Monday, May 22, 2017

Interview with Andy le May

Interview with Andy le May
ESI Africa has an interview with the founder of EWIZZ electric vehicles Andy le May. The mission statement on the EWIZZ web site gives a brief explanation of the products they offer.
EWIZZ is driving the development and mass adoption of next generation electric vehicle technologies in South Africa. 
Why? It’s simple. Electric vehicles are just much better technology. They are more efficient, reduce emissions and drive down transportations costs. For too long we have only had petrol and diesel based vehicles that are expensive to run, pollute our environment, affect our health and are changing our climate. All that has now changed. EWIZZ is putting the latest electric vehicle technologies in the hands of South Africans. 
EWIZZ started in 2012 and is a registered MIB (Manufacturer Importer Builder) and motor dealer. EWIZZ works closely with Melex electro vehicles who have been EV space Africa for over 17 years. EWIZZ/Melex offices and workshops are in Cape Town and we have dealers around the country. With our experience, we offer and support the best electric vehicle solutions for South Africa. That means a combination of the most sustainable, reliable and affordable technology. EWIZZ is focussed on personal electric mobility solutions such as our range of electric scooters and motorcycles whilst Melex are focused on Golf carts, utility vehicles and buses. 
Through our internal R&D, and collaborations with Universities, local business and funders, EWIZZ is driving the development of local technology solutions for the EV market to increase and develop local content and expertise. 
EWIZZ electric vehicles are drastically reducing transport costs, journey times and transport emissions, which improves our collective health, productivity and competitiveness.
Read the interview here. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The most fuel efficient cars in South Africa right now

The most fuel efficient cars in South Africa right now
Business Tech gives a run down on the most economical new cars on the market with information sourced from Bloombergs April global fuel price index report. Not surprisingly the list is populated mostly by hybrid powered cars and headed of course by the all electric Nissan Leaf.

Strangely the BMW i3 is only third on the list and is given a fuel consumption of 2.1L/100km. I can only presume they are quoting figures from the range extender i3 REX model which has a small petrol generator to keep the battery topped up. The fully electric i3 like the Leaf has a fuel consumption of 0L/100km.
The index measures “affordability” as the cost of a litre of petrol relative to a country’s average daily wage, while overall spend represents how much the average driver spends on petrol in a year, relative to the average salary. According to the 2016 index, South Africa is ranked last – spending the highest proportion of the average salary on petrol in a year.

These statistics should make it clear that personal motorised transport is very expensive for South Africans. With electric vehicles these running costs would be reduced by at least 80%. It makes sense to drive an electric car in this country. Manufacturers not offering their fully electric or plug-in hybrid models yet in this country need to start making them available to South Africans and they need to work together to create sufficient charging infrastructure.

When Tesla arrive in South Africa with their all electric Model 3 within the next couple of years, they will also put up their own network of Supercharger fast chargers and destination chargers. The present car manufacturers with a presence in the country need to prepare themselves in time.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

GM to halt India sales and sell South Africa plant

GM to halt India sales and sell South Africa plant
It appears any chances we have of seeing the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid or the 380km all electric range Chevy Bolt in South Africa have been reduced to roughly zero with news that General Motors are to pull out of the country.

It's a major disappointment that one of the world's leading producers of plug-in vehicles should be dis-investing at a time like this. Though we haven't seen either of GM's plug-in vehicles in the country there was maybe a hope that they would introduce the Bolt as a competitor to the BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf battery electric cars, both on sale in South Africa but both with a battery range of less than half of the Bolt.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chargie Opens Bookable Electric Car Charging Service In UK — Aims For International Market

Chargie Opens Bookable Electric Car Charging Service In UK — Aims For International Market
Clean Technica report that Chargie have launched a peer-to-peer electric car charging service in the UK. This service allows electric car owners to book a charge via www.chargie.net at a domestic charging point belonging to another electric car owner.
“The EV owner wanting to charge their car finds an exterior-wall-mounted chargepoint on the Chargie website and sends a booking request to the owner. The owner can then review the profile of the person making the booking before accepting or declining it. Once the booking is accepted, the user pays via Chargie and the system contacts both parties to confirm details. 
“The chargepoint owner specifies their per-charge cost when they register on Chargie and Chargie adds a small service fee, which is halved if the person has already put their own chargepoint on the network. Registration and search are free, and chargepoint owners can specify when their units are available.”
So far there over 60 EV owners in the UK have registered their charging point on the site since the service started on 2 May. There has already been interest in the service from other countries, including South Africa.

Seeing as the placement of charging infrastructure is seemingly moving at sub-snail pace in this country, the sharing of private charging points could be very welcome.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Minibus taxis go green(er) with LPG

Minibus taxis go green(er) with LPG
Article form IOL on the conversion of minibus taxis to LPG (liquid petroleum gas).
Versus SA Autogas, has already converted more than 100 minibus taxis. The company installs the required equipment, including an 80-litre LPG tank, in the taxis and turns them into hybrid vehicles that run on both LPG and petrol.
According to a taxi owner/driver Flyman Stanley there is some considerable saving over using petrol.
Stanley said he used to spend approximately R850 a day for a full tank of petrol, which is 50 litres, but now spends about R740 to fill up. “I can go about two days driving on a full tank of LPG, whereas in the past I had to fill up with petrol every day,"
Obviously conversion to LPG is a sensible option for the minibus taxi industry, where the biggest cost is fuel. Looking at these figures it appears the running cost of LPG is roughly 40% of that of petrol. It also produces fewer emissions, making it better for the environment as well as passengers and pedestrians in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle.

The downside of LPG as an automotive fuel at present is the scarcity of filling stations. At the moment there are only two LPG filling points for the Johannesburg Southern Suburbs Taxi Association, for who Versus have so far converted 100 taxis.

The cost of an LPG conversion appears to be between R30,000-R40,000 per taxi. Converting them to battery electric power would most likely cost ten times that amount if I use Freedom Won's cost of converting a Land Rover to electric as a marker. This is no doubt a major obstacle and until this price drops, we are unlikely to see any taxis converted to electric propulsion.

