South Africa to Get the World’s First Off-Grid EV Superchargers

A local company signs a deal with a Chinese manufacturer to bring the world’s first off-grid, solar-powered EV superchargers to South Africa.

by Motoni Olodun

South Africa is set to become the first country in the world to have a national network of off-grid, solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) superchargers, thanks to a R1 billion deal signed by Zero Carbon Charge, a local EV charging station company, with a Chinese energy storage systems manufacturer and its local partner.

Zero Carbon Charge announced on Monday that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Shanghai Magic Power Tech Co, also known as Magic Power, and Greencore Energy Solutions, to build and import the first-of-its-kind integrated supercharging systems for its 120 renewable-charging stations currently being rolled out across South Africa.

The deal follows a trip by Zero Carbon Charge’s team to China at the end of last year to source “cutting edge”, custom-integrated solutions for the establishment of its completely off-grid national charging network, which will be a global first.

The 480 kW liquid-cooled supercharger systems to be supplied by Magic Power and Greencore Energy Solutions will seamlessly integrate with the solar photovoltaic generation and battery storage located at each of Zero Carbon Charge’s 120 charging stations.

This technology means that customers at Zero Carbon Charge’s off-grid, solar-powered charging stations can charge any EV at its maximum charging rate, regardless of the make or model.

“The first batch of superchargers is expected to arrive in South Africa before July, which means that – pending regulatory approvals – we are on track to have our full network of 120 solar-powered charging facilities operational by September 2025,” said Zero Carbon Charge co-founder and director Joubert Roux.

The company said that its network of charging stations will be spaced out at 150 km intervals along major routes and highways, and will also include farmstalls where EV drivers can get refreshments while they wait for their cars to charge.

The charging stations will run on a large solar plant with many solar panels that store energy in lithium iron phosphate batteries or run on hydrotreated vegetable oil generators as backup, which is said to emit about 90% less carbon than diesel fuels.

According to Zero Carbon Charge, its initiative will not only provide a convenient and reliable service for EV owners but also help reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and lower its greenhouse gas emissions.

The company cited the government’s draft Integrated Resource Plan 2023, which showed that South Africa’s predominantly coal-fired grid will not be able to cope with the demands imposed on it by the mass charging of EVs.

“To stabilize the grid and end load-shedding faster, prioritization must be given to the roll-out of off-grid powered EVs,” the company said.

In addition, the company pointed out that if South Africa is to reach its global emissions targets, renewable energy (and not electricity sourced from coal) must be used to power EVs.

“An EV charged with Eskom’s coal-fired electricity emits 5.3 metric tonnes of carbon emissions in a year whereas a petrol vehicle, on average, emits 4.4 metric tonnes of carbon emissions in a year if driven over the same distance,” the company said.

Zero Carbon Charge said that it hopes that its project will inspire other countries to follow suit and adopt renewable energy sources for EV charging, as well as encourage more South Africans to switch to EVs.

The company also said that it plans to tailor its network for electric trucks in the second phase of the rollout, as well as explore opportunities to export its technology to other African countries.

South Africa is not the only country that is investing in EV infrastructure and innovation. According to a report by BloombergNEF, global sales of EVs increased by 43% in 2023, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, and are expected to reach 62 million units by 2040.

The report also said that China, Europe, and the US are leading the way in EV adoption, with China accounting for 41% of global EV sales in 2023, followed by Europe with 42% and the US with 11%.

The report also highlighted some of the latest developments in EV technology, such as wireless charging, battery swapping, and bi-directional charging, which could make EVs more convenient and efficient in the future.

With the world moving towards a greener and cleaner future, South Africa’s Zero Carbon Charge is poised to make history with its off-grid EV superchargers and pave the way for more sustainable mobility solutions in Africa and beyond.

Source: Engineering News

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