Pretoria - Marketing electric vehicles has always been a chicken-and-egg scenario; there’s not much sense bringing your company’s battery-powered and plug-in hybrid models to South Africa until there’s network of public street charging points in place, and no energy company is going to sink millions into charging infrastructure until there’s a fleet of customers that will buy power from it.
Somebody had to grasp the nettle, and now Jaguar has done it ahead of the local launch of its I-Pace electric SUV, in partnership with electric vehicle charging provider GridCars, with an ambitious R30-million plan for a network of 82 new public charging stations in the country’s major cities and along frequently-travelled holiday routes.
There will be a public charging station (not just for JLR models but for all electric vehicles) in the customer parking area at every Jaguar Land Rover dealership retailer in South Africa and another 30 at shopping centres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Bloemfontein.
Which is fine for day-to-day commuting and school runs - but what about holiday road trips? That’s where it gets interesting: there will also be a series of 22 charging stations along the N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town, and the N3 between Gauteng and Durban. Cape Town will also be connected to the Garden Route with a series of charging stations along the N2 all the way to East London.
And most of these stations will have 60kWh fast chargers, meaning that charging an I-Pace will take about 20 minutes per 100km of range - or about 72 minutes from stone flat to 80 percent, using the the CCS DC type socket that’s common to the majority of electric vehicles in South Africa. Each charging station will also have a 22kWh AC fast charger to accommodate plug-in hybrid cars, with an AC standard Type 2 socket that will fit all the battery-powered cars currently available in South Africa.
Drivers will use a chipped ‘smart card’ to switch on the charger and manage billing to the card, which can be topped up with EFT payments, much like cellphone airtime top-ups.
The price of electricity varies depending on which municipality you’re buying it from, but at current rates of R3 - R3.50 per kilowatt-hour, to recharge a 90kWh battery such as the one in an I-Pace will cost you from R275-R315. That’s less than a third of what it will cost you to fill the 60 litre tank of the I-Pace’s combustion-engined sibling, the F-Pace.