The advantages of EV conversion would be even cheaper running costs, roughly 20% of a petrol engine, and the fact that you can put a charging point literally anywhere. Saying that, the charging infrastructure would need to be in place at taxi ranks before any EV conversions take place.

Though electric conversion would be ideal, LPG conversion is a big improvement for both the taxi operator and the environment and until EV conversion becomes practical and affordable, it seems like the right way to go.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

BAW expansion shot in arm for creation of jobs

BAW expansion shot in arm for creation of jobs
Article from Business Day about Chinese automaker BAW increasing it's investment in South Africa. BAW assembles the Sasuka minibus taxi in Springs.

They are planning to launch a diesel powered taxi next month. Considering the bad press diesel has been getting recently around the world, this is a bit of a surprise. I honestly can't think of a worse fuel to use for a vehicle which is constantly around people. Passengers waiting at the side of the road or at the taxi rank are going to be assaulted with smelly diesel fumes, not to mention the extra noise that accompanies a diesel engine.

On a more positive note, BAW are also considering building electric vehicles in SA. The article suggests urban delivery vehicles will be the target for electric power, this should be a prime market for EV's as I explained back in March. Electric powered vans will mean huge savings for courier firms and other businesses that use vans constantly for short to medium journeys.

I'd really like  to see electric powered minibus taxis. They'd save the owners a fortune in fuel bills and maintenance costs, and they'd make a more healthy environment for their passengers and other pedestrians. I don't see why it would be difficult to put up some quick chargers in taxi ranks. If the vehicle had a battery with 300km range, it could charge overnight and then just top up while it's waiting to load with passengers at the rank. These top-ups would probably give it another 150km throughout the day. I'm guessing urban minibus taxis don't do more than 450km in a day.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Being Boring

One of the projects Elon Musk has been updating us with snippets of news over the last few months is The Boring Company. This is Elon Musks plan to build a network of tunnels under Los Angeles (and presumably other cities in the future) to help alleviate traffic congestion on the surface.

A few days ago the first details of how the tunnels will operate were revealed in a short video.
Cars will drive into a skate at ground level, this is like a cradle the car will sit in, which will then descend via an elevator into the ground, when it gets down to the tunnel level, the skate will then automatically carry the car and it's occupants to their chosen destination.

The first thing that crossed my mind when seeing this concept, is what is the need for the skates? This concept seems unnecessarily complicated and very unlike something Tesla would produce. How many skates would there need to be for a city the size of Los Angeles to make a meaningful difference to traffic congestion? How many elevators would there need to be and how fast would they have to be? When a car takes a skate, will there be another one waiting to pop up out of the ground for the next car waiting to use the tunnel? How much maintenance will the skates and elevators need? What about vehicles too big for the skate? What's to stop something else, a person, dog, cat etc. accidentally falling in the hole in the ground when it opens for the elevator? 

Why not have the cars drive themselves in the tunnels? I envisage the Tesla Autopilot software programmed so it would automatically switch on and override the manual car controls as soon as the vehicle entered the tunnel. It would then drive the car and passengers to the tunnel exit closest to the destination. With no human driven vehicles or other obstacles like pedestrians and cyclists to worry about down there, there would be zero chance of any collisions or anyone taking the wrong tunnel. The Autopilot software would also take note of the available battery range of the vehicle and make sure it exited the tunnels with enough capacity to get to a charging point. If the vehicle doesn't ahve enough battery charge to get to the nearest exit then it won't be allowed to enter the tunnel.

If vehicles were driving into the tunnels instead of using an elevator, far more vehicles would be able to enter the tunnel system, in a far simpler and quicker method than using elevators. There would be no problem with exhaust fumes as obviously all Tesla's are zero emission vehicles. 

Maybe the reason for the skates is because Musk wants the tunnels to be available to all road users, regardless of car make and propulsion system. If that is the case then the skate system would make sense. If it would just be for electric vehicles then I don't see why all manufacturers couldn't have a tunnel mode on their self-driving systems to allow their cars to also autonomously drive the tunnels?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A South African Gigafactory?

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, indicated during a recent TED talk that Tesla would be announcing the construction of up to 4 more Gigafactories before the end of the year. At the moment there is just one Gigafactory producing lithium batteries for Tesla vehicles and Powerwalls in Nevada. This article from Electrek suggests that the new Gigafactories might be built in Buffalo, China and somewhere in Europe. It also mentions that it is anybody's guess where the fourth factory might be built.

Tesla Gigafactory
Though Tesla have denied there are plans to build a Gigafactory in South Africa, I can't help thinking it would be an ideal location for a Gigafactory. South Africa is a gateway to Africa and many other parts of the World.

Africa is potentially a massive market for Tesla's Powerwall, home battery pack and solar panels. Solar power charging a Powerwall could bring electricity to remote locations on the continent that are not on any electrical grid. It will mean that people will no longer have to wait on municipalities and traditional energy companies to bring them power. Not only will it bring power to peoples homes, it will enable them to also charge electric vehicles. Locations far from the nearest petrol station will be able to power their own transport.

Not only is South Africa the perfect place to manufacture and distribute Tesla products throughout the African continent, it also has many large ports and is on many major shipping routes. Being at the bottom tip of the continent, it'll be equally easy to ship Tesla batteries to South America, Asia, Middle East & Australasia. With North America, Europe & China seemingly already covered a South African Gigafactory could take care of the rest of the World. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

April in rear-view

It's been a bit quiet regarding local news about electric vehicles this past month. Here are our top blog posts from the past month.

On the international front there was plenty of spy shots of pre-production Tesla Model 3's and Elon Musk confirmed the Tesla truck was on it's way.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Electric car conversions

Until very recently I've been a bit dismissive about electric car conversions, where a conventional fossil fueled vehicle is changed to battery electric power. I used to think cars converted to electric power ended up looking a bit like some sort of Heath Robinson contraption. I imagined loose wiring hanging from the dashboard, a boot full of batteries, extra gauges bolted on to the dashboard and holes where the defunct gauges for the petrol or diesel engine were, no doubt accompanied by the rattle of loose fitting parts. I also presumed without the cutting edge engineering of a firm like Tesla, the range of a converted EV would be pitiful.

