Rudzani Tshitahe, Pr. Eng, MSAIMechE

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. 

Charging levels

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:

  1. Site characterisation and type of charger (low traffic, remote or high traffic and whether Level 1 or 2 and AC or DC);
  2. Vehicle categorisation along with step a) above; 
  3. Cyber-security and Driver Safety concerns;
  4. Standardisation charging plugs; and
  5. Signage that’s internationally recognisable.

2 Responses

  1. As has been proven to be the logical choice in the US, it will be good to adopt the NACS (North American Charging Standard) or the equivalent Telsa standard in the EU. This will save the country some pain and avoid being held to legacy auto manufacturers and interests that probably may not align with public/motorists’ long-term interest.

  2. 1. More and more incidents are being reported where EV’s spontaneously erupt in fire and/or explode. Such fires are almost impossible to extinguish. A few global shipping companies has already changed their policies, where they state that they will no more transport EV’s, hybrid or hydrogen vehicles on sea (a number of large cargo ships have burnt down and/or sank due to EV’s starting fires).
    2. South Africa already has a shortage of power and will not be able to maintain an EV charging station network. Almost no other first world country can sustainably provide enough power or can build the required infrastructure to replace all internal combustion vehicles with EV’s.
    3. Research also shown that EV’s don’t have a smaller carbon footprint than normal internal combustion vehicles if the whole process (from manufacturing to recycling) is taken into consideration.
    4. There are many types of internal combustion vehicles that is not practical or possible to be replaced with EV’s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *