Developer of advanced mobility systems GridCars reports that it is focusing its attention on electric commuters (small electric cars and bicycles), which will, in future, form part of a commuter network in cities such as Johannesburg and Pretoria.
GridCars director and coowner Carel Snyman says the concept of its GridCars’ mobil- ity solution involves offering commuters an electric vehicle which they can use to transport themselves from one point in a network or grid to another point, without actually owning the vehicle. Instead, they rent it for short periods of time on a contractual basis that includes a fixed fee and some additional costs.
Snyman adds that the mobility network does not entail large-scale infrastructure developments, as it will make use of predetermined points such as parkades, where a commuter can leave the vehicle so that the next person can pick it up from that same point.
“A point in the network might be a commuter’s home, a train station, a shopping centre or a parkade area,” says Snyman.
He explains that the commuter mobility solution will have various electronic mobility features, such as destination planners and communication links between vehicles in the fleet.
Drivers will be issued with a profile, which summarises their driving skills, distance travelled and personal information, such as age.
The company plans to complete its first locally manufactured and assembled electric GridCar vehicle early next year. The three-wheel vehicle will be a combination between a car and a motorcycle. It will weigh less than 500 kg and will be able to transport two people at around 80 km/h for about 80 km.
The vehicle is powered by electricity that is stored in a battery. However, producing more electricity to power the electric vehicles is not an option as it will just contribute more to pollution.
“Producing more electricity means burning more coal and pumping more carbon dioxide into the air. That is exactly the opposite of what we need to do,” says Snyman.
He explains that the idea is to buy State-owned power utility Eskom’s off-peak surplus electricity, which is readily available at night and sometimes even wasted during off-peak periods of the day, to power the batteries.
“The surplus electricity can be acquired at about 20c/kWh and stored in the lithium batteries of the electric vehicles. Eskom has about 38 GWh of electricity in its off-peak period that is not bought. This would be enough to power six-million electric vehicles,” notes Snyman.
Further, the electric vehicles can be charged from a normal household electricity socket to restore depleted energy.
“The GridCar electric vehicle can be charged anywhere; therefore, we are planning to include electricity meters in our mobility network to enable drivers to charge their vehicles at different places in the grid. If you charge your vehicle at a filling station or a shopping centre, you will only be paying for the amount of electricity taken from the provider’s socket,” he explains.
Meanwhile, solar energy will be the most energy efficient way to power these vehicles. “Solar energy plants might be a large investment but, in the long run, energy resources, such as the sun and the wind, will be the greenest option,” concludes Snyman.