Nampo 2022 saw the growth of technology in modern agriculture

From electric vehicles to smart monitoring drone technology, the NAMPO Harvest Day 2022 was an event that shone a spotlight on modern agriculture and various approaches that South Africa should consider in order to progress this sector and keep up with international markets.

Continue reading View more

Global electric vehicle outlook for 2022

Electric vehicle sales breaking records in 2021, four times 2019 market share

The annual International Energy Agency Global Electric Vehicle Outlook report for 2022 indicates sales of 6.6-million electric cars last year – a new record, rising to nearly 10% of global car sales and double that of 2020. There are now more than 16.5-million electric cars on the road, tripling from 2018.

China is the global EV sales leader, with Europe and the United States making up the top three markets. More electric cars were sold in China last year than globally in 2020, while in Europe electric car sales continued their year-on-year sales increase, by more than 85%. Two and three-wheelers have high EV market share, especially in Asia, where China again dominates, registering 9.5 million new electric two- and three-wheelers out of the 10 million registrations. Vietnam and India are the other largest markets for these vehicles.

“There are five recommendations to government outlined in the recent Global EV Outlook 2022 report from the IEA,” says Hiten Parmar, Director of the uYilo eMobility Programme. “Firstly, to maintain and adapt support for electric vehicles, to kickstart the heavy-duty EV market, to promote the adoption of EVs in emerging and developing economies, expand EV infrastructure and smart-grids and, finally, to ensure secure, resilient and sustainable EV supply chains.”

According to the IEA’s report, there has been nearly 40% expansion in the number of public chargers last year, reaching 1.8 million, meaning there is now about 10 EVs per public charge point. South Africa is the market leader for Africa, having installed over 300 public chargers to date through various service providers, with the latest expansion projects including ultra-fast (150 kW) chargers.

The model range of EVs globally has shown a five-fold expansion since 2015, now numbering 450. This trend is also visible in heavy-duty vehicles which is showing an accompanying increase in sales in the United States and Europe, driven by the increase in available models, and economic and policy support. In emerging economies, a lack of model availability and high prices means EV adoption is still low.

“In South Africa, the electric vehicles currently marketed are exclusively from premium brands,” says Parmar. “Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volvo all have full electric models available, while the cheapest is from MINI. We still require a wider segment of models to drive further growth in the local market. This can only be realized within the mandate of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition under the import duty framework, and local production incentives for manufacturing.”

The effect electric vehicles will have on the road transport sector, in reducing emissions and contributing to countries achieving their net-zero goals by 2050, will require EV market share to grow by 60% globally. This will require that all elements of the electric vehicle supply chain be significantly expanded, especially the battery supply chain, however more supply investment is needed to meet demand.

“Few areas of the new global energy economy are as dynamic as electric vehicles. The success of the sector in setting new sales records is extremely encouraging, but there is no room for complacency,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. 

Currently the zero emissions announcements by automotive manufacturers are more ambitious than government targets, but they require policy support in order to be effectively materialised.

View more

Cape Town’s E-Prix is a catwalk of future 2nd LiFe donor cells for SA’s energy storage

Lance Dickerson, MD Revov

Formula E’s track reveal for the inaugural Cape Town E-Prix is symbolic of another race taking place in South Africa. The 2022/23 Formula E season will be blessed with the energy of the Mother City and sweeping views for fans from all over the world.

The other race preoccupying progressive elements in the country is the push towards renewable energy in the face of strong resistance from an establishment entrenched in coal. While our president has positive commitments, this race has yet to hit the home straight. Some would argue we’re still in the warm-up lap. To be fair, Cape Town has made headlines a few times in its forward-looking drive to prioritise renewable energy and lessen its dependence on Eskom’s national grid.

Why does the Cape Town E-Prix matter?

The sight of marvels of engineering hurtling through the streets of Cape Town, powered only by batteries and electric motors, will inspire a generation of activists who know that innovation and excitement need not reside in the old paradigm which is choking the environment.

It matters most because everyone reading this woke up to load shedding again in the second week of March, a stark reminder that our energy grid is one or two coal-generator breakdowns away from reneging on its duty to supply our economy with the energy it needs to survive and grow. When the power generation units break down, Eskom starts load shedding to replenish the emergency generation reserves.

These reserves, for those who may not know, run on open gas turbines which are powered by burning diesel. In other words, fossil fuel backs up a grid dominated by fossil fuel. There are dozens of estimates from consultancies and national bodies around the world about the amount of diesel it takes to produce power. One need not get caught up in specifics and the generation type to appreciate that it takes huge amounts of diesel to power South Africa’s emergency open gas turbines.

