South Africa is getting 120 new electric vehicle (EV) charging facilities that are unaffected by load shedding as they are completely off-the-grid and powered by renewable energy.
The initiative is being carried out by Zero Carbon Charge, a South African company that is investing R1.8 billion towards the country’s infrastructure development in anticipation of the eventual switch over to electrified transport.
The company held a ceremony in Wolmaransstad, North West province today where it announced it has begun the process of installing South Africa’s first 100% renewable energy charging network, with facilities spaced out at 150km intervals.
“We are thrilled to begin construction of the first 100% renewable energy charging facility in Wolmaransstad today,” said Joubert Roux, co-director and founder of Zero Carbon Charge.
“It is great news for the environment, and it is great news for motorists who won’t have to worry about load shedding preventing them from charging their vehicles.”
Taking matters into our own hands
South Africa’s constant load-shedding brought on by consistent breakdowns at Eskom’s coal-burning power stations has been one of the biggest deterrents to motorists’ adoption of plug-in hybrid (PHEVs) and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs).
Therefore, Zero Carbon Charge’s EV charging stations generate electricity on-site thanks to a series of solar panels and lithium-ion phosphate batteries, which are themselves backed up by generators that run on hydrotreated vegetable oil – an alternative to diesel that produces up to 90% less carbon emissions.
In total, there will be 720 DC ultra-fast charge points and 240 AC outlets across the 120 facilities by the time of the project’s completion, and while no specifics were given on the hardware, the company’s website indicates that it considers 100kW to be an ultra-fast standard.
“Each Zero Carbon Charge charging station can charge an EV in about 20 minutes. By contrast, it will take a standard ‘on-grid’ AC charging station around 4 hours to fully charge an EV,” said Roux.
The organisation expects the final location to go live by September 2025, with planning and land use approvals being the biggest determinant for this time frame.
Upon completion, every charging station will be accompanied by a farmstall, creating more revenue and allowing road users to stop and have a coffee in the roughly 20-minute interval that their car is topping up its reserves.
The company’s first charging station in Wolmaransstad is scheduled to come online by June 2024.
Zero Carbon Charge’s planned charging sites.
Changing with the times
Demand for EVs in South Africa is expected to increase drastically within the next few years, as indicated by sales that more than doubled between 2021 and 2022.
“Within five years, we expect electric vehicles to account for 25% of all new car sales in South Africa,” said the company’s co-founder, Andries Malherbe
“Our network of 100% renewable charging stations will offer consumers a clean and fast way of charging their vehicles,” he said.
Many carmakers are on track to eliminate internal combustion engine (ICE) cars within the next decade or so, with Europe being the frontrunner in this regard with an emissions deadline currently set for 2035.
Consequently, South Africa will need to start producing EVs if it wishes to continue exporting overseas, and we will also have to start importing more EVs as they become the dominant type of car in circulation around the world, said Roux.
This is why Zero Carbon Charge, as well as carmakers like Audi and Mercedes-Benz, are investing millions of rands into South Africa’s infrastructure in order to prepare it for the day when the majority of the population is relying on electricity rather than petrol to get them from point A to B.
Keyword: Construction begins on South Africa’s first Eskom-proof electric-car charger – With 119 more to come