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Zero Carbon Charge aims to start roll-out of solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations in 2023

21st October 2022

By: Irma Venter

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Zero Carbon Charge (ZeroCC) is unashamedly pro-electric vehicle (EV), but believes that driving an EV only makes a difference when charged by renewable energy.

ZeroCC director Andries Malherbe says that charging an EV using the conventional energy on tap in South Africa – in other words, Eskom power, generated from its fleet of coal-fired plants – will do very little to alleviate the poor air quality in the country.

“Currently, in South Africa, a diesel car emits 8.6 t carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) a year and a petrol car 4.4 t, based on an average driving distance of 25 000 km a year,” he explains.

“As it stands, an electric car powered by the current South African grid would emit more CO2e (5.8 t) than a petrol engine car (4.4 t) driven over the same distance of 25 000 km a year.”

By contrast, an EV charged with green power would emit zero CO2e, says Malherbe.

“This means every EV recharged with green chargers will save 5.8 t of CO2e a year on average.”

In ZeroCC’s case, green chargers refer largely to chargers powered by solar energy.

Generating and using solar energy will also circumvent the highly unreliable Eskom grid, prone to frequent loadshedding – one of the reasons cited most by consumers for their unwillingness to shift to EVs.

The team of Malherbe and ZeroCC cofounder and director Joubert Roux aim to roll out 120 solar-powered charging stations along the country’s highways and regional routes, at about 150 km apart, all with ultra-fast EV chargers.

While EV sales are currently rather dismal in South Africa, at 218 battery electric units last year, the world is rapidly moving to electric mobility, and South Africa is set to follow suit, says Roux.

ZeroCC believes there could be as many as 1.3-million to 1.5-million passenger and light commercial EVs on South Africa’s roads by 2032, should visible, extensive and tangible fast-charging infrastructure be put in place.

“This volume will represent 15% of all registered vehicles and will save more than 2.7- million tons of CO2e a year,” says Roux.

To date, ZeroCC has visited more than 200 possible charging sites.

Most of them are located at established small businesses like farm stalls, hotels and restaurants situated along several routes criss- crossing South Africa.

The aim, explains Malherbe, is for EV users to have access to fast charging across the country, and not just in the main metropoles or along national highways.

“Should this be the case, EV use will remain restricted to cities.”

Roux says ZeroCC has already engaged the relevant landowners on a number of sites, and that various environmental assessments and applications are in process in all nine provinces.

“We plan to start with construction of the first four charge stops in the first quarter of next year.”

The first two will be in Klipheuwel and Dassiesfontein, in the Western Cape.

Some of the sites will be greenfield projects, while others will make use of existing infrastructure, such as farm stalls or rest stops.

Any surplus power generated at the sites can be used by the landowner.

The general aim is for an EV to charge from 20% to 80% in 25 minutes, and for the car user to pay cash, or to pay by credit or debit card, with no special card or payment method, as is currently the case at EV chargers, notes Roux.

ZeroCC, founded in 2021, is funding the project internally, and is seeking the aid of development finance institutions and new partners as it rolls out its network.

It is estimated that every charge station will cost about R10-million.

Each site will have bathrooms, a food and retail offering, four vehicle chargers and about 1 500 m2 of solar panels.

Site security will be paramount, notes Malherbe, as is job creation within local communities.

Roux estimates that it may take four to six years before ZeroCC shows any profit.

The partnership of Roux and Malherbe has its roots in the development of a solar farm in the Northern Cape, as well as two proposed wind farms in Round 6 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.

Roux was also active in the automotive retail sector.

“We’ll start with solar-powered chargers, but also plan to look at hydrogen and, potentially, hydropower as we expand,” he notes.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor




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