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Private sector makes first move to build electric vehicle infrastructure in SA

JSE-listed information and communication technology (ICT) group, Alviva Holdings, has, through its subsidiary Solareff, acquired 75% of GridCars, a Pretoria-based startup that focuses on the manufacture of electric vehicle (EV) charge points and back office charge point management systems.

Solareff is a specialist renewable energy solutions company that installs medium- to large-scale rooftop and ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) projects.

“We were looking to expand in the field of green energy and the next step for us was green mobility,” says Solareff MD Jaco Botha.

EVs are zero-emission vehicles. If charged by solar power, they are completely environment-friendly, depending on the manufacturing process at the vehicle plant.

GridCars director Winstone Jordaan will retain 25% shareholding in the company.

He says GridCars can deliver products such as charge points and EV public charging billing systems, as well as the ICT systems related to charging infrastructure.

Real-time interactive eMobility software, for example, allows users to find available charge points and to manage the rates and billing for energy consumed. EV users can also monitor charging sessions, possible costs and charge history.

“These all form part of the back-office services we provide,” notes Jordaan.

“We understand the core technologies and platforms necessary to make an EV network operate efficiently.

“Three industries are in the process of merging very quickly as the use of EVs expand – the ICT, transport and energysectors.”

Jordaan says GridCars, as a startup, was too small to convince vehicle manufacturers that it could provide the comprehensive services required to implement EV charging infrastructure in South Africa.

The Solareff investment, however, serves as a significant boost to the GridCars balance sheet.

“Our aim is to give GridCars the critical mass to scale up quickly,” notes Botha.

GridCars will, under the wing of Solareff, look at rolling out EV charging infrastructure across South Africa – at a pace relative to the introduction of EVs to the local market – with the option of solar power as the energy source whenever possible and desirable, he says.

“We will look at developing our own charging network, while also developing charging networks for clients, such as property developers, fuel stations and home owners.”

Jordaan says the investment will, for example, allow GridCars to carry greater stock, ensuring availability of charge points on a short turnaround time.

“We will also be seeking incentives from government as we roll out the network.”

There are currently around 100 EV charging points in South Africa, largely at dealerships, the homes of EV owners and selected retail developments. (See evcharging.co.za) Almost all of these are managed by GridCars.

There are two EVs available in South Africa, namely the Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3. Other vehicles also requiring charging includes the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid.

Audi plans to introduce its first EV in South Africa in 2019, with Jaguar to also do so by the end of 2018, or the start of 2019.

“There are currently around 2 500 plug-in vehicles in South Africa, of which 600 are EVs,” says Jordaan.

GridCars can provide two types of charging technologies – AC and DC.

DC charging systems are normally associated with fast-charging, and are traditionally also more expensive than AC charging systems.

GridCars has locally developed AC charging systemsavailable. The current DC system on offer is imported, but Jordaan is pursuing a partnership agreement that could secure 50% local content on the system.

“We can fully support the infrastructure we put in place. There is no need to rely on overseas expertise,” says Jordaan.

“Our system also adheres to all the necessary ISO-standards.”

GridCars’ infrastructure can also accommodate both charging connectors, namely type 1 and type 2, as used by various vehicle manufacturers.

Source: engineeringnews