uYilo invests into South African electric vehicle charging infrastructure localization

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  • uYilo eMobility Programme funds local technology investments
  • Drive to improve local supply chain development of the electric vehicle industry value chain
  • South Africa’s development of future mobility technologies
  • Global electric vehicle market opportunities for local technology advancements

Two major factors of the Fourth Industrial Revolution combine in one key area – electric mobility. The global uptake of electric vehicles means that a complementary increase in non-traditional energy generation and storage are critical to economic development in this new environment.

South Africa's adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) has been slow by global standards, but it is accelerating. From a fleet of around 1221 plug in electric vehicles currently, it is projected that there could be as many as 145 000 electric vehicles on our roads in the next six years.

“The local battery electric vehicle market started with the introduction of the Nissan Leaf in 2013, and the BMW i3 in 2015. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles offerings include BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. This year more manufacturers will bring EVs to the SA market, the first being Jaguar Land Rover," says Hiten Parmar, director of uYilo eMobility Programme. The uYilo Programme is also one of the strategic initiatives within the Green Transport Strategy of the national Department of Transport that promotes introduction of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles.

"The supporting public EV charging infrastructure has progressed since early inceptions in 2013 with the majority of charge points installed having being supplied from international equipment manufacturers. As the local EV market grows, the demand from vehicle manufacturers for a variety of locally manufactured EV charging infrastructure and service providers will also increase. In preparations towards this there has been specific investment from the uYilo Kick Start fund into technology localisation projects, to ensure multiple local technology providers are available and that South Africa is not solely dependent on international suppliers and technologies."

The South African Automotive Masterplan 2035 has set out several objectives, including having a localisation rate of 60%. The Department of Trade and Industry under Minister Rob Davies has been clear about its long-term commitment to support the local automotive sector, as well as the benefits of having a deep and diverse supply chain for domestic sourcing. 

uYilo Kick Start Fund investments on specific electric vehicle charging infrastructure technology projects includes the GridCars AC charge point and server in 2014, the MLT Inverters Karoo70 High Voltage inverter for second-life EV batteries in 2015, the Microcare 50kW DC EV Fast Charger in 2017 and in 2018 QBSoft - EV BackOffice management system. The total allocation localisation funding extends across R13.2 million to which R7.7 million allocation has been from the uYilo grant funding, and R5.5 million co-funding from the specific project developers and related partners. This funding model has attracted greater participation and commitments towards expanding the local electric vehicle ecosystem of technologies. These grassroots investments seek to provide the foundation for the growth of the local electric vehicle supply chain for domestic sourcing. 

"The uYilo smart grid facility additionally provides a live-testing environment for electric vehicle fleets and the related infrastructure ecosystem. At 128kW total EV charging capacity it is currently the largest dedicated EV charging, and technology advanced facility in Africa, with the inclusion of global technologies of the electric vehicle ecosystem," says Parmar. "This includes solar EV charging, second life EV battery storage systems, BackOffice management, AC charge points, DC fast chargers and the leading Vehicle-to-Grid technology”.

The national Department of Transport, Green Transport Strategy 2018-2050 is good news for the future of cleaner mobility in South Africa. It is the first national policy document promoting electric vehicles adoption in the country. "The Green Transport Strategy contains five Implementation themes. Under the Green Transport Technologies theme, Strategic Pillar 8, is of particular importance. This relates to the promotion of Electric and Hybrid-Electric Vehicles." Within the strategy, the uYilo eMobility Programme is profiled as a Strategic Initiative towards development of electric vehicle components.

The national uYilo eMobility Programme is an initiative of the Technology Innovation Agency, a public entity of the Department of Science and Technology. The programme operates towards a mandate of enabling, facilitating and mobilising electric mobility in South Africa.

The multi-stakeholder programme has supporting facilities and expertise across accredited battery testing of lead-acid and lithium-ion technologies, electric vehicles systems, and the smart grid ecosystem infrastructure for electric vehicles. The annual uYilo Kick Start Fund provides grant funding to encourage local technology development of products, process or services that can advance the South African eMobility industry.

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Issue 39