JOHANNESBURG – Load shedding has become a way of life in South Africa – as an embattled Eskom struggles to keep the lights on. But, amid this darkness, three motoring company CEOs have opted for electric vehicles (EVs). The question is obvious: why?
“It’s simply the right thing to do,” says George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO. “Using the big power station in the sky is better in the long run – full stop.” AutoTrader’s CEO has not only electrified his ride by switching to the fully electric Jaguar I-PACE – he has future-proofed his home too. Off-grid is the ultimate goal for Mienie, but he admits that this comes with its challenges. He also believes that he will recoup some of the cost of going the EV route in less than ten years by reducing his fuel costs.
“The biggest challenge was a complete mindset change,” explains Mienie. “My lifestyle is now geared towards locations that offer the opportunity to charge my car. But, I have not yet found the need to use public chargers on the day to day commute – my car charges for two hours a day, overnight. This alone makes the load shedding impact on EVs irrelevant. I manage my home consumption during the day via mobile phone apps to make sure I have enough ‘stored energy’ at night. I was apprehensive about it all at first, but now I manage without a second thought.”
Greg Maruszewski, Managing Director of Volvo Car South Africa, has also made the conversion in both his home and car. “I have installed a full solar system at home, which is totally off the grid. I am also fortunate enough to be able to drive a plug-in hybrid, namely the XC90 T8,” says Maruszewski. “I would definitely recommend it, even if it’s not totally off the grid. There are real benefits, and it makes financial sense in the medium term. I’m no longer affected by load shedding or power surges. I’m also a tech fan and there’s something wonderful about using renewable technology. Literally seeing the sun power my house is a magical thing. It makes me excited about the future.”
According to Maruszewski, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) offers the best of both worlds. “Once we get electric cars, I will probably look to go that route in due course. But, for now, I think the PHEV technology is the ideal compromise. Short distances can be done on electric only and you can easily cover long distances too.”
Winstone Jordaan, Managing Director of GridCars, has been on the conversion trail for over a decade. Today, driving a BMW i3 Electric, he is seeing a technology nearly 20 years in the making bearing real fruit.
“I started driving my first electric car in 2009,” says Jordaan. “At that time, I was limited to our solar charging system at the office. Today, however, we have installed DC fast chargers on all the main highways in South Africa, making the ownership of an EV somewhat effortless. The progress that both the world and South Africa has made is remarkable.”
We’ve already seen a renewable revolution starting to take hold in many affluent South African households (as a consequence of load shedding). Now, it seems as though motorists will follow suit once the vehicles and solar tech becomes more affordable.