The transportation sector is moving from using fossil fuel propelled internal combustion engines (ICE) to using electric motors driven vehicles. This migration is universally deemed an environmental imperative which will affect the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and limit the rate of global climate change. EU has committed to banning ICE vehicle sales by 2035.
South Africa is signatory to several international pacts that aim to reduce global climate change by limiting or reducing the utilization of fossil fuel as primary energy. This article limits its focus on the first tier on the electricity supply chain and the need for the standardization of electric vehicle charging stations. No attention is given to primary energy utilized in the generation of electricity for EV charging stations and therefore no carbon footprint will be analysed.
The socio-economic, geo-politico as well as environmental impact of Lithium and Cobalt mining at the entire battery manufacturing supplier tiers will also not be covered here.
Not the same
Electric vehicles use lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries which are charged from an external electrical power source through two stages, viz.: constant current ⇒ constant voltage (the chemistry of how the charging is achieved as detailed in applicable literature). Li-ion batteries are the most researched with safety and feedback systems that have been built around them having proven reliable. It is for this reason that it’s assumed, in this article that all EVs employ Li-ion batteries and associated technologies.
South Africa does not have an entity which is responsible for an EV charging ecosystem. This means that the cybersecurity around charging systems does not adhere to a specified national standard. EV manufacturers have each started with their own charging specifications and hardware and each has their own product-specific multi-layer cybersecurity.
The collaboration of ElectroSA and manufacturers such as BMW, Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover seem to be pouring some light onto this important standardisation matter and they have installed 80 charging stations around the country. Rubicon and Audi alliance is another which has come into the fray with 43 product-dedicated charging stations recently installed around the country and 150 multi-product to be installed by the end of 2023. Most of these EV charging stations are concentrated in major cities.
EVs can be charged at home or at a charging station. They can be charged through a wireless charging station through a wireless inductive device or using an EV plug. Depending on the electrical supply phase, charging could be Level 1 (1-Phase); which provides lesser rapid charging than the Level 2 (3-Phase). Either of the levels could be alternating current (AC); which connects the vehicle’s onboard charging circuitry directly to the AC supply or direct current (DC); which by-passes the vehicle’s AC-DC converter on board the vehicle.
The charging system that employs DC Level 2 provides more rapid charging that the other combinations.
Given the above observation, it is necessary to conclude that the country requires a standard and guidance for market players. A guiding policy should consider and pronounce on the following:
- Site characterisation and type of charger (low traffic, remote or high traffic and whether Level 1 or 2 and AC or DC);
- Vehicle categorisation along with step a) above;
- Cyber-security and Driver Safety concerns;
- Standardisation charging plugs; and
- Signage that’s internationally recognisable.