Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Electric car conversion

A South African Byron Davies has converted a Fiat Uno to electricity and posted a series of videos clips on You Tube recording the conversion process. Below is a video of the finished conversion, the rest of the clips you can view here.


Cape Town’s e-buses to arrive at end 2017; e-bus plant on track

Cape Town’s e-buses to arrive at end 2017; e-bus plant on track

Cape Town’s fleet of eleven electric buses are scheduled for arrival by the end of 2017, “operating by the beginning of 2018, or sooner”, says Cape Town Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA) commissioner Melissa Whitehead. The buses will be supplied by Chinese green energy firm BYD, in a R126-million, three-year deal financed by the City of Cape Town.

Monday, February 27, 2017

BMW SA rolls out electric charging stations in Cape Town

BMW SA rolls out electric charging stations in Cape Town
Article written by Thandi Skade  for DestinyMan.com reports that BMW South Africa have unveiled a new charging station at the Constantia Village shopping centre in Cape Town.
Expanding on the three charging stations that are operational at the V&A Waterfront, the Constantia charging station is fast and secure, with a Type 2 connection enabled to charge a BMW i3, i8 as well as the Nissan Leaf. 
Despite the absence of any momentum from the government regarding electric vehicles in this country, it's good to see BMW and Nissan making an effort to provide charging infrastructure for their customers. The more charging points there are the more potential EV purchasers will be tempted into buying an electric car.
BMW SA CEO Tim Abbott said the stations had been built with the future in mind and with the ability to cater for prospective electric vehicles......Abbott said BMW and Nissan SA MD Mike Whitfield had lobbied government to approve tax incentives for electric car manufacturers. While government officials, including Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, have indicated their support for electric cars in principle, the support has not translated into action. Car manufacturers who import electric cars into the country pay a 25% tax levy compared to gas-guzzling cars, which are taxed 18%.
I wrote about the lack of any government incentives for electric vehicles in South Africa, yesterday. Once again Nissan and BMW are commendably leading the way and putting the case for electric cars. With the fact that electric vehicles are at the present time still more expensive than a petrol or diesel equivalent, it doesn't help that they're taxed more than internal combustion engine vehicles. This maybe explains why other manufacturers are hesitant to bring their electrically powered offerings into the country. Seeing as EV sales at the moment are quite slow in SA, there wouldn't be much lost in tax revenue if the tax levy on EV's was dropped totally, at least for a while. Indeed, it appears Tim Abbott shares the same sentiments.
Abbott has suggested that the government consider kick-starting public interest in electric cars by scrapping tax for the first year to make the electric vehicle market more competitive. 
I'm not sure what he means by the first year. I don't think that's a long enough period to get things really going. Maybe the tax could be dropped totally for three years and then slowly increased at 3% a year for the next six years until it's back up to the same level as gas powered vehicles. Another incentive could be to have a moratorium on toll fees for electric vehicles for five years. I'll think up some more possible incentives for a future article.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

South Africa’s electric vehicle plan

South Africa’s electric vehicle plan
An article from 3rd May 2013 from Brand South Africa describing the South African governments roadmap for electric vehicles in the country.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has announced plans, including incentives for manufacturers and possible tax incentives for consumers, aimed at establishing an electric vehicle industry in South Africa.
The article goes on to say.
Manufacturers who produced 5 000 electric vehicles annually would qualify for the incentive, with the government reimbursing them for 35% of their production costs over three years, according to the roadmap. The DTI said it was also looking at various possible tax incentives to encourage South Africans to buy electric vehicles.  
At the moment we can only dream of 5,000 EV's being manufactured locally per annum. Less than 500 in total have been sold since 2013 and these are all imported models. Knowing that the government were possibly planning to incentivise the manufacture and purchase of electric cars makes the apparent demise of the roadmap even more disappointing. Maybe manufacturers could have been tempted to move their overseas EV production to this country with incentives like that. For instance if 35% of the price could be deducted from a Nissan Leaf, it would sell for just over R300,000 locally, instead of just under R500,000. They also mention tax incentives for the purchaser to further sweeten the deal. That would make it a far more attractive proposition to new car buyers and with the saving in fuel coats would make it cheaper to own then a comparable petrol or diesel powered vehicle.

