Plug-in electric vehicles are heading for another global market, South Africa, but it may take a while. Eskom, a South African electricity public utility company, told the legislature it will conduct a three-year study to see if the local power grid can handle a bunch of plug-in cars.

Testing started in March when Eskom received 10 Nissan Leafs for its program. Barry McColl, Eskom's GM for research, testing and development, told Parliament the testing is being done to determine what effect a surge in the use of EVs might have on the national power grid. Eskom is already vulnerable to rolling black outs as the utility operates with very narrow reserve margins.

South Africa wants to cut emissions to one ton per person by 2050. In a country of 50 million, this is a problem for a utility that generated 230 million tons in 2011.

The potential for reducing carbon emissions will also be examined, since the country has an ambitious goal to cut these emissions to about one ton per person by 2050. Since there are 50 million people in South Africa, this could be a problem for the utility. In 2011, Eskom generated 230 million tons of carbon dioxide, making it one of the largest emitters in the world. Eskom has already launched a program to reduce emissions through redesigning its power stations in Kusile and Medupi so they emit 15 percent less carbon than other coal-powered stations. It's a start.

McColl told Parliament's portfolio committee on energy that the effect of EVs on the power grid could be significant. The three-year study is being done to ensure that the utility is prepared for the future. McColl said that the sale of EVs has been slow – about 100,000 worldwide. Taking time to do a three-year study will only slow things down more, and the introduction of EVs to South Africa already been dragged out. EV sales are much slower than expected in North America and Europe, where concerns over grid capacity in these regions don't get raised much anymore.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 8 Comments
      Grendal
      • 13 Hours Ago
      Another wasted study at least gives someone somewhere a paycheck. Turbofroggy figured it out in 2 minutes for nothing.
        BraveLil'Toaster
        • 13 Hours Ago
        @Grendal
        Oh, nepotism or cronyism. That's one way to look at it. Here's my take: "South Africa wants to cut emissions to one ton per person by 2050." No they don't. This is politician-speak for "someday I hope that someone after my term might actually somewhat get around to maybe getting something done. Maybe. We'll see if it's in the budget in 2045. My term ends in 2018. But don't I look like I'm getting something done by making this speech? I wrote it myself!" In other words, no, they don't want to do anything. "three-year study" Anytime the government says they're going to do a study on something, that means that they're stalling. The longer they propose the study lasts, the longer they intend to do nothing. Especially when they're studying something so banal as the amount of electricity a fleet of electric cars uses. The data already exists, and the *air conditioners* in a new strip mall would put more pressure on the grid than the 300 cars that would make up the first year's sales in the very best of circumstances. So what they're saying isn't "Oh sure, let's just study this first", it's "Absolutely not. Ask the next guy who gets voted into office. It's his problem".
      EZEE
      • 13 Hours Ago
      Electrical Engineer Here... Uhm...what is current capacity, both total, and various times of the day. What is the best case scenario on EV sales? Is any extra capacity planned (new power plants) or extra consumption planned? Do you have enough power or not (and of course, if you are borderline, then look at that thing turbo froggy said below)? As my drill sergeant once said, 'it don't take no phd!'
      Dave
      • 13 Hours Ago
      South Africa gets 93% of their electricity from coal. For the time being, there is probably no environmental advantage to BEVs there. http://www.worldcoal.org/coal/uses-of-coal/coal-electricity/
      TurboFroggy
      • 13 Hours Ago
      This isn't rocket science people. Just enact a special super-off-peak TOU for EVs and people would be completely dumb to charge during the day. This will flatten out the grid usage and allow millions of cars to charge without any change in infrastructure.
        Spec
        • 13 Hours Ago
        @TurboFroggy
        Exactly.
        DaveMart
        • 13 Hours Ago
        @TurboFroggy
        My reference for the studies seem to have vanished, but from memory studies showed that in areas where the cost of charging varied to be cheaper off peak, it worked and people changed. In another area without TOU then it went on top of peak early evening charging, so people just plugged in when they came home. No doubt chargers will be able to wait for the cheaper rate before starting to charge even after they are plugged in. So the notion that TOU charging works to reduce peak load has been verified in actual trials.
          Spec
          • 13 Hours Ago
          @DaveMart
          And it is very easy to do with most of the modern EVs. They have programmable charging systems where you can instruct them when to start charging.