Now, over and above the obvious environmental concerns of burning fossil fuels, South Africans were shocked recently with an estimate that the petrol and diesel price could surge to R40 a litre in the short term. Of course, these estimates have been rubbished by some economists who say it’s not based on reality, and they console us, saying that price increases would be less severe. Any increase is bad news.

We should all be concerned that the national utility is relying on diesel, the cost of which is at the mercy of the war in Ukraine and other geopolitical factors, and that any increase in input costs is either going to be forced onto us or add even more pressure to Eskom’s viability which is already one of the country’s biggest risks. Naturally, this use of diesel assumes that load shedding won’t end anytime soon. It won’t.

Eskom’s CFO Calib Cassim confirmed as much during a briefing to the media on 8 March. He said that the war in Ukraine was putting upward pressure on the price of oil and gas. “The timing could not be worse,” he said. “We can’t give the exact number, but if the oil price doubles, it impacts the energy we can produce from diesel going forward… We don’t have a cheque book to continually spend on diesel.”

Eskom is not the only entity that will feel the pinch from diesel. Every business and household in this country that hasn’t invested in batteries or solar will feel the pain of running a generator during extended bouts of load shedding. One can understand why generators became so popular – they cost less than a good UPS system or solar installation but over time the renewable alternative will pay for itself and cost less than a generator over its lifespan – especially when one factors in rising fuel prices and services.

As Cassim so succinctly described, the running costs over time are simply going to become unsustainable. Beyond the costs, running generators aren’t ideal because of the noise and environmental pollution. A big event celebrating clean energy will do wonders to spreading this message more broadly.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis spoke highly of the jobs that will be created by the event, the infrastructure improvements and the knock-on effect for businesses in the region. However, that’s only one side of the story.

The other is that everyone with a vested interest in the renewable energy sector will likely descend on the city and use the event to promote the idea that energy does not need to come from fossil fuels. The city itself is likely to double down on its own publicity drive around investment in renewable energy. The cynics among us would see this as opportunistic. The realists among us will see this as long overdue. We must live in a world that pushes the idea of renewable energy and carbon-friendly technologies to businesses and individuals alike. It is the future and we are lagging behind in South Africa.

However, possibly a lesser-known but arguably the most exciting side conversation related to the E-Prix, at least from REVOV’s perspective, is the discussion about electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Energy storage solutions that rely on the EV battery market are set to soar in popularity driven in part by their performance, but also by likely price increases in the new lithium storage battery market because of lithium shortages.

Here’s the context: Lithium iron phosphate batteries are superior to lead-acid batteries in every metric, from safety to performance. Batteries are used in UPS systems for power back up, or in renewable energy installations to provide off-grid or hybrid power solutions. Ordinarily, the lithium supply chain pressures – driven by the surge in EVs – would spell bad news in terms of affordability

However, second life (2nd LiFe) batteries, which are repurposed from the cells in replaced EV batteries, have stepped up to fill the void. Every EV’s battery needs to be replaced when the weight no longer justifies the performance. Ordinarily these batteries would end up in landfills. However, the individual cells, when repurposed correctly and when built into batteries with intelligent management systems, still have enough life and performance in them to provide stationary storage for as long first life batteries, with the added benefit of performance specifications unique to the EV sector, such as the capacity to perform in harsh conditions. This is how REVOV has built its business. By securing these premium cells and by building premium 2nd LiFe batteries, we’ve provided a compelling solution to close the circular economy in sub-Saharan Africa.

And so, as we watch the racing cars – engineering marvels in their own right – race through the streets of Cape Town, we are witnessing the leading edge of the EV market. We see the catwalk models of 2nd LiFe donor cells. The E-Prix in Cape Town symbolises our country’s race to convert our dependence on fossil fuels to a dependence on technology that has already paid it’s carbon price in the EV market, providing a compelling alternative to provide storage for SA’s booming renewable energy sector.

View more

China’s 2021 EV sales beat global 2020 total

Elizabeth Kerr

  • The global electric vehicle (EV) demand is surging
  • Today there are roughly 16 million active EVs majority of which are Chinese

The last decade has witnessed tremendous growth in global electric vehicle (EV) sales. From about 130K EV units sold in 2012, today, up to 16M of these are in active service worldwide. Part of that growth is due to declining prices of lithium-ion battery packs that are crucial to powering them. Additionally, there’s been an increase in global consciousness on sustainable transport means.