It appears the roadmap was due to go to parliament that September, presumably to be either accepted or rejected as official government policy
In June, the DTI will engage industry stakeholders, including the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA and National Union of Metalworkers of SA, on the road map, as well as invite public comment on the plan, before taking it to the Cabinet in September. Davies said the roadmap would be constantly monitored and reviewed as the industry was experiencing rapid technological advancement that would need to be taken into consideration.  
Unfortunately, I can't any recent references to this roadmap. All searches bring up articles from the same time as this one. It appears it might have died a death before it actually got started. This is unfortunate, if the roadmap had got into gear then maybe by now, four years later, their would be more electric vehicles on South Africa's roads and more infrastructure for charging.

Late last year The Electric Vehicle Industry Association was launched in South Africa, consisting of local car manufacturers and representatives from the government and other interested parties. I wrote about it on this blog last month. Since the launch of this association almost three months ago, there has been no more news to come out of it. Is this also going to be a non-starter like the roadmap?

My First Sighting of a Nissan Leaf in Durban

On my way home from work yesterday afternoon just as I was joining the freeway coming out of Hillcrest I spotted a Burgundy coloured Nissan Leaf stopped on the slip road with it's hazard lights on. My first reaction was that it had run out of juice and I was on the verge of stopping until I noticed it starting to move in my rear view mirror. I slowed down hoping it would catch me up so I could get a better look at it and maybe snap a pic but as I got to the top of Fields Hill he was still far behind me and then he turned off into Kloof as I carried on down the hill.
This is the first fully electric car I've seen on Durban's roads and only the second plug-in after spotting an i8 a month or two back. The Leaf looked brand new and judging by the cautious manner it was being driven I'd guess it was being taken for a test drive. Hopefully if that was the case the test drive concluded with a purchase. Really makes me wish I was in the market for a new car too. Despite the fact that a new Leaf, or any car for that matter, is beyond my means right now I've decided to undertake a little exercise next month. I'm going to keep track of my mileage each day and see if the 135km range of the 24kwh Leaf would be sufficient for my motoring needs. I'll keep you updated of how that goes.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Tips on Purchasing a Motoring Fleet

Tips on Purchasing a Motoring Fleet
Zimbabwe's Herald gives tips to companies in buying their fleet of vehicles. Among the many tips listed, they suggest electric vehicles could be suitable for fleet vehicles and they mention the Nissan Leaf, which from what I can gather is available in Zimbabwe and presumably the most popular, and quite possibly only, electric car on the roads there. Unfortunately the web site won't allow me to copy and paste type, and I don't feel like retyping it word for word, so you'll have to click on the link to read it.

This got me thinking about the savings electric vehicles could bring to companies. For a company that needs vehicles to cover less than 100km in a day a Vehicle like a Nissan Leaf would be ideal. It could run around during the day and then charge at night back at base.

Hopefully before long a manufacturer will bring out a small electric delivery van. If there was an electric van with a range of 200km than I'm sure it would be enough for a days deliveries around cities and towns. I'm not sure how far courier drivers travel on their route in a day. Several different courier companies deliver to my work so maybe I'll ask the drivers the sort of distance they cover each day and I'll post an update here in the near future.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

