Motoring journalist Justus Visagie has been doing road trips in electric vehicles in South Africa to show that fully electric cars can easily cover long distances in the country. Last year, he drove from Cape Town to Johannesburg in a BMW iX xDrive50 SUV in 20 hours and 17 minutes with TV presenter Ernest Page. Last week, Justus drove from Cape Town to Johannesburg in a Mercedes-EQS 450+ luxury sedan in a new record time of 19 hours and 6 minutes, which included time spent charging the car. These are some of the most expensive electric cars available in South Africa. The Mercedes-EQS 450+ sedan starts from about R2,615,700 ($140,874). The BMW iX xDrive50 SUV starts from R 2,204,400 ($118,742).
This week, Justus Visagie set another record by driving a BMW i4 M50 sports sedan from BMW Joburg City to BMW Cape Town City in 19 hours and 15 minutes. This was the first attempt at setting a record from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Previously he had done the drive starting from the other side, Cape Town to Johannesburg. This time, he also split the journey into two, spending the night at a B&B in Hanover in the Northern Cape, 700 km south of Johannesburg.
“I drove during daylight hours for safety, and also because I wanted to show that EV drivers generally don’t have to wait for an opportunity to charge when there are more vehicles on the road,” he says. “Over a distance of over 2 800 km (Cape Town to Johannesburg and Johannesburg to Cape Town), I never encountered another EV. Each time, I simply parked, connected the car to the box, and started charging,” he adds.
There are just over 1,000 battery-electric vehicles in South Africa at the moment. Although the charging infrastructure is not yet as extensive as in Europe and other places, it is growing all the time. One can now comfortably drive along South Africa’s major highways, and as Justus says, there are no queues yet a charging stations in South Africa.
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Even though load-shedding hovered around the stage 4 mark, it had minimal effect on either journey. “Driving north in the Mercedes, we charged the car in Laingsburg, Beaufort West, Colesberg, Bloemfontein and Ventersburg. Returning in the BMW, I charged in Ventersburg, Bloemfontein, Colesberg, Richmond, Beaufort West, Laingsburg and Worcester,” Visagie says. “I might have charged obsessively, but it became a habit to plug the car in before going into a restaurant or shop. The quickest charge took less than 15 minutes, and the longest took about 1 hour, which gave me time to have a meal.” According to Visagie, he achieved a range of roughly 500 km with the Mercedes and 400 km with the BMW.
As for the cost of charging, Visagie says it came to approximately R120 ($6.47) per 100 km or R1.20 per kilometer for the BMW i4 and around R130 per 100 km for the larger Mercedes-EQS. “That’s good value for money, but it’s worth noting that charging at home is roughly 60 percent cheaper. Running the BMW on Eskom power would cost only 50 cents per kilometre,” he explains.
Commenting on the high purchase prices of the Mercedes-EQS 450+ (R2,6m) and BMW i4 M50 (R1,61m), Visagie says cars from luxury brands are expensive, whether powered by liquid fuel or electricity. “I’m expecting much more affordable cars, with a range close to the BMW’s, to enter the country this year. Eventually, two-car families will find it’s beneficial to trade one car in on an EV,” he adds.
Tracking company Netstar recorded the car’s progress in order to verify the time it took to drive from Mercedes-Benz Century City to Mercedes-Benz Sandton, a distance of 1404 km. Visagie and his co-driver for the trip, Michael MacIntyre, left Cape Town on 28 February and reached Sandton the next day (1st of March), setting a new EV record. Netstar also tracked the trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
Images courtesy of Justus Visagie