Mercedes-Benz Expanding Solar At South Africa Factory, Investing In EV Charging Countrywide

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Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) is investing R100 million ($5.35 million USD) in a solar PV installation with 22,847 solar panels at its East London manufacturing plant. This installation will be part of the second phase of MBSA’s pursuit towards net-carbon-neutral manufacturing. The first phase of the 3,692 PV solar panel installation was completed in 2022 and provided 2 MWp (megawatts peak). The latest PV installation will cover an additional five rooftops of the East London Plant with 22,847 solar panels, expanding the manufacturing plant’s footprint by a further 12.6 MWp. Combined, the total solar photovoltaic size will be approximately 26,539 solar panels, equating to 14.6 MW peak — a peak in line with the East London plant’s maximum demand during any production day. The annual generation of the completed system will contribute to an estimated 20% of the East London plant’s annual MWh consumption. The project is set to commence in quarter one of 2024, in partnership with a local supplier.

Mercedes-Benz says it plans to cover more than 70 percent of energy demand from production with renewable energies by 2030. A core element of the Mercedes-Benz sustainable business strategy is Ambition2039, which already set the course for the East London manufacturing plant in 2022.

Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz South Africa

“The installation of the photovoltaic solar panels at our manufacturing plant is a key pillar of our energy strategy and will contribute towards the East London plant’s daily maximum demand requirement of 12MW in times of peak-demand. The additional investment of R100 million into the second phase of the photovoltaic solar energy project accelerates our carbon-neutral manufacturing ambitions and corporate citizenship mandate. As a company, we are working strategically towards delivering on our sustainability commitments, and feed-in agreements are required to utilise the new capacity from 2024 onwards. It remains our collective responsibility to safeguard the environment for future generations. To this effect, we call on all stakeholders to respond swiftly and to deliberately act towards helping to curb the exacerbating electricity situation in South Africa. Every action counts,” says Andreas Brand CEO of Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Executive Director for Manufacturing.

Mercedes-Benz South Africa is also investing R40 million ($2.14 million USD) over two phases to aid the transformation of the automotive industry and transition to electric mobility through a substantial investment into the local electric vehicle charging network. This rollout will be in partnership with Chargify. They will roll out over 120 electric vehicle charging stations across South Africa. Mercedes-Benz South Africa says it boasts the country’s most extensive range of electric vehicles, including the EQ and EQ AMG models, particularly in the SUV category.

Chargify is actively deploying AC and DC fast charging stations along the main routes and between metropolitan areas, including airports, shopping malls, restaurant hubs, private hospitals, strategic expansion sites, residential estates, and small towns throughout South Africa.

“The partnership with Chargify not only gives us the opportunity to grow the share of the local EV charging network but also reaffirms Mercedes-Benz South Africa’s ambition to expand its Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) portfolio. Our ESD programme is aimed at making a real and lasting impact towards the transformation of the country through the creation of sustainable and meaningful jobs,” says Abey Kgotle, Executive Director: Human Resources & Corporate Affairs Mercedes-Benz South Africa.

Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz South Africa

Mercedes-Benz South Africa’s initial investment in the EQ charging network amounts to R15 million (~$800,000), with an additional R25 million ($1.34 million) earmarked for the second phase of the rollout. Phase 1 involves the installation of 67 Mercedes-Benz EQ branded charging stations across South Africa by Q1 of 2024. Mercedes-Benz says this investment is aimed at not only providing current customers with a reliable charging network, but also instilling confidence in those considering the switch to electric vehicle ownership. Phase 2 will see the implementation of over 60 additional charging stations, bringing the total to 127 Mercedes-Benz EQ branded charging stations, strategically positioned in key areas.

Some locations already feature Mercedes-Benz EQ branded charging infrastructure, including BT Ngebs Mall and Mayfair Hotel in Mthatha. With this installation, an EV driver can now travel from Durban to Cape Town; Woodhill Estate and Country Club; Da Vinci Hotel in Sandton; Champagne Castle in Drakensberg; Highwaymans in Pilgrims Rest; Courtyard Sandton; and Silvermist Wine Estate. Other locations, such as Plettenberg Hotel, Wilderness Hotel, Swartberg Hotel in Prince Albert, and Karoo Junction Mall in Beaufort West to name a few are currently in the installation phase.

Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Chargify are both actively working to build South Africa’s most extensive EV public charging network. By fostering relationships with sites across the country and establishing professional partnerships, Chargify is contributing to the growth of this network. Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Chargify are creating a landscape of EV chargers to support the EV revolution and ensuring the network’s smooth operation by collaborating with operational partners like GridCars. Notably, all Mercedes-Benz EQ customers will benefit from a 10% discount when charging via the Chargify network.

Mark Raine, co-CEO of Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Executive Director of Mercedes-Benz Cars, says: “Mercedes-Benz South Africa is accelerating the pace of eMobility transformation within the automotive industry. Next to offering the most extensive and diverse all-electric vehicle portfolio in the market, we want to provide not only our customers but all EV drivers the luxury and peace of mind of a comprehensive charging network and with the installation of over 100 electric vehicle charging stations across South Africa fulfilling our strategic objectives of creating sustainable ecosystems in support of our all-electric strategy.”

Mercedes-Benz’s plant in East London also manufactures plug-in hybrid variants of the C-Class, which is a welcome development for the local manufacturing and auto assembly sector. It’s great to see that the plant will be increasing the penetration of renewables in its energy mix, which is quite important given that South Africa’s grid is mostly powered by coal. It’s not just the emissions savings. The rapid decline in the costs of solar panels and associated infrastructure has resulted in the costs of onsite generated solar, or even offsite grid-tied solar generation coupled with electricity selling agreements, being cheaper than grid tariffs. Companies that go solar can expect to save a significant amount on their electricity bills.

Images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz South Africa

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since.

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