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Zero Carbon Charge welcomes EV White Paper, but calls for increased renewable energy charging stations

An image showing an electric vehicle charging station at the CSIR

Zero Carbon Charge has calling for increased investment in renewable energy electric vehicle charging stations

5th December 2023

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online

     

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South Africa’s pioneer of a national network of renewable energy charging stations Zero Carbon Charge has welcomed the Electric Vehicle (EV) White Paper released by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic) on December 4.

It is, however, calling for increased investment in renewable energy EV charging stations. 

“The release of the White Paper signals that government is serious about South Africa’s transition to EVs and offers some much-needed policy certainty on the way forward,” the entity says in a statement.

The White Paper also deals with the need to ramp up South Africa’s charging infrastructure, while recognising the problem of ‘on-grid’, mainly coal-powered, EV charging stations, Zero Carbon Charge says.

It warns that the continued dominance of coal in South Africa’s energy mix means that replacing an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle with an EV has a modest reduction in emissions.

For example, a full battery electric vehicle will eliminate tailpipe emissions but the reliance on charging the vehicle with high emissions electricity still means that driving the car is associated with emissions, the White Paper outlines.

Elsewhere, the White Paper says: “ . . . the transition to EVs will only truly be low-carbon once charging infrastructure has shifted materially to renewable energy sources . . .”.

It avers that the implication is that the use of renewable energy-based systems to power charging stations is important for allaying prospective consumers’ concerns about grid power supply and availing a truly low-carbon transition.

However, despite recognising the need for renewable energy charging stations, a great deal of the White Paper is devoted to how the existing grid, which is reliant mainly on coal, can be capacitated to cater for EVs, Zero Carbon Charge points out.

In his press conference releasing the White Paper, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel emphasised that the priority was for the existing “grid to become greener.”

“We believe the White Paper’s focus on capacitating and greening the existing grid will unnecessarily delay the transition to EVs. Instead, the focus should be on immediately developing off-grid EV charging stations based on renewable sources, such as the solar-powered facilities that we are starting to roll out across the country,” suggests Zero Carbon Charge cofounder and director Joubert Roux.

The entity highlights that it is already building, at scale, 120 charging facilities based on 100% renewable energy.

Each Zero Carbon Charge charging station, spaced about 150 km apart, will generate electricity on site using solar photovoltaic.

Energy is stored in lithium-iron-phosphate batteries, with generators fuelled by hydrotreated vegetable oil as a back-up power source.

Zero Carbon Charge’s charging stations are completely off-grid, which means they are unaffected by loadshedding.

“In any event, no grid – anywhere in the world – is equipped to handle the mass transition from ICE to EVs,” the entity posits.

During the launch of the White Paper, Patel said details on the fiscal aspects would be announced by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana in his Budget Speech in February 2024, and that further elements of the White Paper would be released in the coming months.

Zero Carbon Charge says it is ready to engage Patel and his team on how to reduce reliance on the grid and, in so doing, move to cleaner EV energy sources.

“We will be seeking a meeting with Minister Patel to demonstrate how the problem of high-carbon, on-grid, EV charging can be avoided.

“More specifically, we would like to update him on our plans to roll out a 100% renewable energy, off-grid, charging station network, starting with the site we began constructing in Wolmaransstad last week,” says Zero Carbon Charge co-director and founder Andries Malherbe

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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