4 Apr 21

Mazibuko is building South Africa’s first electric ‘bakkie’

In June, the first electric vehicle designed and built in South Africa will take to the roads. Mazibuko’s M1B is an excellent fit for South African tastes: it’s a pickup truck, a popular segment locally known as a ‘bakkie’.

The M1B rolling out the doors of the Mazibuko Motor Company will be a prototype. Mass production is still a way off. But for Nhlanhla Mazibuko things can’t go fast enough. Frustrated by the slow pace of South Africa’s EV adoption, the Johannesburg-based entrepreneur inaugurated MMC, which focuses solely on electric vehicles, in June last year. 

Popular segment
Unlike most other EV-manufacturers, who launch their brand with a high-end ‘supercar’, Mazibuko wanted to start off with a ‘bakkie’, as this is the most popular vehicle segments in South Africa.

For the company, this means lower margins per vehicle, but a much higher turnover. Much will depend on the M1B’s eventual price, which will be set once things like battery price and production location will be determined. In any case, the model is meant to be affordable to a large section of South African consumers. 

The M1B will be built on MMC’s own EV platform, which the company calls a ‘skateboard platform’, for its high degree of flexibility and scalability. This will allow the company to bring a diversity of models – including SUVs and minitaxis – onto the market quickly and cheaply.

Rough exterior
The M1B will have a capacity of 500 kW, split in two motors, one at the front and one at the back. Battery power will be 120 kW/h, giving it a range of 400 km when fully charged. The car’s heat management systems have been designed specifically for South Africa’s climate. 

The M1B will marry a rough exterior, suited for local road conditions, with a high-tech interior, featuring connectivity, self-driving capabilities and the option of over-the-air updates.

MMC is a fully-funded startup that is actually “a host of mini start-ups”, explains its founder. Those mini start-ups each focus on one particular field: solar installations, battery storage, self-driving tech, charging stations, battery-electric vehicles. Apart from EVs, the company aims to offer services such as solar power and battery storage to the market.

Speeding up
The time might be right for a company like Mazibuko. Electrification is still in its infancy in South Africa, but things could be speeding up soon. Some examples:

  • A pilot project in Johannesburg aims at electrifying public transport, first by converting local buses and minibuses to electric power. If successful, it could be a precursor to converting the city’s entire Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system to EVs. 
  • Another pilot is working towards electrifying the municipal fleet in Nelson Mandela Bay, the metropolitan area that includes Port Elizabeth. Both these projects have received funding from the UK government. 
  • At the end of March, Cape Town inaugurated its second public charging station for EVs. Both stations are solar-powered, meaning drivers can use the chargers for free. 
  • EVs come with a 25% import tax in South Africa, while the import duty on fossil-fuel vehicles is just 18% - giving home-grown manufacturers of EVs an advantage as the market expands. 

Image: Mazibuko Motor Company 

Authored by: Frank Jacobs