When you fill up an ICE vehicle, it’s either diesel or petrol, and it takes about 5 minutes to fill the tank – end of discussion. But when you need to recharge an EV there’s a lot to discuss: trickle charging, fast charging, and ultra-fast charging. On top of that there are variable costs attached to each. And the discussion can get heated.
In the early nineties, my brother Mark and I did a road trip to Grahamstown in his bright yellow VW Beetle. Our route meandered through every little Free State and Karoo as its small tank and heavy petrol consumption forced us to refuel every 320km or so.
It seems as if we’ve come full circle, as one of the main things to consider when deciding to buy an EV is where and when you are going to charge it. At present most EVs give a range of about 400km. Like an internal combustion engine (ICE) mileage depends on how hard and fast you drive the vehicle.
If you are a commuter traveling no more than 40km to work and 40km back home, then a charge should last you a week. Besides, you could charge it at the work parking lot and again at home that evening using a built-in AC trickle charger which you plug into your wall-mounted socket like you would plug in a fridge. This charges at about 11 kW and trickle charge the battery in about seven hours. No problem. No stress. No range anxiety.
EV charging on longer road trips
The anxiety arises when you embark on longer journeys. For example, a trip from Johannesburg to Makanda (the place previously known as Grahamstown) is 975km.
In an ICE vehicle at 120km/h, this trip would take about eleven hours and include one petrol stop. This stop could be done – but is not recommended – in less than ten minutes. It might including a dash to the bathroom, buying a pie and coke as well as having your windscreen washed.
In an EV you’ll have to stop to charge three times; let’s say after 250km, after 500km, and again after 750km. Normal DC fast chargers charge at 50kW and recharge your vehicle at speeds of approximately 4.5km range per minute, i.e., about 60 minutes to replace the 250 kilometres you’ve used up, i.e., 80% fully recharged. Way too much time for a pie and coke.
This is where the ultra-fast charger comes in. Using special cooling technology, the ultra-fast charger charges at 350kW and will take about 20 minutes to get you ready for the next 250. Just enough time for a leisurely pie and coke.
Ultra fast charging at Zero Carbon Charge en route charging destinations.
Initially, each Zero Carbon Charge station will have a 180kW DC charger (upgradeable to 480kW) with multiple plugs, allowing up to four EVs to charge simultaneously. As demand increases more chargers will be added and/or upgraded.
Making 3 stops your EV’s still going to take longer than the ICE vehicle. Only longer battery range will narrow that gap. And I’m sure someone is working on that as I write.
The downside is that you’ll pay more for ultra-fast charging. Time is money. The choice is yours, pay more for ultra-fast charging, or stop at a fast-charging station where you may spend the longer charging time on an enriching or productive activity.