BanklessTimes has been researching the global EV sales trends. In a recent data projection, the site indicates that the global EV sales hit the 6.6M mark in 2021. That figure represents roughly 9% of global car sales in that year. Additionally, it’s double the 3M EVs sold in 2020 and triple the 2.2M units sold in 2019.

Further, BanklessTimes reckons that the annual electricity consumption of the 16M EVs plying our roads is about 30 terawatt-hours (TWh). That’s equal to Ireland’s electricity generation yearly. These are an important ally in the fight against CO2 emissions as they have cut down consumption of fossil fuels.

China Leads in EV adoption

BanklessTimes’ compilation shows December as the month that attracted the most EV sales. Across the three leading EV markets, December’s sales more than doubled January’s. Again, 2021 monthly EV retails outdid 2020’s corresponding months’ figures by at least 50%.

The data shows that China is the largest EV market in the world. In 2021, it retailed 3.4M units. That was more than the combined total from the rest of the world in 2020. To get there, it had nearly tripled that year’s sales.

China has been at the fore of EV adoption for a while now. From 2015, it has had the fastest yearly increases in that space. Its EV market is on course to meet the government-set target of 20% share of yearly motor vehicle production by 2025.

Why’s the Chinese market booming?

Several reasons explain China’s thriving EV market. First, Beijing extended subsidies to the sector up to this year. The chances are that many Chinese EV customers rushed to acquire their vehicles using 2021’s subsidy levels that are way higher than this year’s.

Secondly, there’s a wide variety of EVs for the Chinese market. Like the Wuling Hongguang Mini, some provide an affordable entry-level vehicle for first-time owners. All in all, China’s e-car industry will boom in 2022.

EU EV sales outpaced diesel vehicles

Europe, the second most significant EV market, also posted impressive returns. According to BanklessTimes’ presentation, its 2021 electric vehicle sales amounted to 2.3M cars. However, the annual increase lagged compared to 2020’s.

In 2020 the European EV market doubled its 2019 sales. Strict emissions limits that the region adopted partly account for this surge. Again, most of the region enhanced their incentives for purchasing EVs.

Consequently, their sales peaked in Q4 2021, attaining a 21% market share in December that year, outpacing diesel-powered vehicles for the first time.

Tesla dominates the U.S EV market

The U.S electric vehicle market also posted encouraging results. It sold over 500K units, more than doubling 2019 results. That saw the U.S EV market grow to 4.5%.

Tesla remains the undisputed market leader here. It controls more than 50% of all electronic vehicles sold here. That, however, is a decline from the 65% market share it held in 2020. Increased competition in this space partly contributed to the decline.

Global EV sales have, however, been lagging. Today, electric cars account for under 2% of their total sales in markets outside the three dominant ones. This is in part due to the expensiveness of EVs and them having an inadequate charging infrastructure.

View more

Speculative bubbles in the price of lithium put energy transition and electric mobility at risk

Uncertainty in the price of this mineral may risk the future supply of this essential component for electric vehicles. The involvement of external agents in the market could hinder decision-making and limit investment by mining and production companies, negatively affecting the manufacture of batteries.

The instability and volatility of the price of lithium in the international market may hinder the energy transition, especially electric mobility. This uncertainty could also hamper the future supply of this essential component for the manufacture of batteries. “The prices of lithium, one of the most important minerals at present for the energy transition and the transport sector, are not very stable, and there is evidence of a significant presence of speculative bubbles,” said Jorge M. Uribe, a member of the UOC‘s Faculty of Economics and Business, leader of the Finance, Macroeconomics and Management (FM2) group and lead author of this work together with other experts from the University of Barcelona and Colombia’s Universidad del Valle.

“We tend to think that prices reflect the market’s situation and that they automatically adjust to supply and demand, but this is not always the case. In the case of lithium, the situation is very delicate, because this mineral is essential to enabling the energy transition towards more sustainable and less polluting models in the mobility and transport sector. Without lithium, there is no way for electric vehicles to thrive and replace combustion vehicles,” Uribe said.

In the last decade, lithium has become a highly prized mineral worldwide. It is currently the main component of electric vehicle batteries and is gaining importance in systems that store energy from the stationary market (i.e. buildings and residential properties). “Currently, no technology is as efficient as lithium-based technologies for the production of batteries at a reasonable cost. That’s why this mineral is more important every day, especially in the transport sector and in the transition to electric vehicles,” explained Uribe. He also added that, even in stationary power generation, renewable energies (i.e. solar and wind power) are not able to produce energy at specific times due to the climate conditions, which means that “energy storage is a global priority today and will increasingly be so”.  

