HomeIndustry SectorsFuture EnergyFree public electric vehicle charging station launched in Cape Town

Free public electric vehicle charging station launched in Cape Town

In South Africa, Capetonians now have the use of the first public electric vehicle (EV) charging station, situated in the parking area of the Bellville Civic Centre.

Officially launched by the City of Cape Town on 2 December, this is the first of two solar-powered EV charging stations that will be offered free-of-charge for the first two years to members of the public.

The sites were chosen because of their convenient, safe and visible locations. The chargers were donated to the City by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).

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E-mobility offers an opportunity to create a healthier, more inclusive city, and one that uses a proactive climate change response to help drive the COVID-19 recovery.

  • Globally, the transport sector is rapidly moving towards electrification and the list of countries, regions and cities that have set dates to ban the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is growing. 
  • Transport is the second biggest contributor to the carbon intensity of Cape Town’s economy. This is exacerbated by urban sprawl and the long distances freight has to travel over a country as large as South Africa.
  • Increased congestion and inefficiencies not only increase the city’s transport-related greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), largely driving climate change, they worsen air quality and contribute to adverse health impacts on residents.
  • The number of EVs globally grew to over 7,2 million cars by the end of 2019, up 2,1 million from the year before and costs are expected to reach price parity with ICE vehicles within the next five years, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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The City is supporting the uptake of e-mobility for all and is developing initiatives to drive the growth of this technology in Cape Town, so that it can become more accessible and rolled out in the future to benefit all Capetonians.

The donated charging stations have been installed in the parking areas of the Bellville and Somerset West civic centres. The charging station in Somerset West will be opened to members of the public soon.

How the charging station works

  • A motorist with an EV drives up to the charging station. Depending on the car, reversing into the space may provide the best access to the charger.
  • Limitless charging is offered and the car’s charge card will be required to start the charge.
  • Using their own cable, users will connect the cable to the charger and then to the car. This initiates the charge. Users can then simply lock their car and attend to other business. The system will be secure and the cable cannot be released. Unlocking the car will stop the charge and release the cable.
  • The length of the charge required will depend on the car and charge cable. But it takes roughly three hours to charge the battery from close to 0% to 80% for this particular 22kW Dual AC charger.
  • How long a charge lasts will depend on the car and driving style. A three-hour charge can last roughly 150km depending on which vehicle one uses.
  • The charging stations will be closed at night.

The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy and Climate Change, Councillor Phindile Maxiti, commented: “Globally, cities have been the electric vehicle champions, supporting the uptake of charging infrastructure, driving research, education and awareness campaigns and the transition of public fleets to EVs.

“For example, this includes understanding the implications of a growing EV market, the impact of additional electricity usage on the grid and the required charging infrastructure development, such as the Bellville charging station. Thus for the City, supporting the first steps in the technology transition is incredibly important.”

Maxiti added: “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the devastating economic impact that global crises can have and has shown that planning for climate resilience and reducing emissions is increasingly important. This kind of proactive response to climate change will also assist our city’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as the green economy offers new opportunities for businesses and job seekers.

“It also helps to ensure that the local economy can continue to trade competitively in a global world that is rapidly rejecting carbon-intensive goods and services.”

In support of the growing global momentum to tackle climate change, Cape Town, along with cities in South Africa and worldwide, has committed to achieving carbon neutrality and climate resilience by 2050 to keep global warming to 1,5˚C.

These necessary targets can only be reached through significant transitions in urban form, energy sources, transportation and resource efficiency. A key element is cleaning up our sources of electricity and the electrification of transport.

In favour of electric vehicles

  • EVs have no tailpipe emissions, so could contribute significantly to a reduction in local air pollution and thus result in improved health benefits.
  • As less crude oil will be imported, EVs will also positively impact on the country’s current account balance.
  • EVs can reduce transport-related GHG emissions, which currently account for about 34% of the carbon emissions in the city, and help us meet our climate change targets.
  • EVs are more efficient than ICE vehicles, producing about 30% less GHG emissions, even with most of our electricity from Eskom being produced from coal.
  • With the greening of South Africa’s grid, the environmental benefits of EVs will increase further.
  • EVs are considerably cheaper to run with very low maintenance requirements and as the upfront cost of EVs comes down, electric mobility can provide cost-effective transport for all Capetonians.  
  • The local economy can continue to trade competitively in a global world that is rapidly rejecting carbon-intensive goods and services.

Adding to the list of positives in favour of EVs, the City’s Executive Deputy Mayor, Alderman Ian Neilson commented: “This global electric mobility trend is not being reflected in South Africa yet, which has serious implications for our economy and environment. This will make ICE vehicles more expensive for South Africans and, if our local automotive manufacturing and component supply chains do not adapt to the trends, the sector will be left behind. We need to innovate quickly if we don’t want to lose our vehicle production capacity and access to principal export markets.”

He continued: “The demand for transport services in the city will grow in the coming years and public transport presents the best business case for electrification. Currently, 38% of morning peak trips are on public transport, with about 95% of public transport users being in the low to low-middle income brackets. As such for many Capetonians, public transport is their main, and often, only way of getting around. Even during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, public transport was still in demand. Thus, the challenge the industry faces is to reduce the environmental impact of the sector while delivering improved mobility.”

According to UNIDO’s energy and low carbon coordinator, Blanche Ting, to catalyse a shift towards the use of EVs and support, the City’s environmental strategy, UNIDO in late 2018, through its Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded South African Energy Efficiency Low Carbon Transport initiative (SA LCT), entered into a collaboration with the City to promote the widespread use of electric vehicles and the development of infrastructure.

Ting said: “By deploying the charging stations in Bellville and Somerset West, UNIDO hopes to encourage a cultural change and awareness into the mainstreaming of EVs in the City’s vehicle fleet and within the surrounding communities.

“We thank City for the opportunity of working closely together in supporting its commitment to the reduction of GHG emissions. UNIDO strongly believes that the low carbon transport initiative will contribute in decreasing vehicle exhaust emission and facilitate in overall climate change goals.”

Source: City of Cape Town

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.