Friday, March 31, 2017

That dream of mine could become a reality

That dream of mine could become a reality
Wesley Diphoko writes for IOL about his hopes for an African electric car and a synopsis of the attempts so far in producing one.
I have a dream that one day I will be “driven” by an African car, designed, manufactured and owned by an African. Elon Musk almost made this dream a reality with the Tesla car. 
Read the rest of the article here.

VW to launch ride hailing in Rwanda as part of Africa expansion

VW to launch ride hailing in Rwanda as part of Africa expansion
Reuters article from December I sort of missed, well I remember seeing it but for some reason I didn't pay much attention. Volkswagen are planning a ride hailing service similar to Uber in Rwanda using electric vehicles.
Volkswagen, which is developing electric vehicles and new services as it tries to put its diesel emissions scandal behind it, said on Thursday it had signed a memorandum of understanding in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. Volkswagen expanded into ride-hailing in May, when it invested $300 million in Gett, a firm which seeks to outmanoeuvre Uber by refusing to apply "surge" pricing at peak traffic times. The German company also said it would look at using electric versions of the VW Golf in the Rwandan mobility services business.
Volkswagen are planning to also set up a production facility in Rwanda, there is no mention of electric car production for non-ride hailing purposes. It would stand to reason though if they're going to be making electric cars there then they'll make them available to everyone.
Volkswagen said it had also agreed to set up a vehicle production facility in Rwanda, deepening its local manufacturing operation in Africa where it expects vehicle sales to grow by 40 percent within the next five years. Volkswagen has been producing cars in Africa since 1951, when it started making the VW Beetle in South Africa.
Not only are VW going to be producing vehicles in Rwanda, they've also opened an assembly plant in Kenya.
VW this week said it would start making the Polo Vivo in Thika, re-opening a car assembly plant in Kenya after a four-decade hiatus. The German carmaker assembled cars in Kenya in the 1960s and 1970s. The VW assembly plant will begin with the Vivo model and expand to a range of vehicles, with the first car expected to be produced before the end of the year, officials said. 
No mention of electric vehicle production here either but as it says in the first quoted paragraph, VW are investing large amounts in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, largely brought about as penance for the Dieselgate scandal. Hopefully this enthusiasm for battery power will overflow from the US and European markets into the African continent. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Most want 400km from an electric car

Most want 400km from an electric car
Almost two weeks ago I wrote about a study by Deloitte about how South Africans feel about advanced technology in vehicles. The report I linked to stated that 55% of consumers questioned wanted a 400km plus range in an electric car. I concluded from that, despite the lack of information to back my hypothesis up, that 45% of motorists would be satisfied with shorter range electric vehicles.

Today I found an article on the same study at IOL which revealed a few more statistics from the study.
A Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study found that 54 percent of consumers wanted a minimum distance of 400km from a fully charged vehicle, 24 percent chose 240km to 320km, and 22 percent 80km to 160km.
This indicates that almost a quarter of respondents to the survey would be content with the range offered by the two electric vehicles currently available in South Africa, the Nissan Leaf with a maximum range of 135km and the BMW i3 that can go 160km on a single charge. That's pretty significant. About the same amount of those questioned would be happy with 240km to 320km, electric vehicles with this range should be here in the next year or so. The next generation Nissan Leaf reportedly will have over a 300km range and likewise the Tesla Model 3 which will arrive at some point after it's worldwide release later this year.

Other new details in this article refer to autonomous driving.
The study found that 47 percent of South African consumers wanted limited self-driving technology, while only 39 percent were interested in full self-driving vehicles.
Personally I think it's going to be longer than many people are predicting before there are truly fully autonomous vehicles on the roads. Not only has the technology have to be 100% safe and reliable, traffic regulations and insurance policies will also have to change to incorporate self driving vehicles. I think in South Africa and indeed many developing countries the challenges for autonomous vehicles will be even greater with unpaved roads, pot holes and general lack of obedience when it comes to the rules of the road being some of the obstacles to overcome.

I'm all for any autonomous features that will help make the roads a safer place and I think we will see more and more autonomy added gradually, eventually one day the autonomy will take over all the driving responsibilities.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Where should Tesla place their Superchargers in South Africa?

When Tesla launches the Model 3 in South Africa, probably sometime in the next year or two, they are
undoubtedly going to set up a network of their Supercharger fast charging stations. In every other market they've entered they have provided the charging infrastructure along with the battery powered vehicles. Presumably there will be Superchargers in the big cities of South Africa and the suburban sprawl that surrounds them. Where will they be positioned though on the freeways linking the major metropolitan areas? I thought it would be a nice idea to try and predict the Supercharger positioning on the major routes.

Bear in mind the Model 3 which is the first Tesla model we will see in South Africa, will have a range of at least 210 miles which is about 335km. Recent reports though indicate the range may be even more than this, presumably exceeding the 380km battery range of it's rival the Chevy Bolt. As it currently takes a Tesla Model S 40 minutes to charge to 80% full and another 35 minutes for the final 20%, it makes sense that the Superchargers should be within 80% of the maximum range which is 268km, so not to make stops longer than 40 minutes. 40 minutes seems like the perfect amount of time to stretch ones legs a bit, get something to drink and eat and make oneself comfortable for the next leg of the journey. For this exercise I will make sure no too charging stations are further apart than 268km so no stop should take longer than 40 minutes.
  1. Johannesburg to Cape Town (1398km)
    A journey that many people split into two days with a stop off for the night on the way. If you were wanting to do it in one day in an electric car then you'd really need Tesla's latest Model S with 500km plus battery range. The route is almost entirely along the N1 freeway. Here are where I think the Superchargers could go.

    1. Kroonstad (207km from Johannesburg)Roughly half way between Johannesburg and Bloemfontein makes it an obvious choice.
    2. Bloemfontein (212km from Kroonstad)The capital city of the Free State and the sixth largest city in South Africa
    3. Colesburg (235km from Bloemfontein)Colesberg is a town with 17,354 inhabitants in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, located on the main N1 road from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
    4. Richmond (146km from Colesburg)Bit of a shorter leg as the next major town is Beaufort West and that would possibly be too far in one go from Colesburg. Anyway, maybe only a 20 minute charge to 50% would be necessary while sipping on a coffee at this point.
    5. Beaufort West (183km from Richmond)Beaufort West is a town in the Western Cape province in South Africa. It is the largest town in the arid Great Karoo region, and is known as the "Capital of the Karoo"
    6. Laingsburg (199km from Beaufort West and 264km from Cape Town)The last charging point before Cape Town. 

