SA Taxi To Trial Electric Minibus Taxis

"We will be importing some electric taxis to assess their viability as the first step in what will likely be a medium- to long-term project."

Minibus taxi
Minibus taxi. Image source: Oda

Transaction Capital, the owner of SA Taxi, on Tuesday, revealed plans to import some electric taxis to assess their viability as the first step in what will likely be a medium- to long-term project.

SA Taxi is vertically integrated minibus taxi platform using specialist capabilities, enriched proprietary data and technology to provide developmental finance, insurance and other services to empower small- and medium-sized minibus taxi operators

The JSE-listed group said while its direct impact on the natural environment is low, its indirect impacts in SA Taxi are significant in the sale and refurbishment of minibus taxis to service the minibus taxi industry.

“Our efforts are focused on modernising the minibus taxi fleet and exploring alternative vehicle variants, including electric vehicles (EVs),” SA Taxi CEO Terry Kier, said in a Q&A published as part of Transaction Capital’s annual report on Tuesday.

“However, limited infrastructure for alternative vehicle variants exists in South Africa, which will make progress on this initiative contingent on developments across the mobility and energy sectors.”

Speaking of the betterment of the industry, have there been any developments in bringing electric vehicles to South Africa to replace petrol- and diesel-powered minibus taxis?

Kier said there is a great deal of interest in electric vehicles, particularly their ability to transform public transport.

“However, we need to balance this excitement against the complexities our unique South African context presents to the viability of this mode of transport. Firstly, the tax regime and incentives for electric vehicles are not yet conducive for import; an electric taxi will cost around double that of a locally manufactured diesel minibus taxi as things stand,” he explained.

“However, government is currently reviewing excise duties on these vehicles, which should reduce import costs in time.

“As heavier vehicles (due to the weight of batteries), electric taxis also require different towing infrastructure. There is an additional weight consideration for road infrastructure itself, considering the wide reach of the minibus taxi industry. Batteries also reduce the number of passengers compared to traditional minibus taxis.”

Beyond logistical considerations for the vehicles themselves, there are questions about the impact to the fiscus, added Kier.

“The minibus taxi industry is a large fuel user and pays tax on every litre bought, which means a large loss of revenue. Also, as we know, electricity costs and supply are major issues in South Africa, so electrifying a fleet of minibus taxis will need to be considered in light of this constraint,” he said.

“I am not suggesting that electric taxis do not have a place in our longer-term strategy, but there are many stakeholders that must be included, and constraints considered and planned for, to successfully replace the fleet.”

Kier added that this requires more than an investigative journey – it needs a practical solutions-based approach to find a way through the complexities.

“Given our role in the industry, we are at the forefront of many of these discussions and are investigating key issues with our stakeholders. As always, our approach is grounded in the practical consideration of the real benefit to commuters and operators, especially as operators’ livelihoods depend on the success of their small businesses,” he noted.

“We will be importing some electric taxis to assess their viability as the first step in what will likely be a medium- to long-term project. And we will remain an active partner in facilitating the shift to EVs in the minibus taxi industry, doing our part to resolve the complexities to the extent we can, given our sphere of influence.”

Also read: SA Taxi Teases the Idea of Creating a Minibus Taxi Bank

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