Recently, the City of Cape Town launched its first public electric vehicle (EV) charging station, situated in the parking area of the Bellville Civic Centre, the second largest urban centre in Cape Town.
This is the first of two solar-powered EV charging stations - the other is in the growing hub of Somerset West - that is being offered free of charge for the first two years to members of the public.
The chargers were donated by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido).
It is an exciting development as eMobility offers an opportunity to create a healthier, more inclusive city, and one that uses a proactive climate change response to help drive the Covid-19 recovery. Prior to the onset of Covid-19, the City also successfully launched its EV fleet pilot programme with the procurement of five cost-effective EVs that are being used in service of communities already.
EVs growing globally
Globally, the transport sector is rapidly moving towards electrification and the list of countries, regions and cities that have set dates to ban internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is growing. The number of EVs globally grew to over 7.2 million cars by the end of 2019, up 2.1 million from the year before and costs are expected to reach price parity with ICE vehicles within the next five years, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Transport is the second biggest contributor to the carbon intensity of Cape Town's economy. This is exacerbated by urban sprawl and the long distances freight has to travel over a country as large as South Africa. Increased congestion and inefficiencies not only increase the city's transport-related greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), largely driving climate change, they worsen air quality and contribute to adverse health impacts.
But South Africa is lagging behind the global EV growth due to a number of factors, including high taxation on EVs, a lack of model options and limited knowledge of the technology.
Therefore, the City is developing initiatives to drive the growth of this technology in Cape Town so that it can become more accessible and be rolled out in the future to benefit all Capetonians.
In support of the growing global momentum to tackle climate change, Cape Town, along with cities in South Africa and worldwide, has committed to achieving carbon neutrality and climate resilience by 2050 to keep global warming to 1,5C. It has also committed to driving the C40 Cities' Fossil Fuel Free Streets Declaration, which aims to significantly increase zero carbon emission vehicles.
These necessary targets can only be reached through significant transitions in urban form, energy sources, transportation and resource efficiency. A key element is cleaning up our sources of electricity and the electrification of transport.
In making these ambitious targets a possibility, the City aims to play a leading role in providing an enabling environment for the uptake and adoption of eMobility.
As a first step, the City is developing an EV framework that sets out the role the City will play to assist in promoting and managing the growth of EVs. It is a key tool that outlines the ongoing work and strategies of catalysing uptake and investment for EVs while harnessing the myriad of economic, environmental and public health benefits. Most importantly, the framework aims to be used as an example of a leading EV-friendly city in South Africa and provide guidance on how EV-enabling regulations can be integrated into national policies and by-laws.
Strong partnership needed
The drive towards the widespread uptake of EVs cannot be undertaken by the City in isolation. Commitment to a shared vision through a strong partnership approach is vital. Therefore, a vast amount of the work has been informed through ongoing engagements with key internal and external stakeholders in the provincial and national government and the private sector.
The City is also engaged in a number of projects that play an enabling role in stimulating uptake and enhancing the accessibility of eMobility for all Capetonians.
The City also seeks to convert 2% of its fleet to electric vehicles by 2030 by procuring zero emission vehicles for our City fleets and wants to ensure that a major area of the city is emissions-free by 2030.
The City commissioned a study with Royal HaskoningDHV to understand the cost benefit analysis of converting City fleets to EVs. This work provided useful general insights into the feasibility of replacing fleet vehicles with EVs. Further in-depth analyses were undertaken and the outcomes of this work have informed the development of an EV fleet pilot programme.
Based on this work, the procurement, tenders and contracts for the City's EV programme were done (prior to Covid-19 coming into the picture). A total of five EVs were procured for use by the Safety and Security Directorate in the performance of its duties to keep residents safe. These vehicles compare well to similar non-electric vehicles used for law enforcement due to the high-performance requirements of the fleet.
The City is also taking steps to understand the implications of a potential surge in EV uptake and electricity usage of charging infrastructure on the grid through a grid impact study. The adoption of disruptive technologies may pose safety risks and put a strain on the constrained grid infrastructure, therefore effective management of charging infrastructure is imperative. The study identifies locations at shopping malls and filling stations across the city for public EV charging infrastructure and models the expected increase in demand aggregated to main substation level of home EV charging.
In light of the expected growth in EV ownership, the City has also investigated the potential tariff structure options for vehicle charging. International experience has shown that a separate EV charging tariff is not a major driver for EV uptake. Rather offering a tariff that provides cost-efficient and economically viable rates to encourage usage during off-peak hours to reduce electrical demand and strain on the grid. This is something the City is continuing to investigate.
To ensure a successful transition to eMobility and encourage widespread adoption of EVs, it is essential to complement the measures highlighted above by promoting increased awareness and influencing attitudes to build confidence in purchasing and using EVs.