    So six stops of 40 minutes would add about four hours onto what would be almost a fourteen hour drive. If you split the journey over two days then it would be three stops per day, what you'd probably do in any ICE vehicle anyway. You'll need to stop to stretch your legs and refreshments whatever energy source is propelling your trip, so why not charge at the same time.
  2. Durban to Johannesburg (568km)Probably one of the busiest long distance routes in South Africa. Half distance is Harrismith which is a bit further than 268km from both cities, so we'll have to make two stops on our way.
    1. Van Reenen (269km from Durban)Okay 1km over our limit. However a good place to recharge if you're going to Johannesburg or to Bloemfontein from Durban.
    2. Heidelberg (253km from Van Reenen and 52km from Johannesburg)Quite close to Johannesburg for the final recharge. It will allow you to carry on to Pretoria or any of the outlying suburbs without any range anxiety though.

    Most people will stop for a meal break on their way between these two cities in any event. The last stop at Heidelberg can just be a quick 20 minute charge to get into Johannesburg. You'd probably need to stop for petrol there anyway.
  3. Durban to Bloemfontein (657km)The route from Durban to Bloemfontein and beyond to Cape Town as per route 1.

    1. Van Reenen (269km from Durban)As per the Durban to Johannesburg route.
    2. Senekal (193km from Van Reenen and 178km from Bloemfontein)Senekal is a town situated on the banks of the Sand River in the eastern part of the Free State province of South Africa. It was named after Commandant FP Senekal.

    Again a two stop journey for a Model 3, probably a two stop journey for most drivers.
  4. Bloemfontein to Port Elizabeth (654km)A similar length route to that between Durban and Bloemfontein
    1. Colesburg (235km from Bloemfontein)As per route 1 before we leave the N1.
    2. Cradock (200km from Colesburg and 244km from Port Elizabeth)Cradock is a town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, in the upper valley of the Great Fish River, 250 kilometres by road northeast of Port Elizabeth.

    Two forty minute breaks to refresh during a seven hour journey, again nothing out of the ordinary for any motorist.
  5. Johannesburg to Nelspruit (341km)Mbombela, formerly Nelspruit, is the capital of South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province. It’s a gateway to Kruger National Park, home to elephants, zebras, rhinos and other wildlife.
    1. Middelburg (163km from Johannesburg and 188km from Nelspruit)Perfect half way point for motorists from Gautang on their way to Mpumulanga.
Obviously this still leaves plenty of gaps but for a start would cover some of the more popular motoring routes in the country. See the map below for my predicted positioning of the first South African Tesla Supercharger stations.
Future Tesla Supercharger stations in South Africa?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Nissan LEAF to showcase unique energy transfer capability tailored for South Africa

Nissan LEAF to showcase unique energy transfer capability tailored for South AfricaAutomotive World publish what I presume is a press release from Nissan.
Nissan, in partnership with the uYilo e-Mobility program in South Africa, is to demonstrate its revolutionary technology that allows power stored in electric vehicles to be used in a range of home and commercial applications. The world’s best-selling electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF – the only commercial electric vehicle used for bi-directional energy transfer capability – is being used in a uYilo field test program to demonstrate and develop Nissan’s award-winning charger technology in South Africa.
This technology I can really see having lots of applications in South Africa. Plugging the car into your home, you'd be able to draw on the energy stored in the vehicles battery. This power can be either used to help power things in your home or also fed back into the national power grid. This could really help with the peak electricity demand in the early evenings.
The technology has been further developed to deliver V2G, allowing energy in the battery to be traded with municipal and energy utilities to increase capacity, while also providing the opportunity to stabilize the grid during peak electricity usage. 
If motorists plugged their cars in when they got home in the evening they would utilise whatever power they have in their battery to help power appliances in their home, that would help relieve the strain on the electricity network at peak demand time. Then later on when electricity demand is less the flow could be reversed and the vehicle can charge overnight.

This is another potential benefit of electric vehicles. The article also mentions the biggest benefit to the motorist.
A 2015 study, for example, found that running an all-electric LEAF for a year costs
R18, 000 less than a petrol car, based on the average South African annual mileage of 30,000 kilometers.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Living with a Leaf

Living with a Leaf
Great piece on Linkedin from one of South Africa's leading electric car advocates Carel SnymanCarel started driving the all-electric Nissan Leaf in October 2014 and in this article he reports back on his experience during the first 28 months.

Carel explains that he uses his Leaf for his daily 28km commute and all his business trips. He drives roughly 1,500km per month. It's been mentioned before on this blog that the cost of charging an electric vehicle is roughly a fifth of what it'd cost to go the same distance in an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. Carel has managed even better returns over the 42,000km in his Leaf.

Energy (electricity) cost per month is R19,35 for every 100km (compared to R117 for every 100km for a similar petrol car[1]) or R290 per month (compared to R1755 per month for petrol). 

He also compares the overall cost including purchase price between his Leaf and an equivalent sized ICE vehicle. Despite costing maybe R100,000 more to purchase, the savings in fuel has bought the price per km down to almost the same as an ICE vehicle. This is after only two years and four months. After five years the electric Leaf will have saved the owner R115,000. That figure as far as I see doesn't take into account the saving on maintenance and service costs. Carel takes his Leaf for a free Nissan check up every 15,000km and so far (after 42,000km) there have been no costs in maintenance. As the vehicle uses regenerative braking there is virtually no wear on the brakes.

Interestingly he finds that 90-100km is the most economical cruising speed on the freeway in the Leaf. That is the same speed I stay at on my commute to work, I find my Kia Rio 1.2 uses considerably less fuel at that pace than if I was doing 120km.