SA not ready for electric cars: Expert

SA not ready for electric cars: Expert
SABC News interview with Dr Peter Mukoma, Demand Response and Energy Efficiency Program Manager at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Despite the negative angle of the article title, the interview is quite a positive one and Dr Mukoma makes some very good points.
“We don’t see a lot of electric vehicles on the road, so that shows that somehow people do not know that these vehicles are available now on our market and honestly speaking I haven’t seen any advert for these vehicles from the vehicle dealers and they are supposed to communicate that these vehicles are available on the market, they must communicate the benefits of driving an electric car.”
Exactly, why don't we see adverts from Nissan and BMW for their electric cars they sell in South Africa? They'd prefer to carry on promoting their petrol and diesel models because they know they are more or less guaranteed recurring business because of the regular servicing an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle needs. They know buyers of their ICE cars will bring them back at regular service intervals to get the oil, plugs, filters, brakes etc. changed. This, more than anything is an incentive for the dealer to try and sell an ICE vehicle over an electric car, as they are the ones usually doing the servicing. Electric cars need very little in the way of maintenance, from what I can tell it amounts to rotating the tyres, checking the brake fluid and filling up the windscreen washer fluid. Not much to keep the service department busy there, though it does look like Nissan do require regular dealer services, at least in the US, to maintain the vehicle warranty. Obviously giving some sort of incentive for their dealers to sell the Leaf.
“They are expensive but you have very low operating costs, the cost of charging these vehicles is very low and you can get a lot of other benefits, there are no CO2 emissions, so you have a lot of environmental benefits, the other thing is there is range anxiety, people are scared of getting stuck on the road with discharged batteries without any chance of recharging them , so South Africa is not ready from the infrastructure point of view, there are a number of charging stations that are coming up in shopping malls and office parks, other than that we haven’t seen charging infrastructure on the high ways, this is something that obviously has to be taken care of.”
South Africa unfortunately is far from ready for the onslaught of electric cars. I don't think it will be the existing motor manufacturers with a presence in the country or the government who will really get the ball rolling. The electric revolution on our roads will really start when, as CEO Elon Musk has promised, Tesla launch their Model 3 in the country. As Tesla have done in every other country they sell their vehicles, they will surely install a network of their own 'Supercharger' charging stations. Presumably at first in the major cities and along the main routes connecting the big metropolitan areas. This will then hopefully persuade other manufacturers that their electric vehicles have similar charging opportunities. I'm sure the Tesla Model 3 won't be cheap when it gets here but I'm sure it will sell well as many other premium priced vehicles do in this country do.
Dr Mukoma says, "The other thing is there has to be some sort of incentives from government in order to encourage the uptake of these vehicles, in all the markets in the world where the population of electric vehicle is increasing they always have some sort of government incentives, some sort of subsidies, so that people can acquire these technologies and get the benefits.....I think if you look at our BRICS partners, which we usually want to compare ourselves to, if you look at India and China, they are far much ahead of us, there are some local manufacturing of these vehicles in China and I think its leading the world in these aspects, so we do need policy to try to drive the uptake of these vehicles.” 
Incentives from the government would be nice to try and encourage people to buy and the manufacturers to try and sell electric vehicles. This would only have to be a temporary arrangement as it's predicted by 2020 the price of electric cars will have fallen to that of their ICE counterparts and with the added fuel cost saving they will pretty much sell themselves. China are already having some influence on the electric vehicle market in South Africa. Cape Town has bought ten electric buses for use in the city from BYD in China. Hopefully we will see more Chinese electric cars in South Africa soon.

Though South Africa is far from ready, at least it seems some people realise the onslaught of the electric car is inevitable.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

BMW i3 Driven & Reviewed in South Africa - Why It's So Good

Great positive South African review of the BMW i3, thanks to Cars.co.za. The presenter mentions it will cost about R30 to fully charge an i3 at home and for that R30 it will travel as far as a ICE vehicle would on R150 of fuel. That really is a huge saving. If I had one I'd really be less hesitant to go places because I'm worried about the cost of the petrol to get there. Going to the beach for instance is about a 40km round trip for me, not too far but probably uses about R50 in petrol, if the weather is a bit iffy like it was this past Sunday then I'd hesitate before going as it's quite a bit to spend just to drive somewhere to find out it's raining. If I had an i3 it would use roughly R10 of electricity, it's really a negligible amount. I'd definitely make a lot more short trips if I had an electric car, even with 100km range there would be a lot of places accessible to take the family out for the day on a weekend.

The only problem right now is the price of the BMW i3. It's over R500,000 a bit more than a Nissan Leaf, I think when prices of EV's get down to R300,000, the saving in fuel and maintenance costs will make it a worthwhile purchase for someone who was maybe looking for a ICE vehicle in the R200,000 - R250,000 range. The extra in installment payments will easily be recovered in the fuel cost savings.

As I said this is a really great review, please take the time to watch and I'm sure afterwards like me, you'll probably also be wanting a BMW i3.

Monday, February 20, 2017

South Africa Promotes Electric Cars Manufacturing

News segment about EV's in South Africa from CGTN Africa published in May 2013. In nearly four years the amount of electric vehicles available to South Africans has gone from one to two. I guess if you look at it in a positive light, it's doubled. Where are the other electric cars from the motor manufacturers who have a major presence in SA? Where is the Chevy Bolt, the Kia Soul EV, the Ford Focus Electric, the Smart Electric Drive, the Renault Zoe and the VW e-Golf? Why have only BMW and Nissan offered their EV's to South African motorists? They wouldn't have done it if they didn't believe there was a future for electric vehicles in SA, so why don't the other manufacturers follow suit and give their customers an option of going fully electric? Of course the encouraging news is that the Tesla Model 3 is on it's way to these shores at some point, maybe it will be a wake up call for the local motor industry as it will be for the global one.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Electric cars could change everything in SA

