A fleet of electric vehicles travelled the long way from Pretoria to Cape Town without using a drop of fuel. Picture: SUPPLIED
A fleet of electric vehicles travelled the long way from Pretoria to Cape Town without using a drop of fuel. Picture: SUPPLIED

SA’s inaugural Electric Vehicle Road Trip (EVRT) took place last week and arrived in Cape Town after a more than 2,000km journey from Pretoria.

Ben Pullen, CEO of Generation.e, the company bringing the EVRT Africa to the country, declared the venture a success in terms of engaging stakeholders, including government, business, and the public — and in terms of giving impetus to the increased adoption of electric vehicles in the country.

SA’s first electric vehicle road trip (EVRT) powered by ACDC Dynamics and driven by the department of transport, Gauteng Provincial Government, and African Alliance for Energy Productivity, was set up to prove that it is possible to drive across the country without a single drop of petrol.

The cars left the Sun Arena at Time Square on October 3, and the road trippers travelled through Bloemfontein, Gariep Dam, Graaff-Reinet, Port Elizabeth, Knysna and Worcester before arriving in Cape Town on October 10.

There were six charging points set up along the route for the trip, which will remain as permanent fixtures to complement the GridCars charging network set up along SA’s holiday routes. Apart from permanent chargers, portable pop-up quick-chargers were used for the EVRT.

Pullen says growing the charging infrastructure will be vital when SA begins to adopt EVs on a larger scale.

“Although there are many ways that government can support the electric vehicle ecosystem in SA, such as lowering import tax costs and enabling infrastructure, it is vital to increase public awareness and education to inspire the shift towards smarter mobility,” he said.

WITH EVS AS MOBILE ENERGY HUBS, SA’S CITIES COULD BECOME GREENER, MORE INTEGRATED LIVING SPACES

At the moment there are only two EV cars on sale in SA — the BMW i3 and Jaguar I-Pace — but these are to be joined soon by the Porsche Taycan, second-generation Nissan Leaf, Mercedes-Benz EQC and possibly also the Volkswagen ID.3.

Pullen said the seven vehicles used in the EVRT — comprising the Leaf, i3 and I-Pace — covered just over 2,000km across different terrains and performed very well.

“We had about 100 road trippers, a quarter of whom were from government, who can positively influence the future of electric adoption,” he said.

The EVRT followed the Smarter Mobility Summit Africa that was held at the Sun Arena at Time Square in Pretoria on October 1-2, which Pullen said showcased inspiring levels of commitment and innovation, but it also shone a spotlight on the obstacles holding back a truly smarter, sustainable mobility ecosystem in SA and the rest of Africa.

Pullen, who has organised similar events in Dubai which is now in its fourth year, said EVRT will be an annual event in SA.

“The cars are ready, it’s the infrastructure that needs upgrading, and that’s vital for EV adoption in the country.”

Buy-in from government is needed too as import duties on EVs at 25% are higher than the 18% charged on combustion-engined vehicles, making battery-powered very expensive. Affordability is one of the main obstacles to public acceptance of EVs.

The global uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) has been growing rapidly over the past 10 years, with electric passenger cars passing the 5-million mark in 2018, up by 63% from the previous year. In line with this growth, the number of charging points worldwide was estimated to be about 5.2-million at the end of 2018, up 44% from 2017. However, SA was one of the markets that reported a drop in EV sales between 2017 and 2018.

Kabelo Rabotho, MD, Nissan South Africa, says the energy that is stored in an electric vehicle like the Nissan Leaf can be sold back to the grid by the customer, generating additional revenue to offset vehicle ownership costs.

“With EVs as mobile energy hubs, South African cities could become greener, more integrated living spaces. An EV is, essentially, a large electricity storage device and while the battery takes from the grid when it is charging, there exists the potential to feed some of that energy back into the grid when demand is high and advances in technology,” he said.

“One hundred EVs with zero emissions and intelligent energy integration capabilities could power an entire building. We can now also recycle our batteries and give them a second lease on life as energy stores for electric vehicles, homes, offices, businesses and even remote villages with a smart grid. This is already taking place here, in SA, where ‘second-life’ Leaf batteries, together with solar panels, are being used to generate sustainable power for learners at Filadelfia Secondary School, in Soshanguve.”

To accelerate the deployment of EV we need both financial and nonfinancial incentives from government, Rabotho emphasises.

BMW, which participated in the EVRT with its i3, believes that sustainable mobility thrives wherever there is an effective combination of three factors: customer demand, legislation and innovative partnerships, such as EVRT Africa.

“BMW Group South Africa welcomes any initiatives that create awareness and increase visibility for electric vehicles in this country,” says Hailey Philander, Group Communications Division, BMW SA.

“It is vital that industry and government co-operate to introduce smarter mobility solutions in SA and pool knowledge and resources, such as charging infrastructure, with the common goal to increase the acceptance and adoption of EVs in this country,” she says.


MOTORING PODCAST | Racing the Devil

For more episodes, click here.

Subscribe: iono.fm | Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Pocket Casts | Player.fm