Bad news for South Africa’s first off-grid electric charging network

The completion of South Africa’s first fully off-grid electric vehicle (EV) charging station has been delayed by three months.

However, the company behind the station — Zero Carbon Charge (ZeroCC) — remains adamant that it is still on course to construct 120 of these stations a year after the estimated new completion date for its first station.

ZeroCC began building its first off-grid EV charging station on the N12 between Wolmaransstad and Klerksdrop in the North West in late November 2023.

The company originally estimated that this station would be completed by June 2024.

However, in recent feedback to MyBroadband, ZeroCC said this was pushed back to September 2024 due to the company’s “commitment to a transparent tender process for construction consultations.”

The company is working closely with local and provincial governments on its charging station rollout.

In this regard, it recently announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Free State government for 15 stations planned for the province.

In addition, ZeroCC said it conducted thorough testing of its hardware, which also contributed to the slight delay.

There are already several major EV charging network operators in South Africa — including GridCars and Rubicon — which offer around 500 charging locations.

However, ZeroCC is focusing primarily on stops along routes between major cities and towns to make long-distance EV travelling more viable.

Cleaner top-ups

In addition, it aims to use greener energy for filling up at these stations than what’s available on the national grid, which relies primarily on fossil fuel-based generation.

The stations are being powered by on-site solar farms, batteries, and backup generators that use a more environmentally friendly biodiesel.

Collectively, ZeroCC will offer 720 “ultra-fast” DC charging points and 240 slower AC chargers.

The company is procuring the land for these stations by offering owners a share of the charging revenues.

The charging stations will be adjacent to farm stalls with a shop, refreshments, and areas where customers can stretch their legs and relax.

The map below shows the planned locations of ZeroCC’s charging stations.

ZeroCC’s map of planned EV charging stations

Despite the delays experienced with the first station, ZeroCC said it was still on track to complete the first 60 stations by February 2025, with the second half to be done by September 2025.

The next stations will begin construction in the Free State and the Northern Cape in the “next few months”, pending completion of construction tender processes.

ZeroCC said although the exact cost of the project was confidential, it was “well underway” in raising R2.3 billion to invest in the country’s charging network.

The rollout in the Free State alone is expected to cost around R4.3 billion.

MyBroadband also asked what tariff ZeroCC would charge motorists for using its chargers.

While the company said it was too early in the process to determine costs, it expected this to be in line with other providers’ prices.

For reference, GridCars and Rubicon typically charge around R7.00 per kWh at public DC fast charging stations and R5.88 at AC fast chargers.

Charging operators have to levy a fee higher than the cost of the electricity they buy from suppliers to recoup the costs of the chargers before they start making a profit.

No threat of charger capacity shortage

The addition of ZeroCC’s 120 new stations with more than 900 charging points will likely help allay fears of future capacity problems.

South Africa’s EV sales have continued to see momentum in 2024 after a record year of sales in 2023.

In the first quarter of 2024, 330 fully-electric cars were sold in South Africa, up from 232 in the same quarter last year.

Despite the accelerated adoption, GridCars and Rubicon have assured that there is little risk of customers having to queue at stations for their turn to charge in the near future.

Neither company had observed a material increase in complaints of drivers being unable to charge due to a charger being occupied.

There are currently around six EVs per charger in South Africa, significantly better than the global standard of 20 cars per charger.

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Bad news for South Africa’s first off-grid electric charging network