Zero Carbon Charge starts building solar-powered EV charging stations in South Africa

Zero Carbon Charge (Zero CC) has started the development of a network of solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations across South Africa’s national routes. This network aims to promote and support the growth of the country’s EV industry by providing off-grid charging stations, which will alleviate strain on energy generation resources and reduce carbon emissions.

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According to Zero CC co-founder Joubert Roux, the first facility, featuring a 1MW solar farm and equivalent storage capacity, is under construction in Wolmaransstad, North West province, and is expected to be operational by July. The company envisions two key factors for EV adoption: the availability of EVs priced below R500,000 and a reliable national charging network.

Zero CC plans to construct two types of charging stations: 1MW facilities for passenger and commercial vehicles up to 8 tons, and 35MW facilities for electric trucks. Six 35MW sites are planned along the N3 route between Johannesburg and Durban, with an additional 120 stations planned along other national routes. The total cost of the network is estimated at R1.8 billion, which Zero CC intends to finance privately.

The charging stations will be positioned at 150km intervals across the country to cater to the average EV range of 300km. Both types of stations will offer 480kW supercharging capabilities via air-cooled 200A cables and liquid-cooled 500A cables. The passenger vehicle sites require around 2.5 acres of land, mainly for solar panels, while truck sites demand at least 150 acres to accommodate additional infrastructure.

Zero CC’s ecosystem will include an app to assist motorists with trip planning and payments. The company uses a post-paid system to avoid charging interruptions and also offers card payment options. The connectors adhere to the combined charging system standard, supporting type-1 and type-2 charging ports.

However, the rollout faces significant challenges, including security risks from syndicates targeting battery storage sites and obstacles in navigating national and local government permitting procedures. Zero CC estimates it needs a total of 7,500 acres of land and must conduct environmental impact studies for permitting. Securing permits can be challenging, particularly when sites are located on high-value agricultural land.

Seasonal variations in daylight hours and solar irradiation also pose a challenge. Zero CC anticipates an 87% year-round security of supply and will use on-site, biofuel-based backup generators to offset any shortfalls.