Happily, the more I hear reports and see videos of EV conversions, the more I'm realising that the majority of conversion jobs are very professional and offer comparative range and performance to a new fully electric vehicle. An example of this is this recent video by James Cooke. A Porsche 911 Targa converted to electricity by Electric Classic Cars. It's an immaculate vehicle and conversion, a totally professional job. You can view the video below.
In South Africa there is a company called Freedom Won doing electric car conversions. I wrote an article about them last week. Among their conversions have been the conversion of game viewing Landrovers and boats in Chobe Game Reserve to electric.

Another conversion from Freedom Won is a Fiat 500 which has a 23kWh battery which gives it a 200km range. I found some images of it on their Twitter account. Again, the conversion appears to be a very professional and neat job. The price of the conversion of the Fiat 500 was R250,000. It is a lot of money but if you have a car that you're happy with but you want to drive an electric car, then it is still half the price of the cheapest electric vehicle on sale in South Africa to convert it.

Freedom Won have a inquiry form where you can request a quote for getting your own car converted. They mention that one of the potential markets for conversions is minibus taxis. I think this is a great idea. The biggest influence on taxi fares is the petrol price, electric power would cost less than a fifth of what petrol is costing to power the vehicles. Imagine if the running costs could be cut by 80%, the taxi owners would save a fortune. Charging points could be installed at taxi ranks and the taxis could charge while waiting to fill up with passengers and also during the off-peak periods when they're not so busy.

Electric conversions would probably be more popular in some regions over others. Most likely more popular inland than at the coast. At the coast car bodies tend to corrode more due to the humidity and salt in the air from the sea. On the Highveld the air is dry and body corrosion isn't a worry. It makes no sense to convert a car to electric if the body is already rotten.

The biggest market for electric conversions could be vintage or rare cars. Cars that their owners have become attached to but due to age, they are becoming harder to find parts for and maintain. With an electric conversion a classic car could carry on running cheaply and indefinitely, with no worrying of where to find replacement engine parts when it next breaks down. Also there must be plenty of vintage cars where the bodywork is fine but the motor isn't working. Electricity could get these vehicles back on the road. We could see many more classic and vintage cars back on the road, old cars given a new lease of life and more people able to afford to run an old classic.

As an example of what a classic conversion could be, one of my dream cars is a Porsche 928. They can be found relatively cheap, however maintenance of the big V8 motor is horrendously expensive. Just changing the timing belt requires the removal of the whole engine. Of course a 5 litre V8 also tends to be a bit costly at the petrol pump. With an electric conversion you could still have the same driving experience and the same, if not better acceleration. Once the conversion is done, I'd have a classic car that will cost next to nothing to run and need virtually no maintenance. As I write this there is a Porsche 928 for sale on Gumtree for R33,500, the body and interior are in sound condition but it's not running. A perfect candidate for an electric conversion. As for now,it will remain my dream.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Autonomous vehicles - my thoughts

The drive towards vehicle autonomy appears to be going hand in hand with the growing popularity of battery electric vehicles. Tesla in-particular are aggressively developing their Autopilot self driving system and many other auto manufacturers are introducing various levels of autonomy to their vehicles. It seems we are on the way to highways full of driver-less cars.

The potential benefits of fully autonomous vehicles are numerous. As the most common cause of traffic accidents is driver error or recklessness, taking the human element out of driving should make road use safer.

At the moment autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles just have information about the road and other road users that they gather themselves. Typically this information is gathered by an autonomous car using radar, cameras mounted on the car and GPS. It can only see as far as the vehicle mounted sensors will allow it to. As can be seen though from the video clip below, Tesla's are already able to 'see-through' the vehicle in front and detect an unseen hazard.
In the future, vehicles will also be able to garner information about the road from other vehicles in the vicinity and maybe cameras by the side of the road. Your vehicle will be talking with other cars on the road to find out what obstacles might lay ahead around the next corner and timeously take action to avoid them. Maybe all the vehicles on the road will be able to organise themselves so they take different routes to ease congestion but in doing so make the traffic flow smoother and quicker.

Clearly fully autonomous driving is coming, I think though that until every car on the road is autonomous and is able to talk and work with other vehicles on the road, there has to still be some degree of human supervision of the vehicles AI. I think fully autonomous is maybe 15-20 years away and until then we will see more and more autonomous features introduced into cars, like lane guidance and automatic emergency braking.

My main concern with autonomous vehicles is pedestrians. Recently I was driving down a city street and I noticed the pavement ahead was blocked by building rubble which had been piled up. I also saw there was a gentleman the other side of the pile of rubble, walking in the opposite direction that I was going towards the obstacle. I could see he would reach the obstacle in the pavement at about the same time I would pass it. I also realised he was going to step out in the road to walk around it at exactly the same time as I would be passing it. He was just presuming I would predict his behaviour and leave him some room to get past the obstacle, which of course I did. I just wonder if an autonomous car's AI would deduce the same thing. Would it expect the person to wait until it's passed to step into the road? Would it predict, like myself, the movements of the pedestrian and take avoiding action ahead of time?

Obviously pretty much all the research and testing of autonomous vehicles is happening in places which don't have the same anarchistic road culture we have here in South Africa. If the human road users, motorists and pedestrians, are obeying the road rules then it's going to make things more predictable for an autonomous vehicles AI. It'll be interesting to see when Tesla finally gets to this country, how their Autopilot reacts in the bedlam that are South African roads.

Another worry was brought about by an incident I heard about the other day. A driver (driving a conventional vehicle) had to swerve to avoid someone in the road and in doing so ran over and killed several people on the pavement. Obviously the human driver reacted to the immediate obstacle, the man in the middle of the road, and took avoiding action without probably even realising they were going to drive into innocent bystanders. An unfortunate accident. It got me thinking though. If that had been an autonomous vehicle and presume the vehicle was already aware through it's various sensors that there were several people by the side of the road before the incident. Now, suddenly someone steps out in front of the vehicle and there's not enough space to stop in time. The autonomous vehicle has two choices, it can carry on straight and hit (and probably kill) the person who stepped in the road, or it can take evasive action but in doing so it knows it almost certainly won't be able to avoid a group of people on the side of the road. Does it carry on straight killing one person or does it avoid the immediate danger but in doing so ends up killing two or three people?