Electric cars could change everything in SA
Really great article by Dirk de Vos for Tech Central. It's quite a long article but looks at the future of electric vehicles in South Africa and their relation to energy production in the country, in some depth.
The energy system is huge and change happens at glacial speed. Small changes have tended to come from policy changes on a top-down basis. For a long time, this was the position of the telecommunications sector. But the introduction of the Internet protocol and cellphones upended everything. What is significant is that almost every innovation in telecoms over the last two decades has come from outside the industry and change has been driven in a bottom-up process. Regulators and state-owned incumbent operators have been forced to adapt to the immense changes that they had no part in bringing about.
I like how he has compared the electric vehicle industry with the telecommunications industry. Nobody seemed to predict how the Internet would take off and to an even lesser degree the rapid almost universal adoption of cellphones. Electric cars aren't going to land up in peoples driveways because Ford, GM, Toyota, Fiat etc. want us to have them, they're going to end up in our driveways because we want them. Like digital cameras, the camera & film manufacturers didn't predict the demand for digital cameras and by the time they realised the way consumers were leading the market it was too late for some of them.
As EVs start to make sense on a pure financial basis, decisions to buy them are made by individuals deciding what is best for them. 
Even when digital cameras were two or three times the price of a similar film camera, they began to outstrip film camera sales, the increase in sales in turn made digital cameras more affordable and ever since digital cameras have continued to get better and better. Obviously an automobile is a lot more expensive than a camera and no one is expected to pay three times the amount of a gasoline car for an electric car. In the article the author compares the costs of buying and running a Nissan Leaf to that of a Nissan Sentra, a similarly sized ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. On this basis an ICE vehicle is about 40% cheaper to purchase at the moment but as the article explains the savings in running costs make the overall costs comparable.
Against a R300 000 car, the Leaf is still more expensive to own, but not by a big distance. Further, fully a quarter of the cost of the Leaf is in the battery and batteries are falling in price quicker than expected.
When the difference gets down to say 20% there will certainly be an overall saving for the EV buyer, when people see other people saving money by driving an electric car then they will want one too.

The biggest adoption of EV's in South Africa could well be the more rural and remote areas where petrol stations are few and far between. It'll be a lot cheaper to set up solar powered charging points than to build a service station.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Electric Car: Made-In-Ghana Edition

I'm not too sure what the status of this project is now. This video is from two years ago. I'll see what other info I can find out about it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Used Nissan Leaf prices in South Africa

Used Nissan Leaf prices in South Africa
Autotrader is advertising used 2013 Nissan Leaf's from under R210,000 on it's web site.  The 2013 model had a 24kwh battery and a claimed range of 121km quoted on Wikipedia. The current model on sale in South Africa according to the spec sheet on Nissan South Africa's web site still has the 24kwh battery (as opposed to the 30kwh battery avilable now in other markets). Nissan is quoting a new Leaf will have an 195km range. Wikipedia however, on their Nissan Leaf page give a range of 135km for the most recent 24kwh Leaf. 

If we use the ranges on Wikipedia, then the new version of the Leaf is only going to give you 14km more range than a 4 year old model. However the new price is R474,900, well over double the price of many used Leaf's. Taking all this into account a four year old Leaf is a comparative bargain, by far the cheapest method to become part of the Electric Car club in South Africa.

Monday, February 13, 2017

BMW South Africa Unveils Solar Carport to Charge Electric Vehicles

BMW South Africa Unveils Solar Carport to Charge Electric VehiclesStory from May last year written by Katie Pohlman from EcoWatch about BMW South Africa launching a solar charging carport. As I wrote on 9 February, solar charging stations are what's going to help electrify the African transport market and give it's inhabitants new found freedom in mobility.
The BMW i solar carport, produced by SUNWORX, is made of bamboo with stainless steel housing for the solar modules. The solar modules can produce an average of 3.6 kilowatts of power, which will be transferred to the BMW i Wallbox. The Wallbox shows a live readout of how much power is being generated by the carport and charges electric and plug-in hybrid BMW models, according to a BMW South Africa press release..........BMW South Africa plans to distribute public carports to major cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town. Electric and plug-in hybrid owners will be able to use the public stations with ChargeNow, a card and app used for access and payment at the stations.
In the long run I can see this sort of thing being more popular outside the metropolitan areas. The big cities have a fairly reliable source of electricity. I can see solar-ports in more rural areas, maybe offering very cheap or free charging in disadvantaged communities. Charging the school bus for instance so kids don't have to walk miles to the nearest school.

