A concern for many South Africans buying an electric car is: How far can I drive before I need to recharge?
Their next concern is: Are there enough charging stations around to prevent me from being stranded?
To answer these questions, we have taken a look at three electric cars currently available in South Africa and how they would fare in a road trip.
Models on offer
Three established electric cars on offer locally are the BMW i3, Mini Cooper SE, and Jaguar I-PACE.
A range of 330km-359km is available between the various derivatives of the i3, according to BMW, which gives the i3 an average range of about 345km.
The Mini then has a claimed range of between 200km-230km, which gives the model an average range of about 215km.
The Jaguar I-PACE has the longest range, according to the company, coming in at 470km.
This brings the average range of the three electric cars in South Africa to around 343km, which will be our benchmark.
Even though South Africa’s public charging network is still in its early stages, it provides the 50kW, direct current charging needed for quick charging.
Based on this, the BMW i3 has a charging time of 42 minutes to reach 80% capacity.
The Mini SE boasts the shortest charging time of 35 minutes for 80%, and the Jaguar I-PACE sees 53% of charge every one hour.
This brings our average charging time to 46 minutes for a 70% charge – or roughly 240km of range.
GridCars is currently one of the leading car charging network providers in the country and supplies an interactive map of over 150 charging stations.
ActiveCharge is then responsible for the payment methods in order to use these charging points.
In order to charge your car, however, you need to sign up for a yearly membership of R325 per annum – and pay a fee per kWh used when charging.
Driver must also keep in mind that there is no standard fee per station.
According to data released by the Automobile Association of South Africa, frequently-travelled routes for South African drivers include all the largest cities and well-known coastal locations.
This includes routes from Johannesburg/Pretoria to either Cape Town, Durban, or Kimberley.
As these routes are very popular, they will be used to gauge if an EV road trip is possible in South Africa.
Johannesburg to Cape Town
- Route distance – 1,400km
Assuming we start the trip fully charged from the centre of Johannesburg, the distance that lies ahead of us will be about 1,400km.
For our car to make it we need a charging station every 343km.
This leads us to Kroonstad, about 190km away where the first station lies at an estimated recharging value of R5.88/kWh.
Filled up, we head to the next to charging point in Bloemfontein.
We have travelled a total of 400km by now and were able to refill twice at a price of R5.88/kWh in both cases.
The next charging station is a bit further away, and your best bet will be the halfway point of the road trip, Colesberg.
At a total distance of 630km now travelled, we were able to fill up three times at R5.88/kWh.
This is needed as the next stretch to Beaufort West will be the longest on the trip at 320km.
Two more steps lie ahead – Laingsburg and Worcester – before we get to Cape Town, each with a travel distance of under 200km.
A final stretch of 114km from the last charging station will then certainly be attainable before you reach the base of Table Mountain.
Our EV road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town is now complete.
It consisted of charging our vehicle six times, and we paid an average of R5.88/kWh.
The entire trip took 20 hours to complete, which includes 4 hours and 8 minutes of charging time – and excludes other stops or stay-overs.
Johannesburg to Durban
- Route distance: 570km
Again starting the trip fully charged with a 343km range, we headed off toward the KZN coastline.
This time we are much closer, and will easily be able to complete the trip with fewer than two complete charges.
Four charging stations are located on this route, starting at Villiers – 120km away from Johannesburg.
A second is located at Harrismith, with a third at Mooi River – all within driving range if we recharged at Villiers.
Two more charging locations can then be found at Pietermaritzburg and Pinetown, but can be skipped if you’d fancy visiting Durban a bit sooner.
Our second EV road trip has come to an end, costing an average of R5.88/kWh of charging.
The entire trip took around 8 and a half hours to complete, which includes 1 hour and 50 minutes of charging time.
Johannesburg to Kimberley
- Route distance: 480km
This is the shortest of the routes and also the least-populated with charging stations.
The first route option offers charging stations at Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp, which are both well within the range needed for us to “refuel”.
From there, it is on to Kimberley with nearly half our range remaining.
The second route via Bloemfontein offers one more charging point, which is not entirely necessary.
For our last road trip we had a minimum of two charging points per route, at an average price of R5.88/kWh.
The entire trip took around 7 hours to complete, which includes 1 hour and 32 minutes of charging time.