Goodbye Eskom — R1 billion deal to bring fastest off-grid car chargers to South Africa

Zero Carbon Charge has signed a R1-billion memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Shanghai Magic Power and Greencore Energy Solutions to build integrated supercharging systems for the 120 charging stations it is currently rolling out in South Africa.

The company says the 480kW liquid-cooled supercharger systems will be supplied by Shanghai Magic Power and Greencore Energy Solutions and seamlessly integrate with its solar generation and battery storage systems.

“This cutting-edge technology means that customers at Zero Carbon Charge’s off-grid, solar-powered charging stations will be able to charge any electric vehicle at its maximum charging rate,” said Zero Carbon Charge.

The signing of the MOU follows Zero Carbon Charge’s visit to China in late 2023 to source solutions for its off-grid charging network.

It says that once completed, the network will be a first for South Africa and the rest of the world.

Co-founder and director of Zero Carbon Charge Joubert Roux says the superchargers are expected to arrive in the country by July.

“Pending regulatory approvals, we are on track to have our full network of 120 solar-powered charging facilities operational by September 2025,” Roux added.

Zero Carbon Charge announced that it was commencing the installation of the first of its 120 charging facilities in November 2023.

“On Monday next week [20 November 2023], we will begin construction of our first charging station in Wolmaransstad in the North West,” Roux said at the time.

“This will be followed by the rollout of around 120 charging stations at 150 km intervals nationwide, with the entire network due for completion in September 2025.”

Below is a map showing where Zero Carbon Charge plans to roll out these stations across South Africa.

While there are already 400 public and private EV charging stations in South Africa, with another 300 anticipated to come online in the next few years, most of them are connected to Eskom’s grid.

With most of Eskom’s electricity coming from coal-fired power stations, Roux said using the utility’s “dirty” power won’t do much to help South Africa decarbonise.

“Around three-quarters of our energy supply is from coal-fired power stations,” Roux said.

The utility also generates electricity using diesel-powered open-cycle gas turbines, particularly during peak demand.

“Just how green are electric vehicles when they are powered primarily by coal and diesel?” Roux asked.

Zero Carbon Charge’s solar-powered charging stations will also provide the added benefit of staying online during load-shedding, unlike chargers from many other providers.

The company’s first electric charging station, on the N12 between Klerksdorp and Wolmaranstad, is set to be completed by June 2024.

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Goodbye Eskom — R1 billion deal to bring fastest off-grid car chargers to South Africa