I'm sure these are only some of the problems the brains behind the various autonomous driving systems are busy trying to solve. However, when a human driver makes an error it's an accident. When an autonomous vehicle has an incident, the blame will fly in all directions. Even if traffic accidents are reduced by 99%, when one happens the manufacturer will be blamed for selling a faulty vehicle. Regardless that the same type of vehicle may have had millions of incident free miles up to that point.

I'm sure one day all these issue will be solved and all cars will be fully autonomous and the roads will be completely safe and nobody will ever have to touch a steering wheel again.

I hope that's not the case.

Sure, it might be nice to have your car drive itself in the morning traffic on your way to work, but an autonomous vehicle will never give you the thrill of actually driving a car. I hope that they'll still be the opportunity for manual control. To feel thrill of putting your foot down on the accelerator and getting pushed back in your seat. The thrill of buzzing along a winding country road. The thrill of holding a steering wheel and having the freedom to point it in whatever direction you like and going there!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

E-Mobility in Motion

E-Mobility in Motion
Freedom Won  is a South African company specialising in renewable energy solutions. They provide solar and battery packages to power your home as well as offering electric vehicle conversions.

In March I wrote about how Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana are using converted electric powered Land Rovers for game viewing. These conversions were done by Freedom Won.

Freedom Won's prototype electric conversion vehicle is a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Since Friday, 9 December 2011 @ 20h05, Team-Freedom Won© has been driving our prototype electric car conversion to work, shops, restaurants, friends and family! We are thrilled to report that after almost four years all systems are performing according to our high standards for reliability, safety and operability.
The vehicle selected for our first electric conversion was a Jeep Grand Cherokee with uprated suspension, which easily handles the 200kg net weight increase of the conversion - enter Freedom1©. Our electric conversion is a five seater SUV with a motor capable of delivering 80kW continuously, with 600Nm of torque available, a practical 170km range between charges and is comfortable with a 120km/h highway driving.
The motor is a robust air cooled six pole three phase magnet motor, designed for heavy duty applications and ultimate efficiency. It is driven by a sophisticated microprocessor controlled variable speed inverter drive, capable of efficiently providing strong but smooth torque delivery through the motor speed range. The system includes regenerative braking for maximum efficiency and range.
The Freedom1 drive design consists of the motor connected directly to the transfer case via a short drive shaft, driving the front (optional) and rear wheels through the original axle differentials. The 600V DC battery pack design is made up from a number of large format high performance lithium ion cells, produced by one of the world's leading lithium cell manufacturers.
The vehicle is fitted with an on-board charger that connects at home or office to a simple custom installed high power charging supply, capable of charging a fully discharged battery pack within 6 hours. For everywhere else the vehicle can also be charged in 6-8 hours using an ordinary 16A 230V household socket.
EVs (electric vehicles) require almost zero maintenance andFreedom1©'s operating costs amount to a fraction of its ICE (internal combustion engine) counterparts.
The full specs of the Freedom 1 are on their web page. The web page also notes that the cost per km for the Freedom 1 is 12c. That is probably 10% of the cost of fuel for a similar ICE (Internal combustion engine) vehicle and about the sixth of the cost of a small fuel efficient petrol or diesel car. That's not accounting for the cost of servicing and maintaining an ICE vehicle.

Click here to take a look at details of Freedom Won's other electric vehicle conversions and even request a quote to convert your own vehicle to electric power.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Plug-in Hybrid's (PHEV's) in South Africa

Plug-in Hybrid's combine an electric motor and battery with either a petrol or diesel internal combustion engine (ICE). As the name suggests, and what differentiates them from conventional hybrids, is that they have a plug to charge the battery that powers the electric motor. Typically a PHEV vehicle will be charged overnight (or like an all electric vehicle it can be charged at a charging point) and when turned on first uses the electric motor for propulsion, when the battery runs out of charge the car will automatically switch to the internal combustion engine. In some instances, depending on the model, both power sources may be used at the same time.

Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid
The electric range of PHEV's range from about 20km to, in the case of the Chevy Volt, over 80km. If  your usual daily mileage is less than the range of the battery in your PHEV then you might find you rarely use the ICE component in day to day driving and just use the car as a pure electric vehicle. However if you're planning a longer journey, you do have the longer range of an ICE motor and the easy and quick availability of petrol or diesel to power it. Unlike a pure battery electric vehicle you don't need to try and find a charging point and wait for the batteries to charge.

The downside of having the ICE motor in a Hybrid is like conventional gas powered cars, it needs regular servicing and fluid/filter changes. With battery electric vehicles there is relatively little maintenance required and usually extends to rotating the wheels and topping up the windscreen washer fluid. Obviously a PHEV is still better than an ICE vehicle, especially if you mainly use the electric motor, because you'll be saving on fuel costs.

Though I'd like to see South African roads full of fully electric vehicles, it's an unavoidable fact that as yet there are few charging points in the country and none out of the major metropolitan centres. Add to that, the maximum range of electric vehicles currently on sale in the country is 160km (BMW i3) and it's obvious that with our long inter-city distances, anything other than urban travel in an electric vehicle is sadly not possible in South Africa as yet.

Plug-in Hybrids could be the way to introduce the benefits of electromobility to South Africans without the worry of running out of battery power and having to find somewhere to charge. At the moment there are very few PHEV's available in South Africa and they're all a bit pricey. Here's a list of the ones I'm aware of and the battery range of each one. I've left out the Mercedes S500 e and BMW i8 as they use gasoline combined with electric and don't appear to exclusively use battery power for any set distance.
  • Mercedes Benz C350 e R804,900
    30km all electric range
  • BMW X5 xDrive40eR1.188.600
    22km all electric range
  • BMW 740eR1,496,500
    22km all electric range
There is also the BMW i3 REX which isn't a true PHEV, it has a small motor that charges the batteries to give it extended range. The motor doesn't however directly drive the wheels.

