South Africa’s electric car charging network among best in the world

South Africa has among the best electric vehicle (EV) charging station network capacities in the world when it comes to available chargers per car.

MyBroadband recently spoke to GridCars CEO Winstone Jordaan to learn more about the state of South Africa’s electric charging infrastructure.

GridCars is South Africa’s biggest public EV charging operator, with around 350 chargers on its network alone.

Jordaan said there were over 400 public and private electric vehicle (EV) charging stations as of September 2023 and at least another 100 going live before the end of the year.

In May 2021, a report found South Africa had among the best EV public charging availability globally — with roughly 1.8 chargers available for every ten fully electric cars on our roads.

At that time, there were roughly 1,000 registered electric cars in South Africa, with 170 chargers on the GridCars network. Since then, however, local EV adoption has grown rapidly.

Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin plugged in at public AC charging station in Pretoria

By the end of 2021, 218 new EVs were sold in South Africa, followed by a surge of over 100% to 502 total new registrations in 2022.

In the first half of 2023, a further 501 were added to local roads. If the momentum holds for the rest of the year, EV sales will have doubled for two consecutive years.

The 1,221 sold in the last two and half years account for over half of all the full-electric cars registered in South Africa to date — which now stand at more than 2,200.

Fortunately, the number of public charging stations added in South Africa over the past few years has kept pace with the adoption of electric cars.

Where the GridCars network had about 170 chargers in 2021, it added a further 180 in about two years.

When including the non-GridCars network chargers, the total public and private charges in South Africa goes up to 435.

BMW iX3 charging at DC fast charger in Centurion

Therefore, there are about two charging stations for every 10 EVs in South Africa, or roughly 5.1 electric cars for every charging station in South Africa.

Using only publicly available chargers — of which there are 291 — the numbers decline to 1.3 chargers per 10 EVs or 7.6 cars for every charging station.

However, that is still far better availability than in most developed countries.

The International Energy Agency also ranked South Africa 3rd out of 30 countries and regions regarding charging capacity per EV in 2022.

It found South Africa had 4.44kW of public charging capacity per EV, with only Chile and South Korea having more. South Africa also had the 5th lowest number of EVs per charger.

The light blue bars show the number of electric vehicles per charging point (lower is better), whereas the orange points show the amount of kW capacity per EV (higher is better). Credit: IEA, Number of electric LDVs per public charging point and kW per electric LDV, 2022, IEA, Paris, IEA. Licence: CC BY 4.0

However, companies like GridCars have their work cut out to keep pace with electric car sales in South Africa.

One of the biggest EV players in South Africa — Volvo — has been allocated 500 units of its much-anticipated affordable compact electric SUV — the EX30.

Launching locally locally in the first quarter of 2024, it will be the company’s most affordable EV yet — with an entry-level price tag of R775,900.

Volvo Car South Africa managing director Greg Maruszewski recently confirmed the company had already received 150 pre-orders for the model about two months after the car’s global unveiling, with hundreds more potential buyers registering their interest.

Even Volvo’s potential 500-unit addition of the EX30 could increase the number of electric cars currently on South African roads by roughly 23%.

With Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Chinese players like BYD and GWM also rolling out new models in the coming months, EV sales could surge even further.

Volvo EX30 coming to South Africa in 2024.

Nevertheless, Maruszewski told MyBroadband that Volvo felt it was not the role of manufacturers to provide charging capacity.

“I think the likes of GridCars and Rubicon and probably one or two newcomers should focus on the infrastructure, and the manufacturers should focus on the education of the public as to what EVs are and are not.”

“I think that approach would be beneficial to a quicker uptake of EVs.”

Jordaan said despite the rapid EV sales growth, there was currently little risk of a shortage of chargers.

“The network operators are very active and working to ensure that the ratio to cars remains within acceptable levels,” he stated.

“GridCars also continuously models the growth in sales to ensure that we are also planning strategically for new chargers.”

Jordaan said GridCars was aware of about 100 more chargers being added locally before the end of the year, when including both its own and other operators’ plans.

Renewable energy company Rubicon previously told MyBroadband it would be adding 150 new chargers across the country by the end of the year. At that time, it already had 69 chargers on its network.

Rubicon’s existing chargers are also included on the GridCars map and include some that were rolled out in partnership with Audi.

Now read: Student-built electric car demolishes world record for distance on a single charge

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South Africa’s electric car charging network among best in the world