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Electric vehicles race around the country

Read time 4min 30sec
The Jaguar I-Pace.
The Jaguar I-Pace.

Local vehicle manufacturers BMW, Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover will put their electric vehicles (EVs) to the test, as today they embark on a seven-day road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

The vehicle manufacturers collaborated with digital solutions provider Generation.e, the Department of Transport and Gauteng Provincial Government to bring the Electric Vehicle Road Trip (EVRT) to SA, in support of Transport Month in October.

The EVRT gives carmakers and EV enthusiasts a chance to take 12 of the latest EVs on an adventure, tackling challenging environments and large distances, to find out if it is possible to drive across the country without a drop of petrol, while showcasing the vehicles’ power and capabilities.

The road trip, which started in Pretoria this morning, will use all the major routes across the country, heading to Bloemfontein next, followed by Gariep Dam, Graaff-Reinet, Port Elizabeth, Knysna and Worcester, ending in Cape Town.

Public stations will be implemented at four locations along the route of the EVRT, supported by electrical products manufacturer ACDC Dynamics.

Generation.e co-founder and CEO Ben Pullen explains that after successful road trips across Europe and the Middle East, the company decided to bring this experience to SA because expanding urban populations require innovative mobility solutions.

“The aim of the trip is to prove that SA is ready for the uptake of EVs and that it is indeed possible to drive across the country in one,” he explains.

“We were encouraged to bring the EVRT to the continent by the African Alliance for Energy Productivity. It is vital for SA to start implementing the use of EVs in order to reap the benefits they provide – minimising air-pollution and carbon emissions, reducing fuel and vehicle maintenance costs for end-users, whilst promoting a national shift towards smarter mobility and a greener economy.”

In March, Jaguar Land Rover became the third vehicle company to introduce an EV range in SA, with the new Jaguar I-Pace. The first were Nissan Leaf, introduced in 2013, and BMW i3, introduced in 2015.

BMW i3, Nissan Leaf and Jaguar I-Pace EVs will all be used for the road trip.

Kabelo Rabotho, marketing director at Nissan SA, explains: “Nissan’s participation in embracing a safe and reliable mode of transport in Transport Month is both a pledge and vision for EVs to one day be a holistic reality to transition to smarter and electric mobility for all South Africans.”

The Nissan Leaf.
The Nissan Leaf.

Accelerating charging infrastructure

The global uptake of EVs has been growing rapidly over the past decade, with electric passenger vehicles passing the six million mark in 2018, up by 63% from the previous year.

SA, however, is one of the markets lagging behind in EV sales, with less than 1 000 EVs in the country. Gauteng accounts for half of EVs on the roads, while in Western Cape there are around 252. The country’s remaining provinces have fewer than 100 EVs each.

According to the Electric Vehicles 2019 Market Intelligence report, the public station network in SA consists of 120 publicly accessible charging stations, which are all along the major routes.

Over the next week, the EVRT initiative and its partners will add eight public charging stations across four sites at the Travel Inn Shell Ultra City in Kroonstad, De Stijl Gariep Hotel in Gariep Dam, Wolwefontein Hotel in Wolwefontein and the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town.

“Whilst infrastructure development has been relatively good when measured against the number of electric vehicles in SA, there is still a growing need to expand and strengthen infrastructure, especially as we expect the number of electric vehicles to grow considerably in 2020. It will be this way for many years to come, which presents a clear opportunity for South African businesses and entrepreneurs, notes Pullen.

Jaguar Land Rover partnered with EV charging infrastructure firm GridCars, to build public charging stations across SA's frequently-travelled routes. The company has invested over R30 million in building public charging points, the ‘Jaguar Powerway’.

BMW has 57 ChargeNow charging stations across SA, six of which are shared with Nissan. The companies collaborated with hopes to expand the base by adding an additional 30 ChargeNow stations to the South African charging network by the end of this year.

Independent motor vehicle expert and radio commentator Nico Smit told ITWeb in August that the current infrastructure availability is insufficient to accommodate a large number of vehicles driving throughout the country simultaneously.

“Currently, an EV can drive all the way to Cape Town; however, if we have five or more vehicles driving along the same routes at the same time, they may encounter challenges in sharing the public charging stations. Take into consideration that an 80% charge can take up to 40 minutes on average, therefore if we have five cars driving along the same route, this would create long queues along the charging stations. It is imperative that we start to plan ahead as more vehicle manufacturers divert their focus to EVs,” explained Smit.

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