There are several more affordable PHEV's available in other markets. Unfortunately none of them are available locally at the moment. Prices are just an approximate conversion from dollars or pounds.
  • Toyota Prius PrimeR356,692
    40km all electric range
  • Chevrolet VoltR448,761
    84km all electric range
  • Hyundai Ioniq Plug-inPrice n/a
    43km all electric range
  • Chrysler Pacifica HybridR552,742
    52km all electric range
I can't really understand why these manufacturers with a presence in South Africa don't bring their plug-in hybrid vehicles into the country. Prices are quite comparable to equivalent ICE vehicles and there is no pressure or obligation on the manufacturers part to provide a charging network. Indeed a PHEV still has the benefits of an ICE to a motor dealer. Like an ICE it still will require regular after sales servicing and maintenance. There really isn't any reason why these vehicles shouldn't be available to South African consumers.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What current electric cars should come to South Africa?

As I've mentioned many times before on this blog there are at present on two fully electric cars on sale in South Africa. The Nissan Leaf and BMW i3. Other car manufacturers with a significant presence in the country also produce electric vehicles but choose not to sell them in SA. I thought I'd make a list of electric vehicles that could be available in the country if the local distributors and manufacturers chose to import them or assemble them here.
  1. Chevy Bolt
    Released late in 2016 the Bolt is the first non-Tesla electric car to have a range of over 200 miles on a single charge. At $37,500 (R518,966) it's also substantially cheaper than the base Model S70 which at the moment is Tesla's entry model at R71,200 (R985,343). The Bolt has a 60kWh battery and a maximum range of 238 miles (383km). More than enough to drive from Durban to Johannesburg with only one charging stop. Unfortunately though there are no plans at the present to bring the Chevy Bolt to South Africa
  2. Hyundai Ioniq
    The Ioniq comes in three guises, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric. Of course we are interested in the latter which with a 28kWh battery can achieve 200km on a single charge. This makes the Ioniq one of the most efficient electric cars around. The price of the Ioniq is also very competitive at £24,995 (R431,475).

  3.  Kia Soul EV
    The Kia Soul EV is the electric version of Kia's crossover vehicle. It has a 27kWh battery which is good for 150km on a single charge. The price in the UK is £29,995 (R504,699).




  4.  Smart Fortwo Electric Drive
    I can't think of a car that looks more like it should be an electric car than the Smart Fortwo. This small city car has a 17.6kWH battery that will get you 160km before you need to recharge. That's further than many bigger EV's on the market right now. It's also one of the more affordable EV's at this time. In the US it's selling for $25,750 (R338,545)
  5. Volkswagen e-Golf
    The electric version of the perennially popular VW Golf.  The e-Golf utilizes a 134-hp 100-kWh electric motor powered by a 35.8-kWh lithium-ion battery. The EPA estimates 200km of range on a single charge. Prices start in the UK at £31,680 (R532,933)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Love Affair with Land Rover - Londolozi TV

A Love Affair with Land Rover - Londolozi TV  
Londolozi Game Reserve converted one of their game viewing Land Rovers to electric and developed it to the point where it got the attention of Land Rover themselves who then built their own electric Land Rover concept vehicle which they then developed further at Londolozi.

Here is the story of the electric Land Rover from the Londolozi web site. The video of how they developed the vehicle is below.
Londolozi Game Reserve is announcing the first ever Zero Emissions Safari Vehicle…Out of Africa!
Renowned for its pioneering work in conservation development and the creation of the Londolozi Conservation and People Development model, Londolozi now introduces to the Safari industry a vehicle which moves guests silently through the wilderness with a lower carbon footprint than the conventional 4×4.
The Zero Emissions Safari Vehicle is a project that Londolozi has been pioneering for the last 18 months. Starting with 6 months of planning and testing, a test vehicle was imported to complete phase one of the project.
Phase two involved converting an existing Londolozi Land Rover into a prototype electric vehicle with more environmentally friendly batteries. This is currently where Londolozi is at present. We have a fully functional prototype electric Land Rover that is charged by connecting it to a wall plug socket.
The third phase of the project is about further progression towards lighter, longer lasting, eco friendly batteries. This step of the project is also about moving away from the earth’s resources and moving towards solar energy. We are exploring the possibilities of putting up solar panels on the roof of the garages to charge the electric vehicle. This is part of the long term goal of lowering Londolozi’s carbon footprint without affecting the current luxury safari experience.
We are also fortunate to be testing the first Electric Land Rover produced by Land Rover UK and Barkers Performance Products.
Londolozi prides itself on being a constant innovator in the safari industry – always wishing to provide our guests with a fresh experience filled with a warm spirit of hospitality and a deeper purpose to life. You are invited to join us as one of the first safari adventurers to enter the African wilderness in silent observation, enabling a greater connection with sound and silence.
Chobe game reserve in Botswana are also using electric Land Rovers for game viewing. Their vehicles have been converted to electric, I believe without any official involvement from Land Rover.

Unfortunately I can't find any indication that the electric Land Rover is even close to full production. Hopefully this will change soon. I wrote here of the huge benefits of electric game viewing vehicles.

Morocco Reveals the World’s First Electric Pickup Truck

Morocco Reveals the World’s First Electric Pickup Truck
Story on Morocco World News I found from late last year.
National Transportation and Logistic Company (SNTL) in Morocco revealed on Tuesday the world’s latest and newest innovation of the first electric pickup truck ever made. The innovation, which is 100% electric, is also a 100% of Moroccan origin in terms of concept and assembly.

This Moroccan creation can carry up to an 800kg load and has a range of 180-200km and a top speed of 129kmh. It takes seven hours to fully charge using a 220v wall socket or one hour using a supercharger.

The article also talks about a modular design which allows upgrades of a particular component while leaving the rest of the vehicle unchanged. It doesn't mention which components though. Maybe their is provision for the battery to be upgraded at a later stage or perhaps you'll be able to convert from a bakkie to a panel van? The article also mentions that the vehicle has temperature control to keep goods at a constant temperature, this makes me think that a refrigerated compartment instead of the load bed might be one option they'll make available.