When motorists realise just how much they can save in fuel costs with an electric vehicle is when I believe demand and sales will really take off. When your neighbour or work colleague tells you he's paying R400 a month on electricity to charge his vehicle while you're spending R2,000 on petrol every month, you're going to take notice. As the price of electric cars decreases and they get down to around the same price as comparative ICE vehicles, then the potential saving in fuel costs will be even more tempting for the buyer. Add to that not having to fork out for an expensive service every 15,000km or so and the savings from purchasing an electric car appear even more appetising.

Like I have mentioned in this blog before, Carel also stresses the need for charging infrastructure.
EV users should charge whenever they park at a destination – so all destinations (places of work, shopping, services, meetings and home should have a charge point to top-up while the car is parked
This is exactly what is needed. Unlike ICE vehicles that you have to fill up with fuel at a petrol station, an electric car can charge anywhere there's electricity. You'll charge wherever you park and while you're at work or doing shopping or eating in a restaurant your electric car will be topping up it's battery. Business owners should see the offering of charge points for their customers as a way of attracting EV owners to use their establishment, similar to the way they offer wifi to customers at the moment.

Carel also explains how the use of solar energy can provide us with a truly clean, renewable and cheap energy source for our transport system. Please go and read the full article here.

Electric Car Superstar Podcast Episode 175 - SA must embrace electric vehicles now or fall behind

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tesla Model 3: Autopilot is most popular option among South African reservation holders

Thanks to this article at Electrek for leading me to this graphic  from showing the most desired options among Tesla Model 3 reservation holders worldwide. There's quite some difference from country to country in what options are most popular.

Interestingly the most popular option among South African reservation holders is Autopilot. This correlates with the Deloitte survey I wrote about on Sunday. That survey found that the desire for self driving vehicles was greater among South African consumers than it was in the UK and Germany.

There is no indication as far as I can tell of how many South Africans have put down their $1,000 deposit so far to reserve a Tesla Model 3 or when exactly we can expect it to be available here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Motorburn | You can now rent BMW i3 from Europcar in Cape Town

Motorburn | You can now rent BMW i3 from Europcar in Cape Town
You can now rent BMW i3 from Europcar in Cape Town. Article from 19th December 2016 written by Hadlee Simons.
“We have introduced the fully-electric, 0% emissions BMW i3 to our fleet, with sustainability in mind and looking at future trends in mobility. The BMW i3 is a unique, cost effective and innovative vehicle option for our customers,” said Jody Naidoo, Divisional Fleet Procurement Executive for Europcar, in a BMW SA press statement. 
This is a great idea. Not only allowing visitors to enjoy driving about Cape Town in a clean and quiet manner, it's also possibly giving people their first taste of electromobility. It's a fairly inexpensive method to try out an electric car for a day or two, to see perhaps if it fits your motoring needs.

I'm thinking right now if I needed to rent a car and there was an electric option, I would take it. As long as it wasn't priced ridiculously. It would allow me to experience an electric car which otherwise is unlikely to happen until I'm ready to replace my present ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle, which is probably still several years off.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Celebrating 50,000kM in our all electric car!

Celebrating 50,000kM in our all electric car! Capetonian Mark Becker takes us for a ride in his Nissan Leaf.

Nissan Leaf spotted in Hillcrest

Probably the same vehicle I spotted two or three weeks back on the freeway. It was parked outside my workplace. I would have liked to speak to the driver but they were just pulling away as I noticed it, hence the rather rushed picture.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Future of Automotive Technologies

Future of Automotive Technologies
Here is the report by Deloitte I wrote about in an earlier today via a Business Tech article. It gives a list of the key findings of the study.
That doesn't surprise me. South Africans seem very susceptible to trends in technology.When a new technology comes out it seems to replace the old in a very short space of time. Vinyl records didn't last long in the shops once CD's became popular and record shops have almost completely disappeared (apart from those who have greatly diversified) entirely now that people carry around MP3's on one device or another. The same thing happened with digital cameras replacing film cameras on the shelves and camera phones more or less spelling the end for most camera shops.
Who wants to drive when you could be playing dominoes instead?
This maybe is an indication of how South Africans maybe expect their vehicle to be an appliance to serve a need rather than something they'd own for the driving experience. In UK and Germany there is an efficient and reliable public transport system so a car is far from a necessity. In South Africa, public transport is not as reliable and encompassing as much of Europe and owning your own car is certainly a big benefit.
As per the previous point. If a vehicle is sought more as a necessity than for the thrill of driving, then it makes sense that ease of use would rank highly in importance. The more automated a vehicle is the easier it will be to use.
Again no great surprises. If you were to ask South Africans what make their camera is then I'd expect most to say Apple or Samsung. Traditional camera manufacturers are left chasing niche markets while cellphones take the vast majority of photos these days.
I'm actually surprised this figure is so high. Do 20% of South Africans really use ride sharing services every week? An interesting indication of the direction personal transport is going in the country.
From personal experience I know of someone who has sold his car because it is cheaper for him to use Uber to get to and from work than it was for him to pay the insurance premiums on his car. I'm sure this is true for lots of people who are only doing short journeys in their vehicle.
 I don't really see how this could be different than sharing data with any other entity, perhaps the only real difference is the car manufacturer will most likely have details of your vehicles exact location at all times.
See the post I made earlier today in response to these two concerns. There is also an infographic illustrating the survey results, you can download.

Why South Africa is not ready for electric cars

Why South Africa is not ready for electric cars
Business Tech reports on a study by financial services firm, Deloitte, on how South Africans feel about advanced in-vehicle technology and electric cars.
According to the South Africans surveyed, 55% of motorists are willing to wait a maximum of only 1 hour to fully charge an all-battery powered electric vehicle. In comparison, it currently takes 3-4 hours to fully charge an electric vehicle at super-charging stations and 6-8 hours at home.
Lets look at this a bit closer. 55% of motorists are willing to wait a maximum of one hour to charge their vehicle. That's understandable, people who do a lot of high mileage might not have the time to wait for long charges. At present there are two electric cars on sale in South Africa, the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 will both take 4-5 hours to fully charge. With ranges of far less than 200km, they're not the type of vehicle suitable for high daily mileage anyway.

Fast charging and longer ranges are on the way though. When Tesla launch the Model 3 in South Africa, they are certain to also set up a network of their Supercharger charging points as they have done in every other country they sell their battery powered vehicles in. Tesla's Supercharger stations can charge to 100% in 75 minutes or 50% in 20 minutes.

