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Cut Coal for EVs, South Africa!

FILE: A truck loaded with coal drives off at Canyon Coal's Khanye colliery near Bronkhorstspruit, around 90 kilometers north-east of Johannesburg, South Africa. Taken April 26, 2022s

South Africa must wean itself off coal if locally produced electric vehicles - a key element of the government's decarbonization plan - are to be climate friendly, the country head of Volkswagen has stated.

Introducing EVs onto the South African domestic market makes little sense while that nation remains dependent upon fossil fuels for power generation, Martina Biene, Volkswagen South Africa's managing director, told Reuters.

"The fundamental thing is that finally the source of power can't be coal in the long-term for us to make EVs a thing which is not only an emission-free vehicle but also helps to save the climate," she said.

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Johannesburg, Biene said Volkswagen was counting on progress towards decarbonising the power sector to help it reach its own emissions-reduction targets.

"We want to be carbon neutral as a manufacturer, global manufacturer, by 2050 is the ultimate goal ... It only makes sense with renewable energy," she said.

Three-quarters of cars produced by South Africa's auto industry, which accounts for 5% of gross domestic product and over 100,000 jobs, are exported, mostly to European countries.

Biene told Reuters last month that the German automaker's South African facility would likely not produce EVs before 2035 and in the meantime would develop new markets for its petrol and diesel vehicles in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

South Africa produces nearly 90% of its total energy supply from coal and has struggled to implement plans for new renewables capacity.