The article says initially the truck will initially be available in Europe. Hopefully they'll also look at making it available on their own continent. Small pick-up trucks are ubiquitous in Africa and an electric one with it's low fuel and maintenance costs will surely be a success on the continent.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hydrogen-powered cars to flood the streets by 2020 [Hi-Tech]

Hydrogen-powered cars to flood the streets by 2020 [Hi-Tech]
An article full of misinformation from Africa News
Soon, driving cars will not be the same again as car manufacturers are developing hydrogen-powered vehicles to flood the streets by 2020.
So far the evidence suggests this will not be the case. As of 2016 there were only 23 hydrogen filling stations in the US for fuel cell vehicles, mostly in California as opposed to 15,774 electric charging stations. Of course this doesn't include home charging units or indeed every plug socket that can also be used to charge an electric vehicle.
Big name car manufacturers like Honda, Toyota and Hyundai among others, are investing in hydrogen-powered vehicles because they are more environmentally friendly compared to the electric-powered vehicles.
Actually only Honda, Toyota and Hyundai are producing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at present. Indeed Mercedes Benz are decreasing their investment in fuel cell technology in favour of fully electric vehicles. They are not more environmentally friendly than electric cars, in fact they use roughly 2.4 times more energy than a fully electric vehicle.
They take just three minutes to refuel, making them cheaper; and they can go up-to 350 miles at a top speed of 186 miles-per-hour. 
The longest range fuel cell vehicle is the Toyota Mirai which has a range of 312 miles. Of course with only 23 hydrogen filling stations in the US and 20 of them in California, the chances of driving from California to anywhere else are about nil. The top speed of the Mirai is also only 108mph.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Tesla Model 3 Caught Completely Undisguised, Showing Interior

Tesla Model 3 Caught Completely Undisguised, Showing Interior
Spy shots from Motor1.com of the forthcoming Tesla Model 3, which will be coming to South Africa sometime after the middle of 2018. Click here to see all the images.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tesla boss promises more of the same thing

Tesla boss promises more of the same thing
Article from Fudzilla analyzing the recent tweets from Tesla boss Elon Musk regarding the upcoming Model 3. Among the countries due to get the most affordable Tesla is South Africa. The Model 3 will reportedly have at least a 335km battery range and the base model will cost about $35,000 (just under R500,000).

Of interest to South Africans were the tweets regarding the right hand drive version of the Model 3.
Two of Musk’s more notable details when discussing Model 3 characteristics on Twitter were the implementation of a right-hand drive model for British, South African, Indian, East Asian, Australian and Japanese customers, and the possibility of Performance models after the initial release. When the first Model S vehicles were released just over four years ago, they all featured rear-wheel drive and standard left-hand drive. The right-hand option was released two years later in 2014, though Tesla says the wait will only be until next summer for the Model 3.
Next summer will presumably be Summer 2018 (northern hemisphere edition) as it will only be July 2017 at the earliest before the left hand drive variant of the Model 3 starts populating the roads of North America. Sometime from June next year then, one can presume that the right hand drive Model 3's will appear in the appropriate markets. I'd guess they will be released in the territories where Tesla is already established first before they release to the new markets such as South Africa and India, so it could well be 2019 or 2020 before we see the Model 3 in South Africa.

Friday, March 31, 2017

That dream of mine could become a reality

That dream of mine could become a reality
Wesley Diphoko writes for IOL about his hopes for an African electric car and a synopsis of the attempts so far in producing one.
I have a dream that one day I will be “driven” by an African car, designed, manufactured and owned by an African. Elon Musk almost made this dream a reality with the Tesla car. 
Read the rest of the article here.

VW to launch ride hailing in Rwanda as part of Africa expansion

VW to launch ride hailing in Rwanda as part of Africa expansion
Reuters article from December I sort of missed, well I remember seeing it but for some reason I didn't pay much attention. Volkswagen are planning a ride hailing service similar to Uber in Rwanda using electric vehicles.
Volkswagen, which is developing electric vehicles and new services as it tries to put its diesel emissions scandal behind it, said on Thursday it had signed a memorandum of understanding in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. Volkswagen expanded into ride-hailing in May, when it invested $300 million in Gett, a firm which seeks to outmanoeuvre Uber by refusing to apply "surge" pricing at peak traffic times. The German company also said it would look at using electric versions of the VW Golf in the Rwandan mobility services business.
Volkswagen are planning to also set up a production facility in Rwanda, there is no mention of electric car production for non-ride hailing purposes. It would stand to reason though if they're going to be making electric cars there then they'll make them available to everyone.
Volkswagen said it had also agreed to set up a vehicle production facility in Rwanda, deepening its local manufacturing operation in Africa where it expects vehicle sales to grow by 40 percent within the next five years. Volkswagen has been producing cars in Africa since 1951, when it started making the VW Beetle in South Africa.
Not only are VW going to be producing vehicles in Rwanda, they've also opened an assembly plant in Kenya.
VW this week said it would start making the Polo Vivo in Thika, re-opening a car assembly plant in Kenya after a four-decade hiatus. The German carmaker assembled cars in Kenya in the 1960s and 1970s. The VW assembly plant will begin with the Vivo model and expand to a range of vehicles, with the first car expected to be produced before the end of the year, officials said. 
No mention of electric vehicle production here either but as it says in the first quoted paragraph, VW are investing large amounts in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, largely brought about as penance for the Dieselgate scandal. Hopefully this enthusiasm for battery power will overflow from the US and European markets into the African continent. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Most want 400km from an electric car

Most want 400km from an electric car
Almost two weeks ago I wrote about a study by Deloitte about how South Africans feel about advanced technology in vehicles. The report I linked to stated that 55% of consumers questioned wanted a 400km plus range in an electric car. I concluded from that, despite the lack of information to back my hypothesis up, that 45% of motorists would be satisfied with shorter range electric vehicles.

Today I found an article on the same study at IOL which revealed a few more statistics from the study.
A Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study found that 54 percent of consumers wanted a minimum distance of 400km from a fully charged vehicle, 24 percent chose 240km to 320km, and 22 percent 80km to 160km.
This indicates that almost a quarter of respondents to the survey would be content with the range offered by the two electric vehicles currently available in South Africa, the Nissan Leaf with a maximum range of 135km and the BMW i3 that can go 160km on a single charge. That's pretty significant. About the same amount of those questioned would be happy with 240km to 320km, electric vehicles with this range should be here in the next year or so. The next generation Nissan Leaf reportedly will have over a 300km range and likewise the Tesla Model 3 which will arrive at some point after it's worldwide release later this year.

