Renewable energy EV-charging sites making progress

Although there is general consensus that the future of motoring is electric, the pace of transformation to the new method of propulsion is still a grey area for many. Add to that the cost of electric vehicles, which is currently dominated by expensive higher end models and the so-called range anxiety.

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In the case of South Africa, the inability of the national electricity utility, Eskom, to keep household lights on 24 hours a day, is of great concern when you are talking about adding additional electricity users to the grid.

On a more positive note, South Africa has welcomed new entrants to the market; there’s a wider selection of EVs available; and recently, manufacturers have also revealed plans for local production in 2024.

EV sales are modest but there is growing interest from local drivers. In a Cleantechnica article, sharing results of an EV-buyers’ survey, the majority of respondents in the survey indicated that they would purchase an EV in the next five years. It is projected that 5% will be reached in 2027 as more affordable EVs are brought to the SA market.

The survey also identified concerns regarding charging infrastructure as a secondary buying barrier following price concerns. This brings us to Zero Carbon Charge and their mission to create a charging network of 120 ultra-fast EV-charging stations across Southern Africa. The difference is that Zero Carbon Charge will generate its own electricity so as not to add pressure on the national grid.

The company says its commitment is to be ready to supply 100% renewable energy generated power to EV drivers on all national and regional routes, every 150 km.

Sites are steadily progressing through a myriad of application stages. Concurrently, they have land use applications being undertaken in all nine provinces. Municipal and provincial processes take time because the interests of the communities and the environment need to be considered for each site, especially where no clear legislation exists with regard to alternative energy solutions, says the company.

Briefly, the identified sites go through a development process very similar to that of an Independent Power Producer (IPP) Wind or Solar Farm, which comprises environmental approvals and land use approvals.

The process works as follows: an initial environmental study is made to establish feasibility, and an “Applicability application” is submitted for approval to the department. Thereafter, the architect draws up and submits basic building and site plans for the specific site, and lastly, town-planning applications are submitted. The entire process per site can take up to a minimum of 10 months if everything runs smoothly and there are no objections.

Applications are being submitted continuously and to streamline things even further, stakeholder engagements are being conducted with several industry role players, advisors and department heads within state-owned entities and development organisations.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, it will cost approximately R30 billion to build out the network of sites to service the expected demand. This spend includes component manufacturing for batteries, inverters, solar panels and chargers and all of this can be spent in South Africa.

With the shift to renewable energy powered charging infrastructure, the automotive industry is becoming a key player in driving a circular green economy value chain that holds incredible job and growth opportunities.

With many of Zero Carbon Charge’s sites nearing the end of the applications process, one can expect a ripple effect of sites moving to construction imminently, says the company.

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