10 reasons to buy an electric car

  1. Saving on fuel costs.
    An electric car will be substantially cheaper per mile than an equivalent internal combustion engined vehicle. Of course depending on the cost of electricity and the cost of petrol or diesel at any one time, the amount of savings might vary, in all cases the EV is cheaper though. It's probably safe to say you'll pay roughly a quarter for electricity than what you would for petrol or diesel
    In a recent blog post, electric car advocacy group Plug-In America determined that the average driver could save around $1,600 per year in fuel .............. costs.it pegged the annual electric car energy cost at just $540, meaning drivers could save $1,595 per year.
  2. Lower maintenance costs
    No oil/filter/spark plugs to change, no metal parts rubbing together to wear out, no expensive scheduled servicing. The only things that will need replacing on any sort of regular basis is washer fluid. Tyres of course will need replacing as they would on a petrol or diesel vehicle. Brakes will also need replacing at some point, they will however last a lot longer than those on a ICE vehicle as much of the braking on an electric car is regenerative braking where the motor turns into a generator and charges the batteries while the vehicle is slowing down.
  3. Lower noise pollution
    This is a benefit of electric cars that many people don't seem to think of. How nice would it be to walk down a busy street and not have to shout to be heard above all the traffic noise. Not only towns and cities will be quieter but also the countryside. Major roads will be virtually silent, allowing people to enjoy the sounds of nature.
  4. More cabin/storage spaceWith the current trend in electric vehicle design, the batteries are on the floor of the vehicle and the motors are between the wheels. This opens up more space in the car for people and luggage. As there's no engine under the bonnet/hood, this can also be used as a storage area in addition to the traditional boot/trunk.
  5. Less air pollution
    It goes without saying that electric vehicles are better for the environment. Not only that, they're also better for everyone else using the street, not having to breath in petrol and especially diesel fumes.
    The Leaf had 51 percent lower emissions over an assumed lifetime of 179,000 miles than a comparable mid-size gasoline car, while the Model S had 53 percent lower emissions than a full-size car.
  6. Better efficiency
    With an internal combustion engine a lot of the energy is lost in heat and exhaust fumes out the tailpipe. With an electric motor almost all the energy is being harnessed in moving the vehicle. Not only that but with regenerative braking, the motor reverses it's roll and charges the batteries while the car is slowing down.
  7. Cleaner
    Not just in an environmental sense, the car itself is cleaner. No greasy engine under the bonnet, no oil or other fluid leaks leaving stains in the driveway.
  8. Driving indoors
    Because their are no exhaust emissions an electric vehicle can be driven indoors. This could mean in the future we could have closed in car parks with either air-conditioning or heating to keep the temperature comfortable. How about indoor motor racing with no worries about the weather ruining the event.
  9. Home charging
    Charge your car at home overnight when the electricity in many places is cheaper. You probably don't even need a fast charger. The Tesla Model S charges at 5 miles per hour from a regular plug socket. That would be 60 miles on a 12 hour charge. More than sufficient for most peoples daily needs. There's really no need to fully charge a long range EV every day.
  10. Ease of driving
    Electric cars mostly don't have a gearbox, there's just an accelerator and brake pedal, most of the braking is done by the motor so a lot of the time you can just drive with one pedal. With other driving aids and the onset of autonomous and semi-autonomous driving, things are only going to get easier and safer for the driver.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Norway Sets New All-Time EV Sales Record, Hits 37.5% Market Share In January

Norway Sets New All-Time EV Sales Record, Hits 37.5% Market Share In January
Admittedly Norway is the other side of the hemisphere to South Africa, I just thought this was a very interesting article from Inside EV's and a sign of what is going to come to the rest of the world.
It’s amazing that Norway is moving towards 40% market share with new record of 37.5% – that means that now more than 1 out of every 3 new vehicles in Norway is sold with a plug!
That's some incredible numbers considering in most countries electric vehicles make up less than 1% of new car sales. It's encouraging though and surely a clear indicator that we are irreversibly moving towards electric vehicles. Norway should be applauded for leading the way, it will just be a matter of time before the rest of the planet follows suit.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and renewable energy | Daily Maverick

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and renewable energy | Daily Maverick

Geoff Davies at the Daily Maverick presents the case for South African government to invest in renewable and clean energy. It appears though that there might be other motives to go for a ridiculously expensive nuclear power station.