Complexity of the lithium market

Unlike those of other raw materials, the lithium market is fully globalised and suffers significant price fluctuations, often without any apparent cause and for reasons unknown to the agents involved in the sector. “We have found a very synchronized presence of several bubbles simultaneously with the lithium bubbles. This is probably due to the financial influence and the presence of agents that deal not just with lithium but rather invest in several markets,” Uribe said. The volatility and uncertainty generated by these bubbles could affect the introduction of electric vehicles as well as new transport models.

The instability of lithium prices can make planning difficult because, faced with volatile prices, companies will not make important investments until they have assurance that the price and cost is real and stable, that they are responding to fundamental market rules rather than speculation, or very short-term factors. “The existence of a bubble in the lithium market delays all the implementations and progress made in the sector. For example, a company that wants to make an investment today is likely to prefer to wait two years to see how the market stabilizes and make sure that we are not in a bubble,” said Uribe. In the case of Spain, the situation may become even more complex, as energy transition and sustainable mobility plans have been designed with short or medium-term actions in mind. “Spain is more vulnerable than other nations outside Europe because its proposal for energy transition is very ambitious,” he said.  

Proposals to avoid speculation

To avoid the volatility of lithium prices and possible lithium bubbles, the authors of the study propose the adoption of measures such as stabilisation funds and the creation of capital reserves. These strategies reduce the risks for producers, regularising the market. “These funds should ideally be in portfolios such as for example, global gold-like stock markets. This guarantees a minimum price and removes the uncertainty of a sudden rise or collapse of the bubbles,” he said.

Similarly, it is also necessary to design medium- and long-term planning by governments and large companies in the sector, with the aim of providing greater security and diversifying the operational risks inherent to the lithium market. “If no measures are adopted, there is a significant risk, as prices can fall very abruptly, causing lithium shortages,” concluded Uribe.  

Reference

Uribe, Jorge M. et al. “Price Bubbles in Lithium Markets around the World”. IREA – Working Papers, 2021, IR21/10. http://hdl.handle.net/2445/176819  

View more

Registration Open for Electric Vehicles & the Grid Online Workshop

Infocus International Group has launched the Electric Vehicles (EVs) & the Grid online workshop which will be commencing live on 31 August 2021. The essential guide to opportunity and risk within emerging EV charging value chains.

Continue reading View more

[VIDEO] The innovations we need to avoid a climate disaster

BILL GATES | TED TALK

The single most important thing for avoiding a climate disaster is cutting carbon pollution from the current 51 billion tons per year to zero, says philanthropist and technologist Bill Gates. Introducing the concept of the “green premium” — the higher price of zero-emission products like electric cars, artificial meat or sustainable aviation fuel — Gates identifies the breakthroughs and investments we need to reduce the cost of clean tech, decarbonize the economy and create a pathway to a clean and prosperous future for all. (This virtual conversation, hosted by TED Global curator Bruno Giussani, was recorded in March 2021.)

View more

Plugging into the reality of 2nd LiFe batteries: second life is not second-hand

“A 2nd LiFe Battery is not second-hand. A 2nd LiFe battery has been repurposed and the cells have had their life extended by being applied to less strenuous operating conditions.”

A pioneer in the sector, REVOV, has been developing and supplying 2nd LiFe storage battery systems in South Africa and neighbouring countries for four and a half years. Not only is an investment in second life technology the environmentally prudent thing to do, but it makes sense from a performance and price perspective and international players have discovered this.

After a few years electric (EV) batteries are replaced with new ones because the weight of the battery in the car no longer justifies its performance. However, when the cells are repurposed for storage batteries, there is a compelling solution to preventing huge numbers of batteries being dumped into landfills.

The concept and application is gaining traction around the globe, and bolster’s REVOV’s resolve. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) said Relectrify, which has been working with American Electric Power and Nissan North America on a pilot project, will now finalise development and undertake certifications ahead of the deployment of 20 ReVolve battery units across C&I applications throughout Australia.

In order to understand what it is that REVOV and its international counterparts are seeing in 2nd LiFe, we delve a little deeper to understand the science behind these batteries particularly now that load shedding is once again on every South African’s agenda.

We asked REVOV MD Lance Dickerson to plug us into the reality of 2nd LiFE batteries and what they are:

Please go into a little detail of why automotive grade batteries are so transferable to storage?

Automotive grade cells are manufactured specifically for use in the very harsh environment of a motor vehicle. This includes being mobile, subjected to vibrations continuously, high temperatures and to high charge and discharge currents in the effort to optimise charge time vs distance vs speed.

