Before I took the plunge into buying my own EV, one of the burning questions I had was where would I charge it? In fact, I held off from buying until I had satisfied myself that a public charging infrastructure, albeit a bit on the thin side back then, existed. I have been driving my EV for more than a year now, and to my surprise I have never had the need to use a public charger, except for the times I tried out the charger at my local mall and BMW’s DC Fast Charger in Midrand, just for the experience.
Still today, when people ask me about my experience with my EV, this same concern is usually at the top of the list. I guess it is a valid concern that spills over from the first generation EVs that have a low range per charge compared to the newer EVs on the market. If you drive one of these old EVs, then yes, it is a valid concern. The latest EVS have great range, from around 300km for the latest model BMW i3 and in excess of 450km for a Jaguar i-Pace. My slightly older 94Ah BMW i3 gets me a range in excess of 200km on a charge, which is more than sufficient for my daily runs.
So where do I charge? I charge exclusively at home. You cannot charge anywhere cheaper than this, especially if you have solar installed. Even without solar, paying your standard municipal kWh rate is considerably cheaper than using a public charger, unless you are still benefitting from the limited free charging facility offered by some EV manufacturers.
Consequently, people also ask 'but how long does it take to charge at home?’ I waste zero time at filling stations. When I get home at the end of the day, I plug my car in, which takes about 2 seconds and then I don’t care how long it takes to charge. The EV is charging on its own time and not taking up any of mine. If the car is charged within a few hours or within 10 hours makes no difference to me while I sleep. My rule of thumb is that if the car is ready when I need it, then my home charging facility is all I need. I use one of the chargers that we sell at EV charge at home, and that is because I can set the current at the rate at which I want to charge. I charge at a higher rate if I need the car sooner than expected, but generally I only charge at 10 Amps, which is the sweet spot for my driving needs. The car is always ready in the morning when I want to start my day and leave home (with a ‘full tank’).
I am also often asked ‘so what if you want to drive to Durban or Cape Town from Gauteng for your annual holiday?’ My answer is I don’t drive, and even when I drove an internal combustion engine vehicle, I would usually fly instead. Even if I chose to drive, this is possible with the latest, longer range, EVs utilising the existing DC fast charging network established along the main routes between Gauteng, Durban and Cape Town.
Personally, because of my experience, I think the concern around South Africa’s public charging infrastructure for potential EV buyers is unfounded. We seem to be adopting the European philosophy around charging, possibly because we see them as leaders in EVs, which they are. However, the living conditions in Europe are very different to that of South Africa. In Europe, most people park their vehicles in the street where there generally are no electrical power points, so they are forced to rely on a public charging infrastructure, and generally it is a fast DC charging infrastructure that they prefer as they have to wait while their EVs charge. In South Africa however, those who can afford a car can generally afford a garage too. For this reason, I believe that South African drivers are well suited for the switch from fossil fuel driven vehicles to EVs. Home charging for EVs in South Africa just works!