Electric car charging surging in South Africa — and it could become a problem

One of South Africa’s biggest public electric vehicle (EV) charging station providers recorded a big jump in usage of its infrastructure in 2023.

While it is perhaps best known as the official distributor of the Tesla Powerwall and Tesla Wall Connector home EV charger, Rubicon Group is the country’s second-biggest public charging station provider.

The company’s network primarily consists of DC fast charging stations with speeds of 25kW, 50kW, 75kW, 100kW, and 150kW.

Rubicon e-mobility project manager and Tesla business development manager Hilton Musk recently shared the usage statistics of these chargers with MyBroadband.

By the end of 2023, Rubicon had 68 public charging stations installed in the country along major routes, shopping centres, and accommodation locations, with a combined installed capacity of about 2,523.2kW.

During the year, Rubicon recorded 2,125 charging sessions at these public stations.

Rubicon’s 150kW charging station at Mall of Africa

A further 14 stations were live at dealerships of EV manufacturers like Audi and Volvo, with a combined output capacity of 772kW.

These recorded 2,694 charging sessions in 2023.

The total number of transactions at all these stations increased from 762 in the first quarter of 2023 to 1,089 by the second quarter.

The number jumped to 1,403 in the third quarter, followed by a further increase to 1,565 transactions in the fourth quarter.

Quarterly charging hours in Q4 2023 were also well over double the number of hours in Q1 2023.

These increases helped to more than triple Rubicon’s quarterly revenue from public charging electricity sales. To be more specific, the revenue in the last quarter was 243% higher than in the first quarter.

This impressive growth comes on the back of an 85% increase in the sales of new fully electric cars between 2022 and 2023.

The chart below illustrates how Rubicon’s charging station revenue climbed from the first to the last quarters of 2023.

The revenue amounts were removed for competitive reasons.

Other interesting figures from Rubicon’s data included details like average charging durations — which were around 90 minutes at the public stations and just over an hour at the dealership chargers.

Musk also provided a list of the top ten most used Rubicon public charging stations, with Mall of Africa leading by a significant margin. It recorded well over 800 charging sessions.

The charging station at this mall offers the fastest speed of any location in the country — 150kW — and was rolled out in partnership with Audi.

The increase in charging transactions and revenues makes sense given that 2023 was South Africa’s best year for new energy vehicle sales, with 931 fully-electric models and 267 plug-in hybrids sold during the year, compared to 502 and 122 unit sales in 2022.

Potential shortage on the horizon

There are currently around 400 public EV charging locations in South Africa.

The country once had among the best station-to-EV ratios in the world, owing to slow EV adoption.

However, Rubicon energy and e-mobility director Greg Blandford told MyBroadband that there was anecdotal evidence that a shortage of charging stations could soon become a problem.

Blandford himself drives a self-imported Tesla Model Y, which was the world’s best-selling car in 2023.

He has recently experienced more instances where he would arrive at a charging station to find them all already occupied. He has also seen more owners pitch up at stations while he was charging.

One of the indicators in Rubicon’s data supporting Blandford’s hypothesis was that the average energy per session per quarter had initially increased from Q1 to Q2 but then declined in Q3 and again in Q4, dropping slightly below the energy per session in the first quarter.

This could suggest that people are plugging out sooner than they previously did, possibly to help the person waiting to start charging their car.

Blandford expects EV demand to keep climbing in South Africa due to more affordable models becoming available over the next year.

“We’re seeing a lot more sub-R1 million EVs coming into the market now, meaning it’s more affordable because taking the cream off the top.”

To help meet the increased demand, Rubicon plans to expand its charging network to 250 stations by the end of 2024.

Blandford also told MyBroadband that Rubicon was working with a major vehicle manufacturer to add 50kW and 100kW DC chargers with integrated backup storage capacities of 80kWh and 100kWh to allow for charging during power outages.

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Electric car charging surging in South Africa — and it could become a problem