David Bullard writes on the minister’s cukoo aspirations to set up e.car charging points across SA
OUT TO LUNCH
With his usual impeccable timing during yet another bout of Eskom load-shedding and without a hint of irony our much loved Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, announced last week that we should all brace ourselves for an imminent great announcement from the ruling party.
It appears, that having already sorted out (or given up on) the national rail network the minister is now about to announce the setting up of vehicle charging points across the country. This is to facilitate the expected boom in the sale of electric vehicles in this country as we all rush to protect the planet from further damage and consign fossil fuel use to the dustbin of history. Yeah right.
At a recent government waffle shop Mbalula declared:
"We must continue to phase out coal… the minister of energy [Gwede Mantashe] will kill me about this… I must be understood properly," he said with a chuckle.
He then rephrased: "We must continue to phase out coal in a manner that is carefully structured and planned." This means repurposing and repowering existing coal plants and creating new livelihoods for workers and communities specifically impacted by this change, Mbalula emphasised.
Mantashe has on multiple occasions said the transition must not be rushed and that the impact livelihoods of the multitudes dependent on the coal value chain must be carefully considered.
This flow of ill thought out and meaningless guff essentially means that Mabalula hasn’t a clue as to how these vehicle charging points will work but it shouldn’t be through the use of coal unless it has to be….clear enough? How on earth do you repurpose an existing coal plant for example and what will this envisaged new livelihood for the discarded coal workers involve? Polishing the blades on the wind farms maybe? ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
So let’s assume that the country isn’t going to be speckled with wind farms and solar panels that are busy charging up the thousands of e.cars that we are all being encouraged to buy to replace the filthy internal combustion engines that are killing our planet. What’s the alternative? Good old diesel burning and coal burning Eskom. Since we don’t appear to have sufficient energy generation to supply businesses and basic households can you begin to imagine what even a couple of thousand cars on an overnight charge are going to do to the national grid?
But let’s not be negative and let’s assume that the Minister has a master plan which he is going to reveal to us when he eventually breaks the good news on these e.car charging stations. The obvious question to ask is who pays and will they function? I assume there is already a long queue of cadres with no previous electrical experience ready to install these charging stations at a bargain price. Maybe even ghost relatives of the Minister himself. My bet is that within hours they will have been vandalized, essential components stolen or they will simply not function as intended. But I’m prepared to be proved wrong and I hereby pledge R10 000 to a charity of Mbalula’s choice should this scheme be up and running efficiently two years from now. That’s one year before Volvo have declared that they will be producing only electrically powered vehicles.
Back to practicality though. Despite huge strides in the development of e.cars and in battery technology the fact remains that they still have a very limited range compared with diesel, petrol and hybrid models and they take at least 20 minutes to recharge and often much longer. That’s assuming you can simply drive up to a charging station that is working. If there’s a queue of even two cars you’ve got a wait of over an hour to look forward to. If the charging station isn’t functioning then you’re stuck until you can come up with a better plan.
This has already proved a stumbling block in the UK and Europe and in a country with a very erratic electricity supply it’s going to prove disastrous.
However, you can always charge your car overnight at home, load-shedding permitting. This assumes that you have a lock up garage with a specially installed power supply. Unfortunately this rules out all of you who live in apartments without dedicated, secure, underground parking and dwellers in informal settlements. You will have to drive to your nearest e.car charging station and hope that the queue isn’t too long.
More to the point though is the cost of switching from filthy, planet destroying, exhaust fume spewing, noise polluting traditional vehicles to nice, quiet, environmentally friendly, clean (unless you count the pollution from the power station supplying the electricity) e.cars.
The cheapest on the market at the moment according to the ever helpful @DaveTheCarGuy on Twitter is the entry level Mini at around R700 000. That would also buy you a very decently specced diesel or petrol SUV and leave you with plenty of change. At the upper end of the market you can expect to pay just under R2 mln for the entry level Audi e-tron but they will chip in up to R5 000 towards having the charger installed in your garage-a deal clincher if ever there was one.
So with electric vehicles being largely unaffordable for the majority of the population one must wonder why a cabinet minister belonging to a party fighting for a better life for the historically downtrodden is getting quite so animated about installing charging points for e.cars. Surely restoring the country’s now defunct rail system would be a better use of time and resources.
I would be more than happy to own a sensibly priced electric car for short trips to the shops and local restaurants. I would be prepared to charge it at home and doubt whether I would clock more than 300kms a week. It doesn’t need to have a fancy interior but a bit of boot space for shopping would be handy. Something the size of the Smart car would be ideal. But they simply don’t exist which is crazy because there must be a market for them. Surely there’s a budding Elon Musk lurking somewhere in SA who could make a plan. After all, the technology is already there; all it needs is someone with the foresight to set up an assembly plant. If our labour laws weren’t so absurdly draconian this could have already been a reality.
I’m not sure that I’ll ever understand what, if anything, makes woke lefties tick. Last week they were all in a froth on hearing the news that DA leader John Steenhuisen was visiting Ukraine on a ‘fact finding tour’. This led to a predictable display of confected outrage from the lefties together with equally predictable attacks on the Democratic Alliance. Why wasn’t Steenhuisen visiting one of the many trouble spots on our own continent someone asked on Twitter. The simple answer to that, I replied, is that there are so many to choose from and poor JS would be accused of prejudice if he favoured one over all the rest. At least with Ukraine he’s getting in early before WW3 spreads to the rest of Europe and he is forced to pick a country.
It transpired that the visit was funded by the Brenthurst Foundation who are not known for arranging package tours to fun places. I think if Dr Greg Mills had approached me with an offer to visit war ravaged Ukraine I would have mumbled something about having to go in for some elective surgery and politely declined.
So kudos to Steenhuisen for going on what must have been a very difficult and emotionally draining trip. The reality is that what is happening now in Ukraine and in Europe is likely to have a far greater effect on our lives in SA than what is happening on the rest of the African continent. This factoid would have been conveniently ignored by the media lefties whose loathing of the DA runs deep; which is odd because so many of them live in and benefit from the DA’s vastly superior style of government.