Electric vehicle (EV) sales are gaining momentum in South Africa due to a wider range of options and more affordable vehicles. Although starting from a low base, sales are projected to double in 2023, exceeding 1,000 units. In 2022, only 502 EVs were sold.

For this growth to be sustainable, a robust charging infrastructure is crucial. While South Africa already has a growing charging network, Zero Carbon Charge aims to expand it further by including currently uncovered national and regional roads.

In an important step towards achieving this goal, Zero Carbon Charge recently initiated the construction of its first 100% renewable energy charging station. This milestone marks the beginning of South Africa’s first solar-powered EV charging network. According to CleanTechnica, the network will eventually consist of 120 solar-powered charging facilities spaced out every 150 km.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place in Wolmaransstad, in the Northwest province.

This development holds significance in South Africa’s transition to EVs. Unlike other charging stations that rely on coal-based energy from Eskom’s grid, Zero Carbon Charge’s charging stations utilize South Africa’s abundant and renewable solar energy.

Each Zero Carbon Charge charging station generates electricity on-site through solar PV panels and stores energy in lithium iron phosphate batteries. In cases of backup power, generators fueled by hydrotreated vegetable oil are used. The vegetable oil cuts emissions by over 85% compared to diesel.

The charging network will feature DC ultra-fast charge points for EVs and AC charge points for plug-in hybrids with smaller batteries. With the capability to charge an EV up to 80% in about 20 minutes, Zero Carbon DC Charge stations will significantly reduce charging time.

The charging network will offer other benefits as well. Landowners will receive 5% of the revenue generated from vehicle charging on their land. Lastly, each Zero Carbon Charge station will include a “farm stall” where motorists can enjoy refreshments during the 20-minute charging period.

Subject to necessary approvals, Zero Carbon Charge aims to have its full network of solar-powered charging facilities operational by September 2025. The Wolmaransstad Zero Carbon Charge facility is scheduled for completion in June 2024.

The Zero Carbon Charge initiative is making South Africa a world leader in solar-powered EV charging.

In the United States, solar-powered EV charging stations are sparse. The vast majority of public EV chargers draw their power from the grid. Only 3.4% of the US grid’s electricity is generated from solar power.

Electrify America, one of the largest EV charging networks in the US, only operates 30 solar-powered chargers that are independent of the grid. All 30 of these chargers are in rural California.

Image Source: Owen Gregorian