Other new details in this article refer to autonomous driving.
The study found that 47 percent of South African consumers wanted limited self-driving technology, while only 39 percent were interested in full self-driving vehicles.
Personally I think it's going to be longer than many people are predicting before there are truly fully autonomous vehicles on the roads. Not only has the technology have to be 100% safe and reliable, traffic regulations and insurance policies will also have to change to incorporate self driving vehicles. I think in South Africa and indeed many developing countries the challenges for autonomous vehicles will be even greater with unpaved roads, pot holes and general lack of obedience when it comes to the rules of the road being some of the obstacles to overcome.

I'm all for any autonomous features that will help make the roads a safer place and I think we will see more and more autonomy added gradually, eventually one day the autonomy will take over all the driving responsibilities.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Where should Tesla place their Superchargers in South Africa?

When Tesla launches the Model 3 in South Africa, probably sometime in the next year or two, they are
undoubtedly going to set up a network of their Supercharger fast charging stations. In every other market they've entered they have provided the charging infrastructure along with the battery powered vehicles. Presumably there will be Superchargers in the big cities of South Africa and the suburban sprawl that surrounds them. Where will they be positioned though on the freeways linking the major metropolitan areas? I thought it would be a nice idea to try and predict the Supercharger positioning on the major routes.

Bear in mind the Model 3 which is the first Tesla model we will see in South Africa, will have a range of at least 210 miles which is about 335km. Recent reports though indicate the range may be even more than this, presumably exceeding the 380km battery range of it's rival the Chevy Bolt. As it currently takes a Tesla Model S 40 minutes to charge to 80% full and another 35 minutes for the final 20%, it makes sense that the Superchargers should be within 80% of the maximum range which is 268km, so not to make stops longer than 40 minutes. 40 minutes seems like the perfect amount of time to stretch ones legs a bit, get something to drink and eat and make oneself comfortable for the next leg of the journey. For this exercise I will make sure no too charging stations are further apart than 268km so no stop should take longer than 40 minutes.
  1. Johannesburg to Cape Town (1398km)
    A journey that many people split into two days with a stop off for the night on the way. If you were wanting to do it in one day in an electric car then you'd really need Tesla's latest Model S with 500km plus battery range. The route is almost entirely along the N1 freeway. Here are where I think the Superchargers could go.

    1. Kroonstad (207km from Johannesburg)Roughly half way between Johannesburg and Bloemfontein makes it an obvious choice.
    2. Bloemfontein (212km from Kroonstad)The capital city of the Free State and the sixth largest city in South Africa
    3. Colesburg (235km from Bloemfontein)Colesberg is a town with 17,354 inhabitants in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, located on the main N1 road from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
    4. Richmond (146km from Colesburg)Bit of a shorter leg as the next major town is Beaufort West and that would possibly be too far in one go from Colesburg. Anyway, maybe only a 20 minute charge to 50% would be necessary while sipping on a coffee at this point.
    5. Beaufort West (183km from Richmond)Beaufort West is a town in the Western Cape province in South Africa. It is the largest town in the arid Great Karoo region, and is known as the "Capital of the Karoo"
    6. Laingsburg (199km from Beaufort West and 264km from Cape Town)The last charging point before Cape Town. 

    So six stops of 40 minutes would add about four hours onto what would be almost a fourteen hour drive. If you split the journey over two days then it would be three stops per day, what you'd probably do in any ICE vehicle anyway. You'll need to stop to stretch your legs and refreshments whatever energy source is propelling your trip, so why not charge at the same time.
    -
  2. Durban to Johannesburg (568km)Probably one of the busiest long distance routes in South Africa. Half distance is Harrismith which is a bit further than 268km from both cities, so we'll have to make two stops on our way.
    1. Van Reenen (269km from Durban)Okay 1km over our limit. However a good place to recharge if you're going to Johannesburg or to Bloemfontein from Durban.
    2. Heidelberg (253km from Van Reenen and 52km from Johannesburg)Quite close to Johannesburg for the final recharge. It will allow you to carry on to Pretoria or any of the outlying suburbs without any range anxiety though.

    Most people will stop for a meal break on their way between these two cities in any event. The last stop at Heidelberg can just be a quick 20 minute charge to get into Johannesburg. You'd probably need to stop for petrol there anyway.
    -
  3. Durban to Bloemfontein (657km)The route from Durban to Bloemfontein and beyond to Cape Town as per route 1.

    1. Van Reenen (269km from Durban)As per the Durban to Johannesburg route.
    2. Senekal (193km from Van Reenen and 178km from Bloemfontein)Senekal is a town situated on the banks of the Sand River in the eastern part of the Free State province of South Africa. It was named after Commandant FP Senekal.

    Again a two stop journey for a Model 3, probably a two stop journey for most drivers.
    -
  4. Bloemfontein to Port Elizabeth (654km)A similar length route to that between Durban and Bloemfontein
    1. Colesburg (235km from Bloemfontein)As per route 1 before we leave the N1.
    2. Cradock (200km from Colesburg and 244km from Port Elizabeth)Cradock is a town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, in the upper valley of the Great Fish River, 250 kilometres by road northeast of Port Elizabeth.

