Since our last Windpomp Capers, a whole new world has opened up for me. Granted, I do consider myself a greenie (NOT in the eco sense), when it comes to renewable energy and the like, but I never imagined how far the Electrical Vehicle Industry has come in South Africa. I suppose much of it was because you never see it. In fact, if it weren’t for the Sasol Solar Challenge of last year, I would still be very much in the dark in terms of EV’s in South Africa. It was this amazing event which has turned my attention on the EV market in the first place. If only we could have more events which can enthral the public in such a way. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

I have to be honest. I’ve said it before. I’m a petrol head. There are few things which give me goose bumps like a well-tuned V8, perhaps drifting around the Zwartkops or Kyalami bends. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see the practicality of an EV. I mean, it’s not like you have to quit your day job to be able to sing Karaoke at night! Thankfully, not a lot of us do!

Grappies op n stokkie HardHatGirl

Ok, ok! Alle grappies op ‘n stokkie! (Translated: All jokes on a stick.)


Hiten ParmarI would like to introduce you to Hiten Parmar of uYilo eMobility Programme. This programme is an initiative of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). Hiten says, “The uYilo eMobility Programme, launched on the 13th March 2013, has been initiated by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) to fast track the key technologies that will primarily support the electric vehicle (EV) industry, with supplementary support towards electric mobility (eMobility) as a whole. “ Hiten is one of the directors of uYilo and was kind enough to share some of their vast treasures of knowledge with me, for which I am exceedingly grateful.

In short, they look at all kinds of aspects of the EV industry. In fact, uYilo was one of the stakeholders who formed the Electric Vehicle Industry Association. uYilo are at the forefront in South Africa in terms of new technologies for various forms of EV’s. From battery powered bicycles to BMW i3’s. They form part of a co-op of government and academic agencies as well as private sector stakeholders who determine standards and legislation. They have a world class Battery Testing station as well as EV simulators, which you need to determine the safety of a Charging Station before commissioning it.

solar bikeTheir activities are endless, incorporating post-graduate students into their research with many success stories of how these students went on to have successful careers in the business world of SA. An amazing organisation working for the betterment of the world as we know it.

Please read more about this incredible organisation and its initiatives at http://uyilo.org.za/. I'll keep you posted on their activities and events.

Perhaps you are asking yourself, “Why has this woman gone off the deep end over Electric Vehicles?” Perhaps not. Seriously, though. Why on earth am I going on about all these different aspects of EV’s? The reason is simple. Solar PV in South Africa is going nowhere for many, many years to come, unless we can start to utilise it during the daytime, when it produces power. Electrical Vehicles are going nowhere, so to speak, unless we can make them more consumer friendly.

Solar Energy Saves Money at Home 6b03b88cIf you are in the Solar PV Industry, or have some knowledge of it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. One of the biggest complaints we hear from Solar PV Installers is that the residential market is extremely slow to adopt the technology. Reason: energy storage is extremely expensive – at the moment at least. Of course, all of the energy produced by solar panels need to be either stored or lost if it’s not used during daytime.

So, if the residential market is slow on the uptake, we need to find other ways to utilise this free energy source, which happens to be called the sun. This leaves us with two options. The first is businesses. Businesses work during daytime and are closed (usually) at night. Therefore they are the best possible users of solar energy. These businesses take various forms but in essence it’s a business. From shopping malls to an office park. It’s a business.

electric taxiAnd then we have EV’s. They run mostly during the daytime and would therefore require charging, during the daytime. At least until the technology is readily available in SA where you can drive 400 to 500 km’s without a recharge. This means we need charging stations which utilise solar photo voltaic panels to charge these vehicles. And we need lots of it. Unlike a petrol pump which takes 5 or 10 minutes to refill your tank, you need at least half an hour to recharge your vehicle’s battery to about 80%, and that with a Quick Charger, depending on the vehicle, of course.

You see, we’re really between a rock and a hard place. We need more people to use EV’s for transportation, but in order to get more people to use EV’s it would have to be more convenient for them to do so than it is right now. Part of making EV’s more consumer friendly will be to provide readily available charging points. And that means more solar powered charging stations, as it really defeats the object if you have to charge from the Grid.

Solar CarportsSee! There is method in my madness. I have a vision. My vision is filled with solar photo voltaic panels forming the roofs of car port structures in front of office buildings throughout the country. Underneath these perfectly positioned solar pv panels are rows and rows of EV’s charging happily from the sun whilst their owners are working away diligently in the office just a few meters away.

Inductive Charging Systems - courtesy uYilo

In the future we might have roads with electromagnetic charge strips which will charge the vehicle wirelessly as it moves. Once we achieve that we have started to live in the world of the movie “Demolition Man”. Now, if we can just figure out how to replace toilet paper...?