in the future (in 2030 using the IRP 2010 Revision 2, policy-adjusted IRP scenario), and actually would lead to higher SOx and NOx emissions.