    Two forty minute breaks to refresh during a seven hour journey, again nothing out of the ordinary for any motorist.
    -
  5. Johannesburg to Nelspruit (341km)Mbombela, formerly Nelspruit, is the capital of South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province. It’s a gateway to Kruger National Park, home to elephants, zebras, rhinos and other wildlife.
    1. Middelburg (163km from Johannesburg and 188km from Nelspruit)Perfect half way point for motorists from Gautang on their way to Mpumulanga.
Obviously this still leaves plenty of gaps but for a start would cover some of the more popular motoring routes in the country. See the map below for my predicted positioning of the first South African Tesla Supercharger stations.
Future Tesla Supercharger stations in South Africa?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Nissan LEAF to showcase unique energy transfer capability tailored for South Africa

Nissan LEAF to showcase unique energy transfer capability tailored for South AfricaAutomotive World publish what I presume is a press release from Nissan.
Nissan, in partnership with the uYilo e-Mobility program in South Africa, is to demonstrate its revolutionary technology that allows power stored in electric vehicles to be used in a range of home and commercial applications. The world’s best-selling electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF – the only commercial electric vehicle used for bi-directional energy transfer capability – is being used in a uYilo field test program to demonstrate and develop Nissan’s award-winning charger technology in South Africa.
This technology I can really see having lots of applications in South Africa. Plugging the car into your home, you'd be able to draw on the energy stored in the vehicles battery. This power can be either used to help power things in your home or also fed back into the national power grid. This could really help with the peak electricity demand in the early evenings.
The technology has been further developed to deliver V2G, allowing energy in the battery to be traded with municipal and energy utilities to increase capacity, while also providing the opportunity to stabilize the grid during peak electricity usage. 
If motorists plugged their cars in when they got home in the evening they would utilise whatever power they have in their battery to help power appliances in their home, that would help relieve the strain on the electricity network at peak demand time. Then later on when electricity demand is less the flow could be reversed and the vehicle can charge overnight.

This is another potential benefit of electric vehicles. The article also mentions the biggest benefit to the motorist.
A 2015 study, for example, found that running an all-electric LEAF for a year costs
R18, 000 less than a petrol car, based on the average South African annual mileage of 30,000 kilometers.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Living with a Leaf

Living with a Leaf
Great piece on Linkedin from one of South Africa's leading electric car advocates Carel SnymanCarel started driving the all-electric Nissan Leaf in October 2014 and in this article he reports back on his experience during the first 28 months.

Carel explains that he uses his Leaf for his daily 28km commute and all his business trips. He drives roughly 1,500km per month. It's been mentioned before on this blog that the cost of charging an electric vehicle is roughly a fifth of what it'd cost to go the same distance in an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. Carel has managed even better returns over the 42,000km in his Leaf.

Energy (electricity) cost per month is R19,35 for every 100km (compared to R117 for every 100km for a similar petrol car[1]) or R290 per month (compared to R1755 per month for petrol). 

He also compares the overall cost including purchase price between his Leaf and an equivalent sized ICE vehicle. Despite costing maybe R100,000 more to purchase, the savings in fuel has bought the price per km down to almost the same as an ICE vehicle. This is after only two years and four months. After five years the electric Leaf will have saved the owner R115,000. That figure as far as I see doesn't take into account the saving on maintenance and service costs. Carel takes his Leaf for a free Nissan check up every 15,000km and so far (after 42,000km) there have been no costs in maintenance. As the vehicle uses regenerative braking there is virtually no wear on the brakes.

Interestingly he finds that 90-100km is the most economical cruising speed on the freeway in the Leaf. That is the same speed I stay at on my commute to work, I find my Kia Rio 1.2 uses considerably less fuel at that pace than if I was doing 120km.

When motorists realise just how much they can save in fuel costs with an electric vehicle is when I believe demand and sales will really take off. When your neighbour or work colleague tells you he's paying R400 a month on electricity to charge his vehicle while you're spending R2,000 on petrol every month, you're going to take notice. As the price of electric cars decreases and they get down to around the same price as comparative ICE vehicles, then the potential saving in fuel costs will be even more tempting for the buyer. Add to that not having to fork out for an expensive service every 15,000km or so and the savings from purchasing an electric car appear even more appetising.

Like I have mentioned in this blog before, Carel also stresses the need for charging infrastructure.
EV users should charge whenever they park at a destination – so all destinations (places of work, shopping, services, meetings and home should have a charge point to top-up while the car is parked
This is exactly what is needed. Unlike ICE vehicles that you have to fill up with fuel at a petrol station, an electric car can charge anywhere there's electricity. You'll charge wherever you park and while you're at work or doing shopping or eating in a restaurant your electric car will be topping up it's battery. Business owners should see the offering of charge points for their customers as a way of attracting EV owners to use their establishment, similar to the way they offer wifi to customers at the moment.

Carel also explains how the use of solar energy can provide us with a truly clean, renewable and cheap energy source for our transport system. Please go and read the full article here.

Electric Car Superstar Podcast Episode 175 - SA must embrace electric vehicles now or fall behind

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tesla Model 3: Autopilot is most popular option among South African reservation holders

Thanks to this article at Electrek for leading me to this graphic  from Model3Tracker.info showing the most desired options among Tesla Model 3 reservation holders worldwide. There's quite some difference from country to country in what options are most popular.

Interestingly the most popular option among South African reservation holders is Autopilot. This correlates with the Deloitte survey I wrote about on Sunday. That survey found that the desire for self driving vehicles was greater among South African consumers than it was in the UK and Germany.

There is no indication as far as I can tell of how many South Africans have put down their $1,000 deposit so far to reserve a Tesla Model 3 or when exactly we can expect it to be available here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Motorburn | You can now rent BMW i3 from Europcar in Cape Town

Motorburn | You can now rent BMW i3 from Europcar in Cape Town
You can now rent BMW i3 from Europcar in Cape Town. Article from 19th December 2016 written by Hadlee Simons.
“We have introduced the fully-electric, 0% emissions BMW i3 to our fleet, with sustainability in mind and looking at future trends in mobility. The BMW i3 is a unique, cost effective and innovative vehicle option for our customers,” said Jody Naidoo, Divisional Fleet Procurement Executive for Europcar, in a BMW SA press statement. 
This is a great idea. Not only allowing visitors to enjoy driving about Cape Town in a clean and quiet manner, it's also possibly giving people their first taste of electromobility. It's a fairly inexpensive method to try out an electric car for a day or two, to see perhaps if it fits your motoring needs.

I'm thinking right now if I needed to rent a car and there was an electric option, I would take it. As long as it wasn't priced ridiculously. It would allow me to experience an electric car which otherwise is unlikely to happen until I'm ready to replace my present ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle, which is probably still several years off.