Goodbye Eskom — South Africa getting 120 off-grid truck charging stations

Off-grid electric vehicle charging station startup Zero Carbon Charge has launched Zero Carbon Logistics, which will roll out 120 photovoltaic solar electric truck charging sites on national highways across South Africa.

According to Zero Carbon Charge, this will be the country’s first off-grid electric truck charging network.

It will build the first six sites on the major N3 freight route between Durban and Johannesburg at Heidelberg, the N3 Sasol, Lala Nathi, Kopleegte, Estcourt, and Ashburton.

Zero Carbon Charge said the permitting process for these sites has begun.

Each station will feature ultra-fast charging technology coupled with modular battery packs being developed in China, with the goal of charging a truck within 20 minutes.

The company said a big focus of the project is creating safe, clean facilities for truck drivers to rest, which will increase road safety.

Each station will offer restrooms, a shop, fast Wi-Fi, and truck repair and wash facilities.

There will be secured day and overnight truck parking bays available, which will be under constant CCTV surveillance linked to local security companies.

Zero Carbon Charge’s 120-site truck charging network will be in addition to the 120 electric passenger vehicle off-grid charging sites it is building.

It said it hopes to finish its first electric car charging station by June 2024, and the first six electric truck stops by November 2027.

The company said its plan was a response to the growing shift by major manufacturers to producing electric trucks, with many already committed to achieving a full electric transition by 2040.

“The shift to electric trucks offers a major opportunity for South Africa to meet its Green Transport Strategy goal of reducing transport-related CO2 emissions by 5% by 2050,” said Zero Carbon Charge co-founder Joubert Roux.

“Every day, 8 756 trucks travel on the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg, using over 658 million litres of fuel at an import cost of R8 billion, emitting 1,781,256,762kg of CO2 emissions per year.”

Roux said that replacing these fuel-powered trucks with electric models will save 670kg of CO2 emissions per truck per day, significantly reducing South Africa’s reliance on fossil fuel imports.

The growth in electric trucks will create increased energy demand, he added.

The electricity required to charge the 8,756 trucks using the N3 route daily will require an additional 2.3 billion kWh per year alone.

“If one takes into account all 14 national roads, the country would need an additional 8 billion kWh/year of electricity to power the 30,000 electric trucks travelling on these routes daily, placing a major strain on the national grid.”

For this reason, Zero Carbon Charge co-founder Andries Malherbe believes it is critical that South Africa starts investing in off-grid infrastructure to power these trucks — particularly while travelling on long-haul routes.

“These charging stations will be completely off-grid, with each facility powered by 35MWp of [photovoltaic solar PV],” he said.

“[This] means they will be able to continue servicing customers during load-shedding and will not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.”

Zero Carbon Charge said that considering Eskom’s electricity network being powered primarily by coal for the foreseeable future, a major shift towards electric trucks poses the real risk of increased CO2 emissions.

It said its research shows that an electric truck charged by the Eskom network could emit 37.5% more CO2 per kilometre compared to an equivalent diesel-powered truck.

“Critical to the success of our electric truck charging network roll-out, is obtaining the necessary government approvals to build the sites,” Roux stated.

“In this regard, we would like to thank the Green Energy unit from InvestSA in the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) as well as the KwaZulu Natal Trade and Industry Authority for the guidance they have provided thus far to get the project off the ground.”

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Goodbye Eskom — South Africa getting 120 off-grid truck charging stations