Stationary storage applications change this high throughput requirement, and optimise the requirement to provide a lower throughput over a longer period of time, significantly enhancing the life expectancy of the once automotive battery.

In which circumstances in daily use will this come in handy, or will the owner notice these benefits?

Typically a backup storage battery is dimensioned to provide power throughout the night, around 10 hours or more, or at worst for at least the four hours of load shedding we all have come to love.  The battery, dimensioned to provide 10 hours of backup, is only typically running at 1/10th of its maximum output which lends itself to an extended life, and an optimal cost per kWh.

Effectively, an automotive grade cell running at less than 1/10th of its design potential can obviously be expected to last longer than originally planned

Let’s compare 2nd LiFe Lithium-iron to other types of batteries. What are you prepared to say, if anything?

Firstly, Any Lithium Iron Phosphate cell is superior in terms of safety, over any other Lithium Ion battery chemistry, and typically has a higher life expectancy and a higher specific power. It loses some distance in terms of specific energy per kg, however, this is not important in a stationary application where weight is less important.

Secondly, an automotive grade 2nd LiFe Lithium Iron Phosphate battery, used in a stationary storage application, is subjected to charge and discharge currents that are significantly lower than its design capability. This reduced stress translates into a non-linear improvement in terms of cycle life, easily providing the same lifespan as a new battery specifically designed to provide stationary storage only, at a much-reduced cost.

When we say a battery is repurposed (2nd LiFe). What does this specifically mean?

A 2nd LiFe battery can take on a number of different shapes and sizes. If the battery is removed from the vehicle and found to be in exceptional condition it can be used as is, in a mostly 12v configuration, at medium-to-low charge and discharge rates. The only addition would be an external battery management system which would ensure the battery cells are protected from excessive charge and discharge currents and voltages and ensure the cells inside the battery remain balanced.

Most often the capacities and voltage combinations used in modern EVs are not suitable for the modern 48VDC renewable energy system. Most 2nd LiFe battery cells are unpacked from the vehicle battery casings and packed into formats that suit their usage in the environments they are being destined to. This requires new components in every part of the battery except the battery cell itself.

As an example, a very popular format is the 19-inch rack-mountable size, allowing them to be mounted easily in cheap IT-type cabinets. 2nd LiFe can be packaged into almost any shape, size, capacity and for any application, you can imagine. Easily packaged into tubular shapes for mounting around poles at height, into thin wide arrangements to fit behind 4×4 seats for auxiliary power whilst camping, into small cubes to fit into UPSs created for rectangular Lead Acid batteries, and almost any other use you can think of.

In your words, what is the difference between 2nd LiFe and second hand (if there is more to it than above)?

A 2nd LiFe battery has been used in a motor vehicle, or mobile application specifically as a primary source of power to drive the vehicle. Its 2nd LiFe is engaged when the battery has lost approximately 20% of its original capacity, and due to weight being an issue in a mobile application, its purpose is changed to become mostly a secondary power source, storing energy generated by renewable sources or Eskom Grid power. This energy is stored and then used at a reasonably mediocre rate to provide power when renewables such as wind and sun are not available or to provide backup power for periods longer than two hours.

This process effectively extends the life of the battery giving it what we term a 2nd LiFe.

In contrast, a second-hand battery would be a storage battery used to provide storage for a time, uninstalled and re-installed to perform the same function in another location. Nothing in this process extends its life or changes the conditions under which it operates and it will simply last as long as originally planned.

What is the lifespan of 2nd LiFe in cycles and years?

Due to the reduced stress, and the history provided with a 2nd LiFe battery, by the vehicle BMS, lifespan is easily predicted forward.

Most 2nd LiFe batteries were originally designed with a life expectancy of 6 000 to 7 000 cycles in an automotive primary power source application and applied into 2nd LiFe applications once they have endured 1 500 to 2 000 cycles in a vehicle.

This means they still have a life expectancy of another 4 to 5 000 cycles under the same conditions as in the vehicle. But stationary storage reduces the stresses on the battery cells enormously from their design capability and hence the life span of the 5 to 6000 additional cycles is easily met.

In REVOV batteries – which components are brand new in the 2nd LiFe batteries – electronics, cases, display etc?

The only component inside a REVOV battery which is not new is the actual battery cell. From the busbars interconnecting cells, to the monitoring harnesses, cables, and sensors, casing, connectors, screws, and bolts, all are new. The Battery Management System