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But how will I charge my electric vehicle in Africa?

Written by: Ben Pullen

Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure a ‘perceived’ barrier and not an ‘actual’ barrier to mass adoption of electric vehicles? 

The perception that electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure is a significant barrier to adopting EVs has long been a common concern. However, depending on where you look in Africa, there are several key reasons why EV charging infrastructure might only be a perceived barrier and not an actual barrier to mass adoption of electric vehicles.

Below I’ve listed a few reasons why, but before you review them, let me be clear that lack of charging infrastructure can be both a real barrier and perceived barrier. This is important to know as on the one hand we do require a huge effort of policy, investment, business, consumer, and political will to instal the required charging stations fit for mass adoption of electric vehicles. However, on the other hand we hold ourselves back if we let the requirement of building charging stations halt adoption of electric vehicles today.  

Why charging infrastructure might not be so much of a real barrier today

Rapid Expansion of Charging Networks

  • Charging infrastructure is growing rapidly across African cities, with many private companies and utilities investing in the expansion of public charging stations. This expansion includes both slow chargers in residential and workplace settings and fast chargers along highways and in urban centres. Check out the GridCars Network in South Africa. 

Source: GridCars – https://www.gridcars.net/

Home Charging 

  • The majority of EV charging happens at home, where it’s most convenient for owners. This makes the transition to electric vehicles easier for people with private parking. Home charging is straightforward to set up and can be done overnight when the vehicle is not in use. 

Workplace Charging

  • Again, this is an important point, and one that is often overlooked. An increasing number of employers are offering EV charging in their parking. This adds another convenient option for EV owners to charge their vehicles during the day. 

Improvements in Battery Technology

  • Advances in battery technology have led to EVs with longer ranges, reducing the need for frequent recharging for most daily needs. Many new EV models (even lower cost vehicles) can travel over 400km on a single charge, which is more than sufficient for the average daily commute or urban fleet requirements.  

Increasing Availability of Public Charging Stations

  • Public charging networks are expanding, making long-distance travel more viable. High-speed charging stations are becoming more common along major highways, making it easier to own an EV without worrying about long trips. Take a look at this image (see left) from PlugShare.com which shows the high number and diverse locations of charging stations in South Africa.  However, this is not yet the case for Public Charging Stations in East Africa, which see charging stations mainly focused in urban arears. (see right)  

Mobile Apps and Technology

  • The rise of mobile apps and in-car technology has made finding and accessing charging stations easier than ever. Real-time information on charger availability, type, and charging speed helps drivers plan their charging stops efficiently. There are many companies around Africa innovating to solve this problem, with lots of off the shelf white-label solutions available for local companies to tap into. Check out EVChaja from Kenya to see an example.   

Integration with Renewable Energy

  • Charging infrastructure is increasingly being integrated with renewable energy sources, such as solar. This not only makes EVs more environmentally friendly but also helps to mitigate some of the grid challenges associated with charging multiple vehicles. Not to mention the potential cost saving from charging using local renewable sources.  

Increased End User Awareness and Confidence

  • As more businesses and people adopt EVs and share their experiences, confidence in the technology and its supporting infrastructure grows. This, in turn, encourages further adoption and investment in charging solutions. South Africa is a great case study for this and has seen two new charging network players enter the market to build slow, medium, and fast charging stations.  

Fleets can Build their own Charging Infrastructure

  • Fleets have the luxury of being able to analyse the business case and work out the exact charging requirements needed, and then build them. This could be financing and management themselves or using a service provider. For example, FedEx in South Africa is utilising the services of Everlectric to supply and manage both the electric vehicles and charging requirements. This removes the concern around charging and allows FedEx to focus on the cost savings, emission reduction, and wider efficiencies to the business operations.   

What else could be done:  

Government Incentives and Support

  • Governments around the Africa could offer incentives for EV charging infrastructure development, including grants, tax breaks, and regulations that encourage or require the installation of public and private charging stations. 

Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) Technologies

  • The development of V2G technologies allows EVs to feed energy back into the grid during peak demand times. This can help manage the load on the electrical grid and turns EVs into mobile energy storage units, further integrating them into the overall energy ecosystem and boosting their overall Return on Investment.  

Focus on Slow and Medium Charging Stations

  • Fast charging stations are only really required when doing long-distance road trips or when in a rush to quickly charge before making a trip. However, most charging can be done at a slower pace to top up a battery’s charge. For example, when the owner is at the gym, doing the groceries, waiting for a child at swimming club. This means that the focus could be on slow and medium charging stations which can be around 4-10% of the cost of fast charging stations.  

Rough costing for slow, medium, fast charging station installation

Fast Charging Station Cost: The cost of installing a fast-charging station can range from $50,000 to $200,000 or more per station, depending on factors such as power capacity, site preparation, permitting, equipment costs, and labour.  

Medium Charging Station Cost: The cost of installing medium charging stations is generally lower compared to fast chargers, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 per station. This cost can vary based on similar factors such as power capacity, site preparation, equipment costs, and labour.  

Slow Charging Station Cost: The cost of installing slow charging stations is much lower compared to medium and fast chargers, ranging from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 per station. This cost can vary based on similar factors such as power capacity, site preparation, equipment costs, and labour. 

In conclusion, despite these positive developments, challenges remain, such as ensuring equitable access to charging for people without private parking, scaling infrastructure in line with EV adoption rates, and managing grid impacts. However, the momentum behind EVs and their infrastructure suggests that these challenges are increasingly being addressed through innovation, policy, and investment, something that we are working hard to advance at Smarter Mobility Africa summit.

About the author

Ben Pullen
Group Director of Mobility
A man on a mission to unlock social, environmental, & economic freedoms through smarter mobility.
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