BMW installs South Africa’s first public charging station for electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

Submitted by: Bukelwa Nzimande, Monday, October 12, 2015

<p>BMW's public charging station for EV and PHEV vehicles located in Melrose Arch,  Johannesburg (Source: BMW SA- P90196738)</p>

BMW's public charging station for EV and PHEV vehicles located in Melrose Arch,  Johannesburg (Source: BMW SA- P90196738)

For the first time in South Africa, Electric Vehicle (EV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) owners using  Type 2 plug charging cables will now be able to charge their cars at the country’s first public charging station situated in Melrose Arch. This Johannesburg shopping precinct, home to various department stores, restaurants, offices and urban style housing, is the first public space which has been selected by BMW Group South Africa (BMW SA) for the installation of public charging infrastructure for EVs and PHEVs. The installation is part of their first phase of planned installations which features two parking bays designated for the exclusive use of EVs and PHEVs, providing owners the option of charging their vehicles while enjoying the precinct’s various amenities.

Installation of public charging stations

In hopes of building customer confidence in electricity powered vehicles, BMW SA plans to install more vehicle charging facilities within urban public spaces offering customers easily accessible charging that fits well within their everyday schedules. “BMW’s strategy is to locate charging stations in central areas like shopping centres where customers spend most of their time and can enjoy the convenience of quickly charging their cars while going about their everyday lives’’, says Thando Pato, Product Communications Manager at BMW SA.  “Demand for the BMW i products is centered in urban areas”, and due to this BMW SA will be focusing on rolling out public vehicle charging infrastructure in major urban centres. “Melrose Arch is the ideal location for the first charging station as it is centrally located in a burgeoning and bustling precinct“, adds Pato.

Plug-in charge cable installation

The newly installed Type 2 plug charging station combines BMW’s electric and plug-in hybrid models Combined Charging System 2 (CCS2) and Nissan’s 100% electric LEAF Charge de Move (CHAdeMO) system plug standards and includes an alternating current (ac) charger. This means that the charging facilities are not exclusive to the BMW i series model but have the capacity to charge any EV and PHEV models. The stations are adequately marked, clearly displaying the type of charger and the type of cars they are compatible with. BMW SA has not monetised charging stations as yet and customers benefit by swiping their “charge now” cards received upon the purchase of their EV/PHEV, allowing them to activate free charging sessions whenever they are using these stations. The plug charging cable installation, which can charge an electric car battery up to an 80% battery charge in under 2.5 hours, is situated outside the Sandton Auto-managed pop-up store, which will be exclusively selling BMW i EVs. “To get a 100% charge on a BMW i3 you can add approximately another 40 minutes to the charging time and depending on the BMW model, millage can be between 130 and 300 kilometres. The BMW i3 (Battery Electric Vehicle – BEV) has a range of up to 130 kms while the BMW i3 with a range extender (REX) has a range of up to 300 kms,” adds Pato.

Planned installations

“A key imperative of BMW SA’s strategy with the introduction of the BMW i series in South Africa, is to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is rolled out to help increase consumer confidence in the viability of electric vehicles,” explains Pato. BMW SA will therefore be introducing and launching similar projects in various urban spaces in South Africa.  At the beginning of the year BMW and Nissan signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which the two companies will join forces to plan and build a national grid of EV and PHEV vehicle charging stations. Although this first installation is not within the scope of the above mentioned MoU programme, it will still benefit all EV and PHEV car model owners. This facility is also said to be the first of three installations planned for the Melrose Arch precinct over the next two months.

Challenges associated with electric vehicles in the South African context

Since Nissan and BMW first introduced their EV and PHEV models in 2013 and 2015 respectively, there has been much debate around whether the South African market was ready for this step considering the many challenges around EVs and PHEVs and their viability from a local aspect. Some of these challenges include: South Africa’s dependence on coal for the production of electricity, and the availability of public charging facilities. In response to these challenges Pato states that although the initial stations will be powered from the predominantly coal-powered national grid, BMW SA is exploring greener energy sources to power its public charging infrastructure in the future, “BMW Group SA is powering the installation from the national grid; however there are plans to introduce solar powered chargers in the future.” Pato explains that to date 71 BMW i3’s and 94 BMW i8’s models have been sold in South Africa and emphasises the importance of increasing the amount of charging stations in South Africa in order to make EV’s and PHEV’s more marketable. “In order for the introduction and expansion of electric vehicles as well as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to be successful in the market, we need to introduce more public charging infrastructure. This initiative as well as the partnership with Nissan is a major step in the industry of which both companies are looking forward to see its benefit to the entire automotive industry” adds Pato.

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Bukelwa Nzimande