YOUR SMARTPHONE app has just notified you that Eskom will be switching off the lights within the next hour, and your area is at the top of the list.
Since you’ve just purchased your first electric vehicle (EV), should you be worried that you’ll be twiddling your thumbs until the electricity supply is restored?
The short answer is, no! While there is certainly a degree of inconvenience that comes with load-shedding, the truth is that typical EV usage isn’t impacted much by scheduled blackouts.
In South Africa and around the world, electricity consumption normally peaks in the morning and evening, before demand dips markedly to its lowest point in the dead of night. That’s one of the reasons it’s become common practice for owners to charge their EVs while they sleep. Even if a two-hour blackout were to interrupt an overnight charging schedule, the battery would likely still be at least very near capacity, if not entirely full, once morning rolls around.
George Mienie, CEO of AutoTrader, recently purchased an all-electric Jaguar I-PACE. His experience suggests consumers should treat EVs as they would their smartphones. He cautious people to avoid ‘destination filling’ and to rather charge at every opportunity!
“You probably already plug in your phone each night, and you should do the same with an electric car. A simple change to your mindset on when and how to ‘refuel’ your EV is all it takes,” he said.
In addition, Mienie recommends making use of public charging stations during the day if out and about, replenishing your vehicle’s range when you’re at the gym, shopping centre or at the office working. Keeping the battery habitually topped up is key to EV ownership.
Still, it’s not entirely inconceivable to be caught with a lower-than-ideal indicated range, be it due to a day of irregularly high mileage or simply a lapse in planning. Thankfully, there are options available.
Mienie, for example, has installed hybrid off-grid solar power at his home, allowing him to charge his car completely off the grid during daylight hours and using Eskom’s grid during the night. “By taking a hybrid approach, it effectively lowers the average cost of ‘fueling’ the EV,” says Mienie.
GridCars, meanwhile, points out that of its numerous public charging stations situated along major routes across the country, some 60 per cent of DC fast chargers are backed by an emergency generator and are available to access 24/7.
Finally, there’s the simple alternative of driving to the next-closest charging point outside of the blackout-hit suburb.
Winstone Jordaan, Managing Director of GridCars points out that load-shedding typically affects different areas at different times.
“If there is load-shedding when you go to refuel your car at your local petrol station and you find that it is offline, what do you do? You drive to another petrol station that is not currently under load-shedding. The whole country is not blacked out at the same time. Same with EVs; if you’ re charging station is without power you just drive to the next closest one.”
While there is a lot of work to be done and prices need to come down, it is entirely possible to live with an EV with only one fundamental change – charge at every opportunity instead of ‘destination filling’ when your car is empty.
“Ultimately, the threat of load-shedding shouldn’t deter you from purchasing an electric vehicle,” concludes Mienie.
DC fast charging stations that have generator backup during load shedding*
Alzu (Petroport N4)
Baywest Mall (Port Elizabeth)
Bedford Centre (Bedfordview)
Bergview 1-Stop (Harrismith)
Caltex Mentors Plaza (Jeffreys Bay)
Cradlestone Mall (Krugersdorp)
Drostdy Hotel (Graaff-Reinett)
East Rand Mall (Boksburg)
Engen 1-Stop (Colesberg)
Engen 1-Stop (Laingsburg)
Engen 1-Stop (Mooi River)
Engen 1-Stop (Riversdal)
Engen Swartberg (Beaufort West)
Fourways Mall (Johannesburg)
Gardens Shopping Centre (Cape Town)
Gateway Mall (Umhlanga)
I’Langa Mall (Nelspruit)
Mall of the North (Polokwane)
Midlands Mall (Pietermaritzburg)
Mooirivier Mall (Potchefstroom)
Sandton City (Sandton)
Waterfall Mall (Rustenburg)