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UK Academy backs electric drivetrain engineering curriculum as NEVs breach 1% share in SA

Home Manufacturing & Processing Automotive UK Academy backs electric drivetrain engineering curriculum as NEVs breach 1% share...

IN a significant leap towards advancing electric vehicle (EV) technology and engineering education in South Africa, naamsa working in collaboration with three prominent academic institutions – Durban University of Technology, Tshwane University of Technology and Cape Peninsula University of Technology – have secured funding from the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering for the 2024 academic year.

CEO of The Automotive Business Council (naamsa) Mikel Mabasa included this announcement in the council’s review of the country’s motor vehicle manufacturing industry presented on February 20.

He said that the collaboration aims to develop a cutting-edge battery electric drivetrain engineering curriculum, fostering innovation and expertise in electric vehicle technologies.

The Royal Academy of Engineering, renowned for its commitment to promoting excellence in engineering, has allocated funding to support this ground-breaking initiative. The partnership between industry leaders and academic institutions underscores the importance of preparing the workforce for the evolving landscape of electric mobility.


The primary goal of this initiative is to design and implement a curriculum that equips engineering students with the skills and knowledge required to excel in the field of electric drivetrain technology. With the burgeoning interest and demand for electric vehicles globally, South Africa aims to position itself as a leader in sustainable transportation and innovation, especially given the production capacity within the country to manufacture BEV units.

Significance of the curriculum

The curriculum will cover a range of topics, including battery technology, electric motor systems, power electronics, and vehicle control systems. This comprehensive approach ensures that graduates possess the expertise needed to contribute to the development, maintenance, and advancement of electric vehicles.

Collaborative effort

Mabasa said the collaboration between The Automotive Business Council (naamsa) and the academic institutions demonstrates a commitment to bridging the gap between industry needs and academic offerings. By aligning educational programmes with the evolving requirements of the automotive sector, the initiative aims to produce a skilled workforce ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities presented by the electric vehicle revolution.

Strategic timing

The announcement strategically coincides with the publication of the Policy White Paper for Electric Vehicles by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC). This synchronicity is reflective of an alignment from lagging processes that have left South Africa behind in the evolution to NEVs. Thus as industry gears itself toward NEV production, national systems are being mobilised in preparing its workforce and infrastructure for the inevitable shift towards electric mobility.

Future prospects

As electric vehicles become increasingly prevalent globally, South Africa’s investment in specialised education aligns with the country’s ambitions to be at the forefront of sustainable technology. The curriculum development initiative is expected to have a lasting impact, contributing to the growth of the electric vehicle industry and positioning South Africa as a hub for electric drivetrain engineering expertise.

The funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering marks a pivotal moment for South Africa’s automotive and academic sectors. The collaborative effort to develop a battery electric drivetrain engineering curriculum reflects a forward-thinking approach to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the electric vehicle era.

New Energy Vehicle Sales in SA in 2023

The industry update also included sales trends for New energy vehicles ([NEV) by 19 industry brands which increased by 59,9% from 1,582 units in the fourth quarter 2022 to 2,529 units in the fourth quarter 2023.

Following a significant year-on-year increase of 421,7% from 896 units in 2021 to 4,674 units in 2022, NEV sales registered a further year-on-year increase of 64,6% to 7,693 units in 2023.

NEV sales breached the 1% share of the new vehicle market for the first time in 2023 comprising 1,45% of total new vehicle sales, compared to 0,88% in 2022.

The following table reveals the diversity of drivetrain sales in the South African NEV landscape from 2019 through to 2023 Q4.

  Year 2019 Year 2020 Year 2021 Year 2022 Year 2023 4th

Quarter 2022

4th Quarter 2023
Plug-in hybrid 72 77 51 122 267 18 95
Traditional hybrid 181 155 627 4,050 6,495 1,412 2,223
Electric 154 92 218 502 931 152 211
Total NEVs 407 324 896 4,674 7,693 1,582 2,529


The long-awaited EV White Paper was unveiled by the DTIC in December 2023 and signals the government’s commitment to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles and other eco-friendly modes of transport.

The policy supports investments in the development and expansion of new and existing manufacturing plants to support the production of electric vehicles in the country. The details for this policy would only be announced in the 2024 Budget Speech with considerations to domestic market demand stimulus measures, establishment of renewable energy-based charging infrastructure, and production support.

Part of the broader strategy includes collaborating with other African countries to develop battery production capacity on the continent, by pooling the critical-mineral resource base that Africa was endowed with.

Naamsa maintains that driving a meaningful NEV transition in South Africa will require a careful balance between incentivising a sustained shift in domestic market demand to NEVs; establishing an appropriately aligned, renewable energy-based charging infrastructure; and supporting a shift in South African vehicle production, away from internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles to a mix of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

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