Why electric vehicles (EVs) will be the global game-changer




By Pierre Spies

In an era of rapid change and evolution, it is difficult to determine which technologies are genuine disruptors. Alviva, although an IT company, believes it is not, in fact, the IT industry that will produce the next big game-changer.

There is no doubt that the world is changing rapidly, with digital transformation impacting industries both old and new. Future technologies are changing the way things are done and environmental concerns, such as climate change, are starting to take center stage.

I often get asked what I think is going to be one of the next big game changers. I tend to surprise those, who are likely thinking along the lines of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) or even Virtual Reality (VR), with my response. This is because certain disruptive technologies in the market today, in my opinion, have little to do with information technology. For me, electric vehicles (EVs) will be the global game-changer, and this shift is already well underway if you look at the international market. For example, BYD in China is already manufacturing around 30 000 EVs per month.

In fact, the EV industry is partly responsible for driving the evolution of IT. We are not far from the point of having autonomous cars with an office in the car, where critical applications – like email – will be accessible to you via voice recognition. This is the future of IT, and EVs are the future of personal transport, therefore it is likely that ultimately EVs will be one of the catalysts of IT development.

Alviva has recognised the importance of providing the infrastructure that is necessary for EVs to travel long distances and have accessible fast charging services. Having recognised this as one of the coming disruptors, we have invested in a company known as GridCars, the largest installer of public EV charging stations in South Africa.

GridCars, in collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover SA, has created the Jaguar Powerway, consisting of 52 charging stations located at various convenient stopovers including service stations, shopping malls and hotels along the N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town, the N2 between Cape Town and East London, and the N3 between Gauteng and Durban.

These stations are equipped to fast-charge fully electric vehicles. EV models that are currently available in South Africa include the Jaguar iPace and BMW i3. EVs that are due for release in the next year include the Porche Taycan, Audi Etron, Mercedes EQC and VW ID.3. The charge stations also have sockets for charging plug-in hybrid vehicles, like the Range Rover PHEV and the Mercedes-Benz C350e.

We manufacture and own the IP in the software as well as our own charging stations. One should bear in mind that recharging an EV costs a fraction of that of normal fuel. We have invested millions in the infrastructure required by South Africa to both benefit from this disrupting technology and to drive growth in the market. In South Africa the question: “what if I want to drive to Cape Town with an EV?” now has a simple answer: “you can by fast charging on the Powerway”.

Besides EVs, we anticipate that the next wave of growth will be in electric trucks, this area is one where South Africa currently lags behind the international market by years. One of the most expensive aspects of operating a truck is the maintenance thereof, particularly in respect of its brakes, clutch etc. When one considers EVs, one’s maintenance costs are reduced dramatically – by approximately 80%. These vehicles, of course, do not need as many brake pads or oil services, they simply keep going.

A 4×4 available in a double-cab or SUV has already been developed which sports four electric motors which achieves acceleration of 0-100 in under four seconds. In addition, these vehicles offer a range of up to 650km on a single charge. 

We are aware that the technology is developing very quickly, with digital transformation in the EV industry being all about batteries that can charge faster and last longer. GridCars is already preparing our technology in anticipation of these advancements. We are putting the Alviva engine behind GridCars to build a strong commercial partner that is capable of delivering world class charge point operational services to professional OEMS and companies wanting to start investing in these charging technologies.

Research indicates that there are currently a billion cars on the road globally, but a mere five million of these were electric as at the end of 2018. Within 20 years, the International Energy Agency predicts that the number of cars globally will have doubled, but that the number of electric vehicles among them will have increased 75 times, to number 150 million. It is this substantial potential short-term market growth, coupled to its impact on fossil fuels and climate change that makes it such an enticing and significant game-changer.

(Pierre Spies is the CEO of Alviva Holdings).

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