A White Paper’s focus on capacitating and greening the Eskom grid might unnecessarily delay the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). Instead, the focus should be on immediately developing off-grid EV charging stations based on renewable sources, Zero Carbon Charge co-director and founder Joubert Roux said yesterday.
He welcomed the release of the White Paper by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition on Monday.
Roux said the policy document signalled that the government was serious about South Africa’s transition to EVs, and it offered some policy certainty on the way forward. South Africa’s major vehicle export markets intend to eventually ban the sale of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICE).
Zero Carbon Charge is SA’s first national network of renewable energy charging stations and its solar-powered facilities were being rolled out across the country.
Roux said the White Paper also dealt with the need to ramp up South Africa’s charging infrastructure, while recognising the problem of “on-grid”, mainly coal-powered, EV charging stations.
The continued dominance of coal in South Africa’s energy mix meant that replacing an ICE vehicle with an EV led to only a modest reduction of emissions.
For example, a full battery electric vehicle would eliminate tailpipe emissions, but the reliance on charging the vehicle with high emissions electricity meant that driving the car was associated with high emissions.
“The transition to EVs will only truly be low-carbon once charging infrastructure has shifted materially to renewable energy sources…The implication is that the use of renewable energy-based systems to power charging stations is important for allaying prospective consumers’ concerns related to grid power supply and availing a truly low carbon transition,” the White Paper said.
Roux said that despite recognising the need for renewable energy charging stations, a great deal of the White Paper was devoted to how the existing grid (which is reliant mainly on coal) could be capacitated to cater for EVs.
Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel said the priority was for the “grid to become greener”.
Zero Carbon Charge was building, at scale, 120 charging facilities based on 100% renewable energy.
Each Zero Carbon Charge charging station, spaced about 150km apart, will generate electricity on-site using solar PV.
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 were completely off-grid, which meant that they were unaffected by load shedding. In any event, no grid – anywhere in the world – was equipped to handle the mass transition from internal combustion engines to EVs, said Roux.
Patel had said that details on the fiscal aspects would be announced by the minister of finance in his Budget Speech in February 2024, and that further elements of the White Paper would be released in the coming months.
Andries Malherbe, the co-director and founder of Zero Carbon Charge said: “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.”