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There has been no progress on introducing cleaner fuel to South Africa since government withdrew the regulations regarding the Clean Fuels Two (CF2) programme in 2017, says Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM).

CF2, first published by government in 2012, was originally scheduled to come into force in July, 2017.  No new deadline for the introduction of the programme has been announced by government.

CF2 aimed to significantly reduce the diesel and petrol sulphur content in fuel, aligning South Africa’s fuel standards more with international norms.  

CF2 would have allowed newer, more fuel-efficient vehicle engine technology to come to South Africa, which requires cleaner fuel than the current generally available standard.

The policy would also have meant that existing refineries would have had to upgrade their facilities to comply with the new regulations. However, a number of refinery owners indicated their inability to carry these costs, with the programme seemingly reaching a dead end owing to the lack of an agreed-upon cost-recovery mechanism between industry and government.

TSAM says the conversation around CF2 is being led by the Department Mineral Resources and Energy. “The programme remains on hold and the cleaner fuel programme was postponed to a date yet to be determined. Of course, there is hope that this will happen in the future. In one of the developments, oil refineries have begun a progressive improvement by de-sulphurising both diesel and petrol fuels.

“There is also a new refinery to be built in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal. It is expected that the investors, Saudi Arabia’s State-owned Saudi Aramco, will play a catalyst role in the introduction of cleaner fuels in the country.”

TSAM says the South African automotive industry has been advocating an improvement in fuel quality for decades. “The reason why this is important is because engine technology from [local vehicle manufacturers’] parent companies is at a higher level and, therefore, not compatible with the fuel offered in this market. Introducing cleaner fuels will have great benefits for the market, including reduced emissions and a greater environmental contribution.”

If obtaining clean fuel is such a problem in South Africa, why then not simply jump to fully electric vehicles?

TSAM says alternative powertrains are a “key component of its future strategy”, also in South Africa.

The local arm of the Japanese car and truck maker says this strategy aims to offer customers high-tech, engaging-to-drive vehicles, and is in line with Toyota’s global 2050 Zero Emissions Environmental Challenge – the organisation’s commitment to reduce the environmental burden attributed to vehicles to zero.

TSAM says it views hybrids as the ideal short- to medium-term solution to alternative powertrain adoption owing to wide product availability, lower costs than battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and the fact that there is no requirement for infrastructure support, such as charging stations. 

TSAM notes that EVs’ share of the global market was just 2.2% in 2018, with most forecasts not expecting it to be more than 20% by 2030. “Take-up in South Africa will likely be slower than the global market, so internal combustion engines and hybrid vehicles will still make up the majority of the market for the next 10 to 20 years in South Africa.”

Accordingly, Toyota will introduce a number of hybrid Toyota- and Lexus-branded vehicles in South Africa over the next few years to complement the existing range, with these hybrids to also form part of local-assembly production from 2021. 

TSAM currently produces several models at its Durban plant, including the Fortuner, Hilux and Hi-ace minibus taxi. “Government support and incentives will further assist with the adoption of hybrids and other electric vehicles,” believes the company.

“Hybrids play a key role in familiarising the South African market with environmentally friendlier powertrains in general and pave the way for more battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles to be introduced in the mid- to long-term.”

TSAM says it will introduce a BEV to South Africa before it brings in a hydrogen-powered vehicle. “This is because the infrastructure required to support the use of these vehicles is beginning to be rolled out – which is not the case for fuel-cell vehicles.”