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Change the world


Africa’s   first   internationally   accredited   testing    facility for lithium-ion batteries is situated at Nelson Mandela University. This has been achieved through the intensive facilitation and activities of the uYilo eMobility Technology Innovation Programme.


“uYilo supports battery research and development and the testing of lead–acid and lithium-ion batteries to international standards under the ISO 17025 Quality Management System, We received the lithium-ion accreditation in February 2018 through the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS),” says Hiten Parmar, the project leader and deputy director of the uYilo Programme, situated within the University’s engineering, innovation and engagement entity, eNtsa, which spans a number of disciplines, including engineering, information technology and chemistry.

The uYilo battery-testing laboratory also has SANAS accreditation for lead–acid battery testing (since 2015). He explains that lead–acid battery technologies do not meet the requirements for EVs; this has therefore accelerated the developments of the lithium-ion battery industry. The lead–acid battery is currently still being used in petrol and diesel vehicles.

“Any company or research and development entity can make use of our services, and, while there is no local manufacturing of EVs yet, we are aligning towards  supporting  facilities  and services and helping to pave the way for a new era of sustainable energy, low carbon transport, and smart cities.”

In March 2018 Parmar spoke at the Africa Clean Mobility Week, where 42 African countries met at the United Nations Environment Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, to explore opportunities for Africa to leapfrog to cleaner and more efficient mobility solutions.

“Within the next few years we are likely to see policies coming into effect around energy efficiency and green transport in South Africa and other African countries, with EVs increasingly populating our roads,” says Parmar. “Globally there is an acceleration towards EVs. Japan today has more EV charging stations than fuel stations. In the UK, EV charging stations will exceed gas stations by 2020, and the Netherlands is planning to ban the sale of petrol and diesel engines from 2025.”

As a motor manufacturing hub, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, which includes Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, is an ideal location for EV growth, and the uYilo Programme is working closely with industry and government as an initiative of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA).

Hiten explains that South Africa now has 100 public EV charging stations nationally, and in 13 cities, mostly in public spaces such as shopping centres and office blocks, which means you can fast charge your vehicle while shopping or at work.

Between 2016 and 2018 the uYilo team successfully developed    a smart grid pilot project for the energy-efficient charging of EVs through solar battery storage and energy management across a network of EV charging stations.

“We use a repurposed EV battery in the plot project,” Parmar explains. “EV batteries have a life of 10 to 15 years, at which point they drop to 80% health and can then be repurposed out of the vehicle for lower energy needs, such as stationary storage, either to charge EVs or for vehicle-to-home technology where you literally plug your EV into your home as an additional source of energy. You can also support the electricity grid network with your EV.”

Repurposed lithium-ion EV batteries can be used for lower energy purposes for several more years. They are then submitted to recycling processes where core materials can be extracted out of the batteries and put back into the battery manufacturing process.

In 2017 uYilo hosted an international Batteries and Electric Vehicles Seminar in Nelson Mandela Bay, and a second conference event hosted here in October 2018.

Keynote speakers at the 2018 conference included Christina Bu, Secretary General of the Norwegian EV Association (Norway’s EV drive is a major success); and Shmuel De-Leon of Shmuel De-Leon Energy in Israel, an international leader in lithium-ion batteries whose clients include the space, military, automotive, medical and industrial industries.

“Advancements in EV technology include increasing the distance achieved on one charge, and to be able to charge the EV within four minutes,” Hiten explains. “Currently, the AC standard chargers take four to eight hours to charge an EV battery, and DC fast chargers take about 20 minutes.”

EVs such as the Nissan Leaf (which already supports vehicle-to-grid functionality) and the BMW i3, can drive for up to 150km on one charge. The BMW i3 REX can drive for approximately 300km, 150 of which are on its 9-litre range extender petrol engine. The range is rapidly increasing, with the new Jaguar I-PACE available early in 2019 achieving 470km on one charge. In South Africa it currently costs R28 to recharge an EV for 150km, compared to R170 to refuel for the same distance in petrol vehicles.

EVs also have much faster acceleration than standard petrol and diesel cars, due the torque delivery of electric motors.

“We are lobbying government to reduce the total import taxes of 43% on EVs, which significantly pushes up the cost,” says Parmar. “EVs are not yet manufactured in South Africa and the supply chain for manufacturing still needs to be developed. It would necessarily include the main global players in lithium-ion batteries, such as Panasonic, Samsung and LG.”

Contact information
Mr Hiten Parmar
Tel: +27 10 005 5346