Few people know that it is possible to travel on the N1 from Johannesburg to Cape Town with an electric vehicle (EV).
EV charging solution specialist GridCars, a Solareff subsidiary, has installed around 100 of the 200 existing public charging stations around the country. Of these 100, 52 are DC, or fast chargers, where the charging time is significantly less than on an AC charger.
DC chargers are typically situated next to highways, enabling travellers to quickly move on with their journey.
The GridCars Powerway highway charging network, implemented in branding partnership with Jaguar, has EV chargers placed at 200 km intervals on the N1, N2, N3 and N4 highways.
“We still have one or two gaps remaining,” explains GridCars CEO Winstone Jordaan. “The biggest one is a 320 km gap on the N1, if you stick to the highway and not divert through Colesburg, Graaff-Reinet and back to Beaufort West. We are in the process of finalising a site midway on the N1.”
Some of the newest EVs are, however, able to bridge this gap on the N1 in terms of their battery capacity.
The battery electric vehicles currently on the road in South Africa are the BMW i3, the Nissan Leaf and the Jaguar I-Pace. All of these are capable of charging on the GridCars charge network, says Jordaan.
The next two years should see the introduction of the Mercedes-Benz EQC, BMW iX3, Mini Cooper SE, VW ID, Audi e-tron and Porsche Taycan, among others, as the global EV market expands.
South Africa currently has four EVs to one public charger, with the global norm 18 to 20 EVs per charger.
“We are trying to stay ahead of the global norm, as South Africa is a big country,” says Jordaan. “We are also still trying to build trust in EVs as a mobility solution.”
He adds that GridCars is looking at expanding the South African network, alone or in partnership with other charging investment companies, in order to have more charge sites, or more charge points at the same site, available as EV uptake grows.
“The South African EV market can do with more competition,” says Jordaan.
“We are willing to work with anyone to grow the local network and build resilient charging infrastructure.
“There are currently very few alternatives available in the charging network, which means GridCars faces immense pressure to maintain 100% uptime. This is far above the international norm.
“If we fail at a single charge point, the network fails. We would love to have some of this pressure taken off us.”
Jordaan says GridCars is currently in talks with a number of groups to install charge points, including hotel and property groups, as well as fuel retailers.
The EV network in South Africa, and electric mobility as a concept, could also do with a growing number of EV models on the market – especially more affordable EVs, he emphasises.
The cost per kWh at a GridCars charger, which may be branded ‘Jaguar’, is R5.88.
On a DC charger this averages to around R80 per twenty-minute charge.
Customers can use the mobile-friendly GridCars website to track down charge points, and to see whether a charge point is available, occupied, or offline, owing to load-shedding or another reason.
The newly launched ChargePocket web app allows users to start charging via a variety of methods: with their RFID ActiveCharge card; via WhatsApp using a QR code or directly through the web app which eliminates the need to carry around the ActiveCharge card. Users can also manage their accounts on ChargePocket, make payments to load prepaid charging tokens and view their charging history.