Sean Westbrook, his wife Kerry, son Kade, 11, and daughter Alley, 13, in Cape Town having travelled in an electric car.
Sean Westbrook, his wife Kerry, son Kade, 11, and daughter Alley, 13, in Cape Town having travelled in an electric car.

How good is an electric car with load shedding? A Durban family found out

By Thabiso Goba Time of article published Dec 19, 2019

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Durban - There is perhaps no better time to test the endurance of an electric car as the country experiences some of its worst load shedding.

Sean Westbrook, from the Bluff, took a five-day drive from Durban to Cape Town to determine the feasibility of an electric car on South African roads.

“When we saw the load shedding coming, my wife asked me, ‘Are you going to cancel?’” said Westbrook. “I said no because if we can get to Cape Town on time without any issues along the way during Stage 6 load shedding, then we would have proved that sustainable travel via electric vehicle is possible.”

Westbrook, an executive at a pharmaceutical group, belongs to a small association of electric car enthusiasts who are trying to get more people to lower their carbon footprint.

He had been planning the trip for four months and last Saturday, Westbrook, his wife Kerry, daughter Alley, 13, and son Kade, 11, all got into his BMW i3 (2017). It is a fully electric car, equipped with a 126kW electric engine and drives at 149km/* . It cost more than R500000, but he argued that its low maintenance and its zero-emission rate counter the high price tag.

Westbrook said the most expensive rate he paid to fully charge his car - the electric version of a full tank - was R170. At this rate, Westbrook said, he saved about R80000 a year on petrol.

Fully charged, it can travel 200-240km, using about 30kW of electricity.

Westbrook said there were many more charging points in South Africa than he initially thought. Using the PlugShare app, which details all charging stations in the country, and other independent charging producers, Westbrook was able to plan his trip.

The car can also be charged with a normal electric socket, but that takes significantly longer than fast chargers.

In terms of load shedding, Westbrook said it was a matter of checking the schedule and planning accordingly. There was one instance load shedding hit while he was charging at Buffeljagsrivier, but the generators at the service station kicked in.

“For 600km in one day, you only need to charge your car twice for 50 minutes,” said Westbrook.

The Westbrook family will start their five-day drive back to Durban tomorrow.

The Independent on Saturday

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