It is highly unfortunate that our political leaders are so poorly informed about energy developments – or are they so well informed about the financial benefits to be gained through the procurement of nuclear energy that they support nuclear energy at all costs?
Obviously it would be preferable in so many ways if investment was made in renewable energy, especially solar instead of nuclear. Just three days ago Time ran an article: The Solar Power Industry Keeps Adding Jobs. 

The number of jobs in the U.S. solar industry grew by 25% last year as the energy sector continued its march away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, according to a new report. More than 260,000 people now work in the solar industry, according to the report, published by the non-profit Solar Foundation. The workforce employed in the industry has increased 17-fold since 2010. The figures in the report are consistent with numbers from the Department of Energy. 
It clearly seems that not only will solar be cheaper than nuclear, it is potentially a source of badly needed new jobs. I'm not sure how many new jobs a nuclear power station will create, I'd presume though that any jobs that are created will mostly be in the vicinity of wherever the power station will be situated. With solar power the investment can be spread out across the country. All the solar panels don't have to be in one place. Maybe areas with high unemployment could be targeted as places to build and install solar farms in. That's another thing, presumably much of the nuclear power plant will be manufactured overseas. Factories to build solar panels can easily be built locally. Wouldn't it be better to invest money in local manufacturers and local jobs?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cities go green with charging stations

Cities go green with charging stations 
This article from The Kingsburg Recorder is not directly related to South Africa or Africa. It does however report on the electric vehicle solar charging stations which have recently been installed in Kingsburg and Selma.
“It’s very progressive and cutting edge,” said Moses Stites, general manager of the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency. “Since they’re solar, they don’t work off the grid and they don’t cost a dime for anybody.”
I think this is very relevant to Africa and developing countries everywhere. As I've mentioned a couple of times before in this blog, solar charging points are going to electrify transport in Africa and get the whole continent mobile.

Because solar charging stations work off the grid, it's possible to put them in the most remote parts of the African continent, far away from existing electricity grids and in places that are inaccessible or not practical for petrol tankers to get to. I'm sure that at the moment, on the continent there are many places where it is necessary to take along your own supply of fuel to ensure you make it from one refueling point to the next.

There are places where there are no petrol stations as there is not enough traffic to make it economically viable. A solar charging station will be much cheaper to build or set up than a petrol station, there's no need to dig big holes to place the fuel tanks and no plumbing and minimal wiring. All that is necessary is solar panels, a battery to store any excess electricity that is produced and a charging plug or two. A solar charging station will require a lot less attention and maintenance. It won't require tankers to come to fill up the fuel tanks and there's not much in the way of mechanical equipment that can go wrong. The most that will probably need to be done is the solar panels will need fairly regular cleaning to maximise their efficiency.

Solar charging points will bring cheap motorised transportation to all of the continent. They could charge private vehicles as well as commercial trucks and buses, bringing a whole new level of commerce and prosperity to far flung places. Farmers who still depend on human and animal power will be able to solar charge tractors and other machinery, increasing their productivity which in turn will help alleviate shortage of food and hunger in areas where this is still a problem.

Children who at the moment live too far from a school or are not able to afford transport to get to school, will be able to travel to school and back on a rechargeable bus, negating expensive fuel costs.

Solar power will bring many benefits to Africa, I feel powering mobility will be the biggest one.

Tesla’s electric cars could be cruising down Indian streets this summer, Elon Musk says

Tesla’s electric cars could be cruising down Indian streets this summer, Elon Musk saysTesla are hoping to launch in India by summer this year according to the article in Quartz India. Hopefully they are looking at a similar time frame for South Africa. South Africans are already able to reserve a Model 3 on the Tesla web site but no indication of exactly when Tesla will launch in SA.
When the Tesla Model 3 was unveiled on March 31, 2016, founder and chief executive Musk announced that the carmaker opened up orders to residents of India, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Ireland as well. The offer caught the fancy of India’s startup bigwigs like venture capitalist Mahesh Murthy and Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, who were among over 115,000 Tesla enthusiasts from around the world who all forked over $1,000 to reserve a car to be delivered later.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Surge in electric cars may blindside big oil: report