The Model 3 range will be at least 320km which is just over half the distance  from Durban to Johannesburg. If you were driving that route you'd stop and charge at about half distance and while you're charging grab something to eat and drink, just like you would if you were doing the same journey in an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle.

The other solution for motorists who want an electric car but need a longer range than what an electric car can offer right now, is a plug-in hybrid. These have both a battery powered electric motor and a petrol engine. Typically you will plug it in overnight and when you start it, it will first use the battery power to drive the electric motor. Once the batteries are exhausted the petrol engine will take over. The Chevy Volt is one of the most popular plug-in hybrids, unfortunately it is not available in South Africa yet. It has an electric range of 85km and a combined range using both propulsion methods of 680km. This offers the best of both worlds, cheap electric mobility for commuting and short trips and long ICE range for cross country journeys.

The survey also indicates that 45% of motorists in the country would be satisfied with the current longer electric vehicle charging times. The current electric cars on sale in South Africa are the Nissan Leaf with a maximum range of 135km and the BMW i3 which can get you 160km on a single charge. In an earlier article I concluded that for my motoring needs these ranges would be sufficient. These ranges would probably cover the majority of motorists daily mileage. If you're not going to exceed these distances in the day then you can just let your vehicle charge overnight and it will be ready to go in the morning.
In addition more than half want a minimum distance of more than 400 kilometers from a fully charged electric vehicle while studies show that the majority of electric vehicles currently on the market can only handle between 120 km – 320 km on a single charge. 
Again it's saying more than half so we can seduce that almost half would be happy with current ranges. Electric cars are coming out with close to or greater than 400km ranges. The Chevy Bolt EV has an all-battery range of 383km and the Tesla Model S can go between 390-539km depending on the model variant. I don't know if and when South Africa will get these models but as I mentioned above, we will be getting the Tesla Model 3 at some point with it's 320km+ range.

Most importantly the technology is improving, batteries are becoming cheaper, range is getting longer and charging times are getting shorter. Ask the same questions in a year or twos time and their will inevitably be a swing in favour of electromobility.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cape Town to use electric bicycles to fight crime

The City of Cape Town appears to be leading the way when it comes to electromobility in South Africa. Not only are they adding electric busses to their MyCiti fleet, they are also using electric bikes to fight crime around Table Mountain and other parts of the city, reports My Broadband

The electric bikes can reach up to 70kmh and have a range of up to 120km, the battery takes 80 minutes to fully recharge.
Robbie Robberts, Director of Law Enforcement in the City of Cape Town, told Cape Talk that the area around Table Mountain is suffering from criminal activities. It is a massive area to patrol, and to make it easier the City of Cape Town is using e-bikes to assist law enforcement. “The bicycles are a mixture between a motorcycle and a normal bicycle,” said Robberts. He said it is a cost-effective way for the city to increase its patrolling capabilities, and to fight crime around Cape Town.
This sounds like a great idea. Electric bikes are smaller, lighter and cheaper to run than motorcycles. If they're using them off-road, which it appears like they are, then it should be quite easy to pick it up and lift it over obstacles. Also because it's electric it will be almost silent so their is less chance it will alert the crooks before the police get close enough to apprehend them. Police can also use them to patrol crowded areas without assaulting pedestrians with noise and air pollution.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

1974 Enfield 8000 electric motor car The first electrically self-powered car in South Africa

The Enfield 8000 was a small two seat electric car car manufactured by Enfield Automotive on the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom between 1973-1977. The Enfield 8000 had a 6kw electric motor powered by lead acid batteries for a top speed of 77kmh and a maximum range of 64km. It also had a form of regenerative braking.

An example of the Enfield 8000 was brought to South Africa by Haggie Rand in 1974 to promote and expand a chloride battery project. In 1992 it came into the ownership of Mr B. Pollock to
promote the environmental aspect of the electric car. Eskom acquired it in 1994 to start The Electric Vehicle Project. They then donated it to the James Hall Museum of Transport in Johannesburg where it sits on display to this day.

I remember back in the early 1990's reading in a newspaper or seeing something on television about Eskom acquiring an electric car. My memory convinced me it was a Honda Civic but I searched a while back for an electric Honda Civic from the 90's without any luck. Now finally I realise it was quite obviously the Enfield 8000 I remember hearing about. An example of how malleable the human memory can be.

2Life EV & NEV Manufacturers

2Life EV & NEV Manufacturers
2Life Shuttles are a Pretoria firm headed by Adriaan Kruger who supply NEV's (neighbourhood electric vehicles). Their vehicles range from a 2 seat runaround to a 14 seat bus. On their web site they explain how their vehicles fit in to the transport system.
We bring you electric vehicles that are the middle of the road between your traditional golf cart on the one side and your luxury sedan car on the other side. They are often just referred to as Electric Vehicles EV or more commonly nowadays as Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles or NEV. Our Electric cars and Electric shuttles are more advanced in design with a wider wheel base and therefore more stable and thus much safer to drive. As a means of transport on the short haul or for transporting staff and or clients the risk for injury and thus possible liability claims are nullified.
They have a product page with details of the various vehicles they offer.  They are also producing off-road versions of their electric vehicles with one of the intended markets being for game viewing. I reported earlier this month on how Sharmwari Private Game Reserve and Chobe national park in Botswana are already using electric vehicles for game viewing. The 2Life web site expound the benefits of using electric vehicles for this purpose.

We have therefore developed an off road version of our standard 4 seat model electric car. Other models will follow suit when the demand is there. We will also be looking at the 4 X 4 option in the near future for those that have a preference and taste for that. These Electric cars however are the ideal vehicles for game viewing at lodges as they are quiet and non obtrusive, apart from being eco friendly vehicles.It is also ideal for patrols on the perimeter of security estates.

2Life can be contacted at +27 (0)123615924 or via the form on their contact page.

