They say experience is the best teacher. Shaun Maidment, the proud owner of the highest mileage BMW i3 in Africa, once drove from Pretoria to Cape Town in his 22 kWh BMW i3 (60 Ah battery cells) in the early years of EVs in South Africa when there was limited public charging infrastructure.
Shaun’s i3 has the range extender option commonly known as the REx. However, on this trip, the i3 had a problem on the fuel pump relay which resulted in the REx not functioning at the time. This meant he had to do the 1,500 km trip without the aid of the small petrol generator to assist the battery.
The first-generation i3 has an EPA range of about 130 km, and Shaun had to ask coffee shops and guest houses for normal plug points on the way. He managed to do the trip in 5 days!
A lot has changed since then. South Africa’s EV public charging network is growing all the time, and thanks to Shaun and his partners, evCrowdRoute is one of the firms making this happen.
CleanTechnica (CT) caught up with Shaun Maidment (SM) to discuss this:
CT: You have the BMW i3 with the highest mileage in Africa. How many kilometers has it done?
SM: I have the 60 ah REx and the mileage is around 252,000 km. Although some in the EV community consider the REx as a bit of cheating, I try to avoid the “flap of shame.” Having said that, the Range Extender is an amazing design and I have run a trip from Cape Town to JHB where I just filled up the 9l fuel tank every 100km. I recently bought a 2nd i3 60ah BEV which I will now be using whilst Jason Annetts, our Chief Sales Officer at evCrowdRoute, will be using the famous i3. I just decided to buy another vehicle for us to use and I opted for a very well-priced used 60Ah BEV since range anxiety is not actually a thing once you are comfortable driving EV.
CT: How long is you average daily round trip commute? How often do you charge it, and do you charge mostly at home or at the office?
SM: I charge mostly at home like most EV drivers because it is the most convenient and also cheaper. I have a strange work setup as I consult to clients all over Gauteng with some anchor clients in Roodepoort. I live in Pretoria, close to Menlyn. So, I often do trips which end up being about 70 to 90km one way so then I would either charge at the client site on a normal plug or if need be, I would drive past one the GridCars Jaguar-branded DC chargers on my way home.
I also employ a driver, Idah, so on many days my driver would drop me at the client site and go for a free charge at the BMW dealerships down the road whilst running some other errands for me.
Because I do a lot of distance the savings are great, so I rather spend the money on a driver which means I get more than 2 hours a day back in time. The math just makes sense whilst creating an employment opportunity. Idah is also a shareholder in evCrowdRoute and will over time progress into a charger testing and customer support role.
CT: How did you come up with the idea for starting evCrowdRoute? What is your mission and vision?
SM: The vehicle and my road trips kind of drove me into this project. I enjoy my conversations in the various towns and places I stop, and I think EVs are ideal for cost effective travel. I would like to see more people hit the road and find the unique aspects that only road trips can offer.
Also, if you think about it, you can travel a lot more with an EV with very little additional costs. So yes, the cost of the vehicle today is more than most would like but once you have the vehicle driving an extra 1,000 or so km a month, it won’t break the bank so I believe more travel will be easy.
Our vision: Charge wherever you are going
Our mission: Eradicate range anxiety by installing an electric vehicle charger in every town in South Africa
CT: What type of charging stations are you installing? 22 kW AC , 50 kW DC, or a combination of both and why?
SM: We are focusing on 22kW AC Charging for now. The rationale for this is simple, we want to cover as many towns and great locations as possible and in the process eradicate range anxiety. So once the price points of entry level DC charge points make sense, we will adopt these and, in some locations, we may opt for those from the start, however our investment will focus on AC chargers so we can achieve a wider reach.
CT: Where are you installing these? At destinations like hotels, on major highways and shopping centers?
SM: We prefer wine farms, guest houses, coffee shops, farmstalls, restaurants, and golf courses, places you were going anyway!
CT: How many have you installed so far and how many are you targeting to install in the next 2 years to 5 years?
SM: So far, we had installed 6 chargers before COVID-19 interrupted our installation plans for at least another 4. We have a charger at Eagle Canyon Golf Estate, Buffalo Valley Spur in Heilbron, Clarens Retreat in Clarens, ProfCon in Graaf-Reinett, Royal Hotel in Willowmore, and at Jakkalsvlei Wine Farm in Herbertsdale.
We plan to install at least 11,777 chargers (one for every town in South Africa) but our actual deployment will be closer to 15,000
CT: From the name, evCrowdRoute is crowdfunded. Why did you choose this route and how has been the response so far?
SM: The idea is to get the crowd involved. So far myself, Jason, and Junaid our CFO have funded the business in preparation for an equity-based crowdfund initiative which should launch within the next 2 months allowing everyone to get involved in building the EV transformation.
So far, we have had a number of individuals pledge support, but we will only really know when we go live with the campaign.
For me it is important that we involve communities from the start. We want to encourage travel to communities, we want communities to be involved and I really believe that we will be successful so I would also want communities to share in the success once we get there.
CT: How much does it cost to charge? Is it per kWh or for a certain time slot and how does it compare with fossil fuel costs in SA?
SM: For now, we opted for a kWh rate, however my wife keeps reminding me that normal people work better on time because kWh scares people. We may change this over time but for now we charge R3.84 ($0.20) per kWh. If you purchase an evCrowdRoute charge card you will receive a discount.
We have partnered with GridCars. GridGars provides its backend system to us as a software as a service platform. We utilize an RFID charge card with the additional capability to manage charge sessions via the Charge Pocket web platform.
We have 3 tiers of charge cards:
- A limited edition Catalyst card which offers a 60% discount for life on our chargers – there are only another 40 of these cards available.
- A founder card which offers a 40% discount – limited to 1000 cards
- Charge Card which offers a 10% discount.
Our charge cards also work on the GridCars network and users are charged the normal rate other charger operators charge.
With plans for 15,000 chargers, evCrowdRoute is playing its part in accelerating the transition to electromobility in South Africa and hopefully it will scale to reach other markets in Africa. It is really good to hear the company is working with other charging firms to ensure interoperability across the different charging stations as users will find comfort in that they can easily stop and charge at any of the closest stations along their route.