Surge in electric cars may blindside big oil: report
Wheels 24 article on a study predicting for the growth of electric cars and the decline of oil demand.
Falling costs of electric cars and renewable technology may halt growth in oil demand from as early as 2020, they argued in a report.
 On my imaginary timeline that sounds about right. With long range affordable electric cars coming out now, electric vehicles will certainly start making serious inroads into the internal combustion engine share of the market in the nest three years. However the report then seems to be less optimistic about exponential growth after that.
By 2035, that figure could quintuple, with electric cars accounting for a third of the road transport market, said the report, jointly issued by financial think tank Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Institute, both in London.
Honestly it's not very clear if they mean all vehicles or just commercial delivery and transport vehicles. I think whatever it is, closer to two thirds of vehicles will be electric by 2035. Once the price of electric vehicles drops below that of their petrol or diesel counterparts, then obviously most people will go for the electric option primarily for the saving in fuel and maintenance costs.
"We assume the electric vehicles will be cheaper than oil-burning combustion engine vehicles from 2020 onward,"
According to that I can see electric vehicle sales outstripping petrol and diesel vehicle sales in less than a handful of years. The average lifespan of a vehicle is about 8 years, so by the end of the 2020s electric vehicles should be in the majority. I think in developing countries the change over to electric vehicles will be even more rapid. As the cost of solar power comes down it will be far easier to build solar charging stations in remote places than petrol stations. They'll be no need for tankers to deliver fuel, electricity will be stored from solar panels in batteries, ready to recharge vehicles at any time, day or night. Typically oil companies like BP remain stubbornly pessimistic:
In 2035, electric vehicles will only make up six percent of the global car fleet, it said in its 2017 Energy Outlook.
The oil industry must underestimate the average persons intelligence if they believe people will not only, from 2020, pay more for a internal combustion engined vehicle but then also pay more for the fuel needed to use it.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Electric Car Charging Infrastructure | Tech Report

A video from eNCATechReport from 2015 detailing the status of electric vehicles in South Africa and the agreement between Nissan and BMW on creating a local charging network. They could have actually made the same report yesterday as the three plug-in vehicles available in SA are still the Leaf, i3 and i8. Nothings changed there and the roadsides remain mostly uncluttered by charging points.

The Electric Car Superstar - Podcast

The Electric Car Superstar - Podcast

Based in Rochester, New York, Electrification Nation is a podcast by The Electric Car Superstar. Listen to the latest electric car news and opinions. Featuring exclusive music from FLX Beats. 
Great podcast, three shows a week, the Electric Car Superstar reads a news item regarding electric vehicles and then shares his own comments on the article. There is also the opportunity for listeners to read an article and submit it to be played on the Friday show.

Please check the podcast out and please like The Electric Car Superstar on Facebook and follow @elecarsuperstar on Twitter.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

South Africa's 'Joule' Electric Car, launched October 2008

Since my post on 3 February about the South African Joule electric car, I have done some more research.

The information I have sourced below is from Wikipedia. 
The Joule was built by Optimal Energy, a Cape Town based company. It was designed by Jaguar XJ220 and F-type designer Keith Helfet. It had five seats and was to have a top speed on 135kmh and a range of 150km. It was unveiled to the public on 2nd October 2008 at the Paris Motor Show.

The Joule was designed to achieve a Euro NCAP 4 star safety rating, it complied with the stringent EU standards. It was planned to sell the Joule in South Africa and Europe from 2014 but it never went into commercial production and after only a few examples of the Joule were built before Optimal Energy closed down due to lack of finance in 2012.
This is really quite a tragic story. It would appear that the Joule would have competed with the other low range electric vehicles on the market in 2014 such as the Nissan Leaf. It appears to have the range, speed and safety requirements. It's no mean feat though for a brand new company to produce a new car and get it into mass production and so Optimal Energy and all those concerned should be proud they achieved what they did. As can be seen by Teslas example, lots of money is needed to mass produce vehicles, really lots of money. Even though Tesla have been around and selling reasonably large amounts of vehicles for quite a few years now, there are still regular news articles reporting on their continuing financing plans, primarily it seems to get the Model 3 into production.

Maybe the Joule was too far ahead of the game, in South Africa at least. I think in 2012 the only electric vehicle available in the country was the Nissan Leaf and for most people electric cars were still a novelty. Now five years later and people are ever increasingly becoming aware that electric vehicles are a viable alternative to petrol and diesel cars. Not only are Tesla selling thousands of Model S and X's but most other car manufacturers have at least one electric vehicle for sale. Charging points are now also a common sight in most of Europe and the US and even in South Africa a charging network is very slowly materialising.