Opel Astra 1.4T Enjoy claims Wesbank South African Car Of The Year title

Opel Astra 1.4T Enjoy claims Wesbank South African Car Of The Year title
Media Update's Adam Wakefield was at Kyalami for Wesbank South African Car of the Year Awards. Though there was no mention of any EV's (electric vehicles) or even hybrids being in contention for the award, WesBank CEO Chris de Kock had a few positive things to say about EV's.
De Kock noted that the high pace of change and innovation within the motoring industry is what made it exciting. The industry was faced with new challenges this century, not least the amount of energy being wasted by internal combustion engines. De Kock said alternative energy vehicles are "destined to solve this problem", with the "business case for electric cars growing by the day". "South Africa will not be left behind when this new electric technology takes over from the combustion engine."
Wesbank not only have been active in the auto industry for their vehicle loans but they've been a long time sponsor of local motorsport and as in this case supporting the South African car of the year awards. It's pleasing to know that such an important player in the automotive industry recognises the importance and inevitable increased popularity of electric vehicles.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Electric delivery van

One of the most obvious applications, in my opinion, for an electric vehicle is for courier and delivery services. As the cost of petrol or diesel no doubt accounts for a big portion of the costs for such companies, electric vehicles would generate huge savings.

Even with the raise in electricity tariffs in recent years in South Africa, it's still up to 80% cheaper to run an electric powered rather than an ICE (internal combustion engine) powered vehicle.

I asked a courier driver today, who does daily deliveries in and around Durban, what the usual daily mileage for the vans in his company is? He said between 250-350km. That is well beyond the capabilities of any electric van being produced now. The Nissan e-NV200 (which isn't even available in South Africa) has a range of about 170km. Not really enough for the large spread out cities we have in this country.

That range of 250-350km is though something well within the reach of some current electric vehicles. All Tesla vehicles and the Chevy Bolt have a range of greater than 350km. Many more electric vehicles, with 350km plus range, from other manufacturers are due to become avalable in the not too distant future. It shouldn't be a huge technical challenge to put a power train, capable of the same sort of 350km plus range, in a van. Seeing as there would be more space in a van, it should be quite easy to fit in a bigger battery for even greater range. 

As almost all deliveries happen during regular working hours the vans would have the whole night to steadily charge without any need for any fast chargers. The driver just needs to plug his vehicle in after he gets back to the depot after his last delivery in the evening and then in the morning his van will be fully charged and ready for him. 

The savings in fuel cost could actually be even greater for vehicles that spend a lot of time on busy city streets in stop-start traffic, like many delivery vans. Unlike an ICE vehicle that continues to burn fuel even while it's at a standstill, an electric vehicle doesn't draw any current from it's battery while it's stuck in a traffic jam or waiting at the traffic lights. For a commercial vehicle that is always on the road, that company would be saving money by using an electric vehicle every minute of every day.

The other benefits of course are cheaper and less frequent maintenance as well as zero emissions and much less noise to make the immediate environment more pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Electric Car Superstar Podcast Episode 172 - Why Does Honda's Electric Car Have Just 80 Miles of Range?

Electric Car Superstar Podcast Episode 172 - Why Does Honda's Electric Car Have Just 80 Miles of Range?
Listen to myself narrate a news story on the Honda Clarity EV for the Electric Car Superstar and hear his opinion on this forthcoming electric vehicle.

Great Wall Motor to invest $8.6bn in green tech in decade: CEO

Great Wall Motor to invest $8.6bn in green tech in decade: CEO
The company probably better known in South Africa by it's acronym GWM is bolstering research and development in electric, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles. The Chinese car manufacturer is also planning on expanding it's operations in South Africa. This is according to an interview with Great Wall Motor CEO Wang Fengying at Nikkei Asian Review.


Rnews reports on Mercedes Benz South Africa's revenue figures for 2016. Of interest to us are two paragraphs.
Emission-free automobiles are the future: Mercedes-Benz Cars is consolidating all activities in connection with electric mobility under the new product brand EQ and the Concept EQ gives a clear outlook onto a completely new generation of vehicles. Globally Mercedes-Benz Cars plans to launch more than ten electric vehicles by 2025: in all segments from smart to large SUVs. Parent company Daimler expects that until 2025 the proportion of electric vehicles in total unit sales of Mercedes-Benz will be between 15 and 25 percent. This is dependent on the development of infrastructure and client preferences.
If Mercedes Benz prediction of their own sales of electric vehicles by 2025 is going to be relected in the overall market than this is a far more realistic and optimistic outlook for electric mobility than the recent BP forecast that predicted by 2035 electric vehicles will account for 6% of the global fleet.
"Our hybrid offering of the Mercedes-Benz C 350 e and the S 500 e is the current e-mobility solution for our local customers due to the long-distances travelled in southern Africa. With the extension of the mileage of electric models, from 200 km - 500 km we will actively look at bringing electric vehicles to South Africa in the future. We are on board with this project, and will work with the industry to find solutions to provide charging infrastructure and battery exchange programmes," concludes Seidler.
Good news that Mercedes are actively looking at bringing electric vehicles into South Africa. With Germany wanting to ban petrol and diesel powered vehicles from her roads in the not too distant future, Mercedes will be forced to go electric to stay relevant in their home country. Obviously the range of vehicles available in South Africa and elsewhere will be a reflection of what they will be producing for their home market.

It's also reassuring to see them mention ranges of 500kms. Tesla has already achieved this with the latest incarnation of the Model S and this should be the minimum requirement for anyone bring out a luxury electric vehicle from now on.

Monday, March 13, 2017

re: Big Boss prepares local electric car

On Saturday I reported on the Big Boss electric car. I found an article from 2015 on ITweb about it. Founder of Big Boss Richie Samraj said he intended to import the first 1,000 electric cars, that would sell for R250,000-R300,000 from China before setting up production of the vehicle here in South Africa.

As I couldn't find too much other info on this project, I left a message in Mr Samraj's Google+ page asking
"Is this (Big Boss Electric Car) still going to happen? I hope so."
He replied.
"Hi yes it going to happen just waiting for funding.
Or if you know of someone to help on the funding I will really appreciate
it .all home is done .90% of the work has been taken .just 10% which Is

Thank you
Richie Samraj
Contact. + 27 825184637"
It's good to see the project is on. I hope he is successful finding the necessary funding. An electric car at that price would make electric mobility accessible to many more South Africans. It's literally half the price of the Nissan Leaf or BMW i3, the only two fully electric cars presently available here in South Africa.

As yet I'm not sure of any of the vehicles specifications. I have sent a request for some more info, hopefully we can find out a bit more about the Big Boss electric car.

