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Where To Charge Your Electric Car In South Africa?

Author: Jason Snyman
Date: 2018-03-27
Afraid of running out of juice if you switch to EV? We spoke to Nissan and BMW South Africa to find all the charging points available.
All around the world, governments are beginning to set aggressive targets for car manufacturers. The world needs to go electric. There’s no way around it. China, for example, has taken gigantic leaps toward an all-electric future. Some other European countries are en route to becoming fully-electric in the next twenty years. Support is certainly growing, and this is also evident in South Africa. It’s far from smooth sailing, though, and the EV industry here faces a number of difficulties. Among these includes the fact that we as consumers haven’t got too many options in vehicles, and those that are available are quite pricey. At the moment, we mainly have the Nissan Leaf and BMW’s i3 and i3 eDrive REX. As the fuel price continues to rise and rise, though, electric vehicles are becoming an increasingly attractive option. It may well be worth the investment. One of the biggest concerns South Africans are faced with, should we make the leap, is where we will charge these vehicles. In some parts of the country, public charging stations are few and far between – something the industry is trying to remedy. Because the very last thing you want is to get stuck in the middle of the Karoo. We took a look.
If you are stuck in the middle of the Karoo, make sure you have an insurance provider that won't leave you stranded 

EV Charging In South Africa

The above mentioned vehicles by Nissan and BMW are the main all-electric options available at the moment. There are, however, various manufacturers who offer hybrid vehicles – such as Mercedes and Volvo. Countries which have thrown themselves headlong into this commitment to a cleaner future, such as the Netherlands or China, have public charging outlets available all over. The initiative has received a lot of support from both governments and utilities. South Africa, though, is still playing catch up. With the rarity of public charging outlets in certain areas of the country, a fully-electric vehicle may not be the best choice for your SA road trip. This limitation is but one of the reasons we just don’t see that many EV drivers on the road. According to Lightstone, back in January of this year, only 375 electric vehicles have been sold in SA since becoming available. Even in areas where public charging stations can be found in abundance, such as Gauteng, Lightstone says that most of these drivers still prefer to charge their cars at home. Some South Africans don’t have this option, though. Let’s take Cape Town for example, where parking is scarcer than an honest politician and a lot of people live in large filing cabinets. Very few people have a garage at home where they can plug their cars in to charge overnight. Luckily for those interested in going electric, the recharge network is slowly growing. In the next ten years, this probably won’t be a problem.
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In order to electrify South Africa, Nissan has established a partnership with BMW – a memorandum of understanding. This allows both companies to tap into each other’s charging network Nissan’s initial strategy for the Leaf was to focus on metropolitan areas. Business-to-business. It stands to reason, then, that it would have kicked off in Gauteng. It was a bold step, bringing the Leaf to the SA market. As with so many things, it could have been a tremendous disaster.  A couple of years later, however, Nissan believes it has met its target in rolling out public charging stations. Nissan South Africa was kind enough to provide CompareGuru with THIS MAP – detailing all current EV charging outlets in the country. These are available at dealers, shopping centres, office blocks and more. As you can clearly see, though, the majority of the Free State, Northern Cape, North-West Province, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are still in dire need of public charging outlets. Speaking to CompareGuru, Nissan said that, in partnership with BMW and Growthpoint, it has installed charging facilities at the V&A Waterfront, Constantia Village and recently at the Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria. The Nissan / BMW partnership is also considering electrifying a very popular long distance route, and this should be finalised by the end of 2018. Charging stations at Nissan Leaf dealers are free to use, but primarily offer AC charging. This is notoriously slower than DC charging stations. AC chargers can charge a BMW i3 from 0 to 80% in about 2 hours and 30 minutes. DC chargers can hit 80% in 30 minutes.  


BMW has been a little bit faster with the rollout of charging stations in South Africa. The BMW ChargeNow Network currently has 57 charge points, and plans to add at least 20 more within the 2018/2019 window. All of the fully-electric vehicles in SA allow for traditional wall charging at home. It commonly takes around 6-8 hours to achieve full charge. BMW also offers a charging station called the Wallbox, which allows for AC rapid charge. The installation and purchase of the Wallbox is subject to on-site inspection and consultation, though, and can cost quite a bit. One of the questions we commonly get asked to look into is where EV charging stations get the electricity from. According to both Nissan and BMW, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. BMW i specialist, Alan Boyd, spoke to CompareGuru.
“Depending on the location, the energy used at the charge point could be from the national grid, grid-tied solar array or pure solar with batteries. However, the main supply at this point on the BMW ChargeNow network is sourced from the national grid. With this said, we do have locations such as Brooklyn Mall that have a grid-tied solar array.”
Slowly but surely, Nissan and BMW are making it happen in a country where load-shedding has become a national punch line. Tesla will also be bringing the Model 3 to SA any day now, and then the EV scene is bound to pick up pace.

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