If the Joule was announced today in 2017 I wonder if  it would be taken more seriously and if the necessary finance would be more readily available. Questions we will never probably know the answers to. All we can do is both celebrate South African ingenuity in creating such a superb vehicle, and lamenting it's premature demise.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Hydrogen power gets a kickstart

Hydrogen power gets a kickstart
This article from IOL talks about a Hydrogen Council that has been set up by major players in the auto and oil industry. As I see it, hydrogen fuel cells are just an attempt from the traditional car manufacturers to continue selling complex cars that will, like petrol and diesel engines, require regular maintenance and replacement of parts and fluids. It's also a way that oil companies can keep their petrol station networks relevant, dispensing hydrogen in place of petrol and diesel.
The council includes chief executives and chairmen from 13 major players in the energy and transport sectors, including BMW, Toyota, Daimler, Honda, Hyundai, Shell, Total and Kawasaki, among others.
One of the attractions of an all electric car is the simplicity and lack of moving engine parts. Unlike a petrol or diesel vehicle there are very few parts that wear out and no fluids to replace or top up. Chevy are recommending that their new fully electric vehicle, the Bolt, only goes to the dealer for it's first maintenance check after the first 150,000km. A conventional internal combustion engined vehicle would most likely need at least 10 maintenance checks over the same period. In a hybrid or fuel cell car you are back to the same situation as a petrol or diesel engined car. The internal combustion engine part of the hybrid powertrain or the fuel cell are going to need more regular servicing than a pure electric powertrain, Thus, with such a vehicle you are missing out on the low maintenance cost of an all electric vehicle. It appears purely a ploy by car manufacturers to ensure their customers have to bring their cars back for regular, and expensive, servicing. Maintaining the stream of income they get for servicing internal combustion engined vehicles.

Another reason given for the need of hydrogen fuel cell cars, is the lack of range of a pure electric vehicle. With Tesla recently pushing the range on their Model S up to 335 miles and the more affordable Chevy Bolt getting 230 miles on a full charge, electric vehicles are matching what many internal combustion engined cars can achieve on a full tank of fuel. 
In Europe, where hydrogen is becoming more readily available, refuelling stations cost three times as much to build as normal petrol stations.
The oil companies are wanting fuel cells because it means they can install hydrogen pumps in their existing service stations, they'll also no doubt produce the hydrogen and like with petrol and diesel, they'll control the whole supply chain once again. In contrast a pure electric car doesn't need a service station or a pump, you just plug it into the electricity. Even if you disregard the dedicated charging points, rapidly sprouting up in many countries, you can literally charge an electric vehicle anywhere. You just need a plug socket.

A fuel cell and the tank to store the hydrogen is also going to take up more space in the vehicle. Another benefit with many new electric cars is the way they package the batteries on the floor and the motors between the wheels, leaving plenty of boot/trunk space as well as storage space under the bonnet or frunk as it's now being termed. With a fuel cell vehicle you now have another power unit to put somewhere as well as the tank to store the hydrogen. That space will come from the cabin and luggage space. Another worry is the explosive nature of hydrogen, especially when stored under very high pressure.

In an African context, hydrogen fuel cells are even more nonsensical. I can see cheap solar charging stations, that can charge an electric vehicle, popping up in even the most remote parts of the continent. Places where it would be impractical and uneconomical to put fuel cell pumps.

Fuel cell technology in a car is just creating a problem where one doesn't exist. It's unnecessarily making a vehicle more complicated than it needs to be without offering any obvious benefits. Fortunately the ever rapid advance in electric vehicle and battery technology and the consumers desire to choose the simplest and most practical option, will mean hydrogen fuel call cars will be remembered in the same way we remember Betamax.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The South African Electric Car

I wonder what happened to the Joule? I have vague memories of hearing about it years ago. Unfortunately I don't recall hearing anything in recent years or seeing it mentioned in any local electric vehicle related news articles.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

SA's best-selling sports cars in January

SA's best-selling sports cars in January
Wheels 24 reports that six BMW i8s were sold in South Africa in January. This is quite impressive for a car that costs R1,750,000. It just proves that if the local manufacturers give us the option of their electric vehicles they sell overseas, they will sell.
BMW's electric sports car, the i8, found six new owners, followed by the Nissan GT-R (five owners) in fifth.