Clean energy car debate – Petrol vs Electric

Clean energy car debate – Petrol vs Electric
Article on whether electric or petrol is the cleanest energy source for vehicles from My Broadband. They quote Carel Snyman from the South African National Energy Institute.
Speaking on CapeTalk, Snyman said that thanks to the high efficiency of electric vehicles, they only use a fraction of the energy of petrol vehicles. This means electric vehicles are cleaner, and therefore better for the environment, than petrol vehicles – even if electricity from coal power stations is used.
This makes a lot of sense. Electric motors are over 90% efficient while an internal combustion engine is only about 30-45% efficient. Even if the electricity to charge the vehicles battery is being generated by a coal powered generator, in theory it should only be releasing into the atmosphere between a third to half the Co2 that a petrol engine would pump into the air.

I think though, maybe more importantly, is that even if an electric car is being charged from coal fired power stations right now, it is possible for it to get more environmentally friendly. As the energy grid gets greener, with the switch over to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, then electric cars are going to be responsible for less and less emissions. An internal combustion engine will still be pumping out the same amount of carbon dioxide after the whole energy grid has switched to renewable energy sources.

Another thing is where the emissions are coming from. Most coal power plants are usually some distance from urban areas. The emissions from these power plants isn't getting blown directly in somebodies face like the exhaust from a truck or bus. How wonderful would it be to walk down a busy city street without having to breath in diesel and petrol fumes and how much better for our health will it be? Rather get the emissions as far away from where people are living and working as possible.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Big Boss prepares local electric car

Big Boss prepares local electric car
ITWeb report from August 2015 on a South African company Big Boss, which was supposedly due to unveil an electric car for sale in South Africa within six months of the article.
The manufacturing of the "Big Boss" car will initially be in China and the company envisages bringing production to SA after selling the first 1 000 units. Rishiden Samraj, founder of Big Boss, said the car will retail for between R250 000 and R300 000.
Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much more information available about the Big Boss car. I found Richie Samraj's Google+ page and left a message querying if the Big Boss was still going to happen.

I'm presuming it's a Chinese design that is maybe already being made in China and if initial sales of the first 1000 cars were positive, then they would have set up an assembly plant in South Africa.

I tried doing a Google image search for this image, to see if it showed up under another manufacturers name. I couldn't find a match though.

Hopefully we will still see the Big Boss in South Africa, at R250,000 it would be half the price of a Nissan Leaf and seemingly very good value. The article doesn't mention any sort of specifications though. I wonder if we will ever get to see it on South African roads?

Is It A Good Fit? Elon Musk’s New Tesla Electric Car Headed To South Africa

Is It A Good Fit? Elon Musk’s New Tesla Electric Car Headed To South Africa.
Article written by Dana Sanchez in April last year for AFK Insider reported on the announcement that the Tesla Model 3 was to be made available in South Africa sometime after it's release which is scheduled for later this year. They make a comment about the Model 3's cost.
With a starting price of $35,000, the Model 3 is Tesla’s most affordable electric car to date by U.S. standards. That doesn’t make it affordable or even sensible for South Africa, where it’s considered a luxury car, ITWeb reported.
I disagree. $35,000 should equate to roughly R500,000, maybe a bit more when you take into account import taxes etc. That would put it squarely in BMW 3 series price territory, the sort of ICE (internal combustion engine) car it's designed to contend with. Compared to other electric cars available in South Africa right now, the Nissan Leaf is also about R500,000 with a 135km range compared to the Tesla Model 3's 346km predicted range. The BMW i3 is closer to R600,000, which might be closer to the price of the Model 3 when it gets here. The i3 only has a range of 160kms, less than half of the Model 3.

To me the Tesla Model 3 looks like pretty good value in these comparisons. Also take into account that for someone driving 30,000km a year you'd likely be saving up to R1,500 a month in fuel costs. Now for a businessman on the road, who is not regularly doing over 300km a day, that would make it a great deal more affordable to run than similarly priced cars like the BMW 3 series and Mercedes C class. Add to that,there's virtually no maintenance to be done compared to an ICE vehicle, and the saving just gets bigger.
Generally, electric cars are not a good fit for South Africa, where electricity costs are going up and infrastructure is lacking for charging electric cars, according to ITWeb.
Maybe it's time to pay less attention to what ITWeb says about electric cars. Both the BMW i3 road test from, I linked to and the story I covered yeaterday about Blue Rock Village as well as other sources, give the comparison electricity cost for powering an EV (electric vehicle) as about 20% of the cost to fuel an equivalent ICE vehicle to cover the same distance.

As far as charging infrastructure goes, I've already said that we need public charging points now. The amount of charging stations has to stay ahead of the demand to use the. Just because it doesn't exist at the moment doesn't mean that it won't and indeed there are already moves underway to increase the number of charging stations in the country. 

As Tesla have done in other markets, I'm pretty confident they will roll out a network of their Supercharger charging stations, once the Model 3 goes on sale here. Of course, if you are able to charge at home, a Model 3 probably won't have to visit a charging station, except on long intercity journeys.

The rest of the article continues in a fairly negative tone. As with all new game changing technologies, there's going to be resistance to the inevitable disruption. Norway has already shown us the electric revolution is already underway and like it or not the future of road travel is electric.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Swisatec to plan for Electric Vehicles at Blue Rock Village, Africa’s first green village

Swisatec to plan for Electric Vehicles at Blue Rock Village, Africa’s first green village
Thanks to Cape Business News for this article about Blue Rock Village in Cape Town, Africa's first green village.
Swisatec plans to include EV charging stations on the design of Blue Rock Village, especially in key areas such as underground parking of the 5-star envisioned Blue Rock Hotel and Conferencing Centre, the Dollar House (a high-end corporate office space), the Wellness and Spa and the 40 000 sqm Santa Luzia Lifestyle Centre. Phase one of the village: Giovanni Luxury Terrace Apartments is already selling, starting from R3,3 million. 
I wrote in a post yesterday that it is important to get the infrastructure for electric vehicle charging in place in South Africa, before electric cars start selling in meaningful numbers. In fact all construction companies should follow Swisatecs example and include vehicle charging points in all new constructions.

Like new homes come with a plug sockets for all your home electronics and appliances, they should also come with one specifically for your car. Car parks should have electric only bays with charging points, it could earn the business a little more in charging fees or they could entice customers to spend a bit more and offer free charging in return.

A good analogy is perhaps Wifi that is offered in certain public places such as restaurants. Customers will go to a restaurant that offers free Wifi because they know they can conduct their business/surf the web/chat etc. while they enjoy their meal. The same thing will happen with electric cars, establishments that offer electric vehicle charging will get the patronage of the electric car driver.

The article also helps reaffirm the fact that having an electric car is going to save you a considerable amount in fuel cost. To cover 30,000kms in a year an economical petrol car would use roughly R22,320 worth of fuel. To cover the same distance in a Nissan Leaf it would cost about R4,620 in electricity. That's a saving of R18,000. I've mentioned before, once motorists realise they can make that sort of saving by driving an electric car, the demand for electric cars will sharply rise. As the article firmly states 'The future vehicle is here'.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

SA must embrace electric vehicles now or fall behind

SA must embrace electric vehicles now or fall behind
Quite a long article written by Carel Snyman for Business Day, offering a viewpoint on the electric vehicle situation in South Africa. I pretty much share the same sentiments so I'll just suggest you follow the link above and read the whole article.

How much would these electric cars cost in South Africa? (if they were awailable here)

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to try and work out how much some of the most popular EV's (electric vehicles) in the UK would cost if they were available in South Africa. Firstly I compared the price of the BMW i3, which is available in both the United Kingdom and South Africa. That comparison gave me a conversion ratio of just over R17 to the pound, just over the actual current exchange rate. Anyway here are seven electric cars we don't have in South Africa, seven electric vehicles we'd like to see in South Africa and a guesstimate on how much we'd have to pay for them.

  1. Renault Zoe (R318,356 - R446,594) The latest version of the Renault Zoe has a 41kwh battery and an impressive claimed range of up to 400km. Out of the cars surveyed here it is the cheapest, but you also have to pay a rental/lease on the battery so the eventual cost will work out a bit more. Still, it's in the VW Golf price range and depending on how much extra you'd have to fork out for the battery, it appears quite a good buy.
  2. Volkswagen e-up (R432,135) A small EV from VW with an 18.7kwh battery giving a range of 160km. Though in electric car terms it's relatively cheap, it's still a lot to pay for such a small vehicle.
  3. Hyundai Ioniq (R499,094 - R530,077) The Ioniq comes in both hybrid and battery only options. Of course we're interested in the battery only. The range should be about 200km from it's 28kwh battery. This is probably the most interesting car on the list and overall the best value for money. It should cost about the same as what a Nissan Leaf does in South Africa, yet it has 65km more range than the 24kwh Leaf on offer here. 
  4. Ford Focus Electric (R540,495) The Focus Electric has a 23kwh battery and a relatively low (by 2017 standards) range of 122km. Probably best this doesn't come to South Africa as I can't think of a reason why anyone would want to buy it.
  5. Volkswagen e-Golf (R545,311) Like all VW's the e-Golf comes at a premium price. It seems to be capable of a similar range as the Ioniq with it's 35.8kwh battery.
  6. Tesla Model S (R1,033,389 - R1,775,274) The luxury sedan from Tesla would most likely start at over a million Rand. I see no reason though why it wouldn't sell in meaningful numbers. There are plenty of cars in this price range on South African roads, including the half electric hybrid BMW i8.
  7. Tesla Model X (R1,258,881 - R1,864,782) Considering the popularity of SUV's in South Africa, it would be no surprise if the Model X was to be more popular than the Model S.
So there you have a rough price guide to cars you can't yet buy in the country. In the UK at the moment consumers would pay less than these prices due to government incentives. At the moment there are no such incentives in SA, if incentives were implemented (or the 25% import tax was dropped) then local auto distributors might be more confident that if they import more electric cars, they'll have a better chance of selling them.

The need for electric vehicle infrastructure, now.

At the moment there's only a few hundred EV's (Electric Vehicles) on the road in South Africa. Public charging points are scarce but considering an EV right now is a fairly considerable investment, I'm sure purchasers of these vehicles considered their charging needs and options before parting with their cash.

As EV's drop in price and more people realise the savings they can make on their fuel and maintenance bill by buying an electric vehicle, sales of electric cars will rapidly pick up. When EV sales do start to gather pace, it will be important that the public charging infrastructure is sufficient to handle the charging needs of the EV owners.

If electric vehicle sales start to rocket before there are sufficient public charging points then we might see charging point congestion and queues in the near future, together with the inevitable frustration of those wanting to charge their vehicle. The electric vehicle infrastructure needs to stay one step ahead of electric vehicle sales so when somebody purchases an electric car they know they won't have any trouble finding a charging point and when they do they won't have to queue to use it.

Electric vehicle charging won't be like filling your ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car with petrol or diesel, you won't go to a dedicated filling/charging station, unless perhaps on a freeway journey. Charging points will be everywhere, by the side of the road, in shopping centre car parks, outside restaurants, literally anywhere where people will park there cars.

You'll charge your car while shopping, or eating a meal, or sleeping in a hotel. It won't be something you'll have to go out of your way to do (like filling up with petrol), you'll do it while going about your regular daily tasks. The only time you'll need to seek out a dedicated charging destination will be on long intercity journeys. I imagine the large service stations dotted along our freeways will expand the services they offer, to occupy motorists and their passengers while they wait for their vehicle to charge.

Businesses who offer their customers charging will undoubtedly become the preferred destinations of EV drivers. It'll be a way of making a little extra revenue for the business via charging fees and maybe encouraging their customers to stay a little longer and spend a little more while their vehicle is charging. Maybe shopping centres could offer free charging to customers who spend over a certain amount, a bit like many offer free parking at the moment. Restaurants could offer free charging for those customers who also buy dessert, thus encouraging their patrons to spend a little bit more money in their establishment.

Though the rise in electric vehicle sales will come from the ground up, from the consumer, when the price is right. It is the responsibility of the government and the motor industry to work with third parties to get the charging infrastructure in place first.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

South Africa: 'No Time for Trial and Error' As Cape Town's Mayor Leads Green Push

South Africa: 'No Time for Trial and Error' As Cape Town's Mayor Leads Green Push
In January I wrote about Cape Town acquiring ten electric buses that are due to go into service in the city later this year. This will be the first electric bus service in South Africa.

Not only is the city going to be using emission free public transport, they are also implementing many other clean energy projects.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille emphasizes some of the advantages of the forthcoming electric bus service in the city.
"They're going to save us a lot of money. Our maintenance budget will be cut by 60 percent, as they're very easy to maintain. And to recharge the batteries we're also going to use solar energy."
As with all electric vehicles, not only are they cheaper to power than an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle, they require much less maintenance as there are far less moving parts and they require no change of oil or filters like an ICE vehicle. Even if they were to use electricity off the grid they'd be spending a lot less than they presently do on diesel, but if they are directly using solar energy to charge the batteries than that's even better. Everyone who uses public transport would like it to be cheaper and this is a step in the right direction of making that a reality.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Dirty fuel conundrum may open door to electric vehicles in Africa

Dirty fuel conundrum may open door to electric vehicles in Africa
Another electric car related story from Irma Venter at Creamer Media's Engineering News.  
South Africa is fifteen years behind the rest of the world in terms of legislation regulating the quality of fuel available at the pump, says National Association of Automobile Manufacturers director Nico Vermeulen. He says new clean fuel legislation should have been in place in 2017, but will now only, most likely, become available “in 2021, 2022”.
It appears the fuel we fill our cars with in South Africa isn't of the quality and cleanliness of fuel sold elsewhere in the world.

Volkswagen South Africa MD Thomas Schäfer suggests electric mobility is the answer.
One solution to the problem would be to support the introduction of electric vehicles in South Africa and the rest of Africa, he suggests, “leapfrogging the fuel quality problem”. He says many people believe that electric mobility is too advanced for Africa, and not suitable for the continent, while it should rather be considered that electric mobility may be able to nullify the problem of different emission standards in the developing and developed worlds. 
This makes perfect sense, instead of trying to make dirty old transport technologies cleaner, why not just go straight to an already clean transport technology, electric mobility.

There won't have to be huge government investment to kick start mass EV adoption in the country, we just need incentives. Incentives for manufacturers to produce and sell electric vehicles, incentives for motorists to buy electric vehicles and incentives for businesses to offer charging services while their customers are shopping/eating/gyming/watching a movie etc.

Electric mobility is not too advanced for Africa, quite the opposite. An electric vehicle needs minimal maintenance compared to an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. It doesn't need oil,plug or filter changes and it's fuel supply is wherever there is electricity, be it via a plug socket or a solar charger. Solar chargers could be put in the most remote areas, places that it would be too impractical and costly to build petrol stations. Also there would not be the challenge of transporting the fuel in the first place to these locations.

New technologies in South Africa tend to rapidly replace the old ones. CD's quickly saw the demise of LP's in record shops and MP3's more or less have seen the near total disappearance of the record shops. Digital cameras saw the extinction of film cameras in the shops in just a few years and cell phone cameras have pretty much done the same to digital cameras. Once electric cars become a bit more affordable they will spell the end for dirty fossil fuel powered vehicles in the country.

Electric Vehicle Glossary

I have compiled an Electric Vehicle Glossary to help explain some of the abbreviations and terminology associated withe electric vehicles. Find it here or under the Pages tab in the right sidebar. Thanks to Google and Wikipedia for helping me word some of the explanations.

Monday, March 6, 2017

How much range in enough range (for an electric car in South Africa)?

Recently I wrote a reply to another electric car blog's Facebook post that basically asked the same question. Not owning an electric vehicle (yet) I tried to think what sort of range I'd need for the kind of journeys I do.

Like the US and unlike much of Western Europe, distances between major centres in South Africa are quite big, so do we all need long range electric vehicles? At the moment there are only two, relatively short range, fully electric cars on sale in South Africa, the 24kwh Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3. The Leaf has a range of 135km and the i3 can go up to 160km.

Most of my driving is commuting to and from work as well as dropping my daughter at school and my wife at work in the morning. This daily round trip is about 35km, well within the range of even the lowest range all electric vehicles.

Occasionally I have to take a trip to another branch, coincidentally they're all about 50 kms away from the branch where I work, so that would add another 100km to my daily mileage. That's right on the limit of the Nissan Leafs range but within that of the i3. If I had a place to charge at work, which at the moment there isn't, it would be within the range of the Leaf as well. Also once a month I go to camera club after work, that is about another 40 kms so would be well within the range of a single charge on the Leaf. Most other evening driving is relatively short trips, probably 5-10km at the most.

Weekend journeys again are also mostly less than 100km a day. A place down the coast we like to go away to for weekends is 98kms away so that would also be easy to achieve on a single charge in the Leaf. A recent weekend trip to a friends wedding was 82kms each way.

The nearest city to where I stay (apart from Durban which is 20km away) is Pietermaritzburg which is a 70km drive each way. Probably a handful of kilometres too far for the 24Kwh Leaf that is currently on sale in South Africa. Of course a short charge at the destination would ensure enough juice for the return trip.

The only trip I've done in recent years that would be well beyond the range of the Leaf and/or i3 is a journey to Johannesburg a few years back. The 600km's wouldn't really be practical even if there were fast chargers on route at convenient locations. A Leaf would need at least four stops and with a fast charger about 30 minutes at each stop to fully charge. If you were planning on doing lots of journeys this distance, then a Chevy Bolt with a range of over 300km would be suitable, you'd just need one stop to charge at about half distance on the way to Johannesburg from Durban. Sadly the Bolt isn't available in South Africa yet.

The last time I did go to Johannesburg I didn't actually use my car while I was there as the person I was a guest of was kind enough to ferry me around, so I could have actually just taken a bus or plane and left my car at home. The fuel savings I'd make with an electric car would more than pay for the use of a hire car for such infrequent trips.

So would one of the short range electric vehicles on sale in South Africa right now, be adequate for my motoring needs? I think yes. Maybe I would be pushing the edge of the range of a Leaf on occasion but the i3 would cope with pretty much handle everything but the very occasional long journey and as I mentioned in the last paragraph, there are always alternative options to your own car.