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15/10/2018

By 2025, electric vehicles – which have zero exhaust emissions – are expected to cost the same as combustion cars, and many more people will opt to drive them.  

In anticipation of the rapid expansion of the electric mobility (eMobility) sector, South Africa’s national multi-stakeholder uYilo eMobility Programme – hosted by Nelson Mandela University’s engineering innovation hub, eNtsa – has piloted a project that tackles challenges around energy management and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure likely to arise on both a local and global level.

The technological know-how gained through the uYilo Smart-Grid Project saw the uYilo team winning Nelson Mandela University’s prestigious Innovation Excellence Project Award for 2018 at the annual Research, Teaching and Engagement awards held recently.

“Our Smart-Grid Project looks at how we can improve the supporting infrastructure that will be expanded as the EV market grows, and how we can work towards sustainable energy management for charging electric vehicles that includes renewable energy,” said uYilo director Hiten Parmar

uYilo has a pilot fleet of electric vehicles – provided by its partners within the automotive industry – and has set up its smart-grid infrastructure at its North Campus base, which is currently the largest dedicated EV-charging facility in South Africa.

The team piloted their Smart Grid Project at this site, adding a large solar array along with second-life EV batteries to store the energy.

They then had to devise the necessary control strategies to optimise the use of solar energy during peak daylight – and manage the switching between solar, storage and grid energy along peak and off-peak times, to ensure optimal energy usage for each EV charging event.

This was a technological feat, which came together in uYilo’s unique localised Energy Management System, which is essentially a real-time software system that keeps track of energy demand and supply, and autonomously maintains the balances of each.

“Unlike traditional back-end EV charging systems, which would typically slow down charging capacities during peak times, our Energy Management System provides full-capacity charge events, through the optimisation of energy across grid capacity, solar and storage, and is able to dynamically switch across each during active EV charging,” explained Parmar.

“We want to promote grid-friendly charging of EVs, which is a local and global challenge.”

The project has strengthened uYilo’s partnerships and engagements with Nissan (South Africa and Japan global headquarters), BMW South Africa, Mercedes Benz South Africa, Tracker South Africa, Eskom and NUVVE Technology.

This eMobility infrastructure ecosystem also includes leading “Vehicle-to-Grid” (V2G) technology.

“When the grid is under constraint in meeting demand, the aggregation technology can actually provide frequency and voltage regulation through the Nissan Leaf electric vehicles plugged into the dedicated V2G chargers,” said Parmar.

“The main idea was to pilot a live testing environment to incubate all the technologies that respond to potential challenges – and expand this technology to support vehicle manufacturers and infrastructure stakeholders in South Africa. Our smart-grid also provides the inclusion of local technologies as South Africa’s eMobility manufacturing capabilities expand.”

uYilo has also provided an agile funding mechanism that will lead to the creation of local products and services for the eMobility sector.

“The uYilo Kick Start Fund fast-tracks local technology readiness  and has funded 11 local projects so far.”

These projects include eMobility technology advancements developed by: the University of Western Cape, Powermote Drive Systems, GridCars, Stellenbosch University, MellowCabs, MLT Inverters, EWIZZ, Ubun2Tech, IET Technologies, Intelligent Machines and Microcare.

Established in 2013 as an initiative of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and a public entity of the Department of Science and Technology, uYilo has a large international stakeholder base, with several MOUs signed with international partners on various technologies and activities.

“The international EV market is accelerating rapidly – and we are leveraging on that for South Africa’s growth through uYilo’s role of enabling, facilitating and mobilising multi-stakeholder engagement and thought leadership.

“We are passionate about supporting the automotive industry as a whole through the transition to new generation technologies, while delivering towards a national mandate to grow South Africa’s footprint within the global economy towards electrified mobility,” said Parmar. 

 

Contact information
Mr Hiten Parmar
Director
Tel: +27 41 504 9504
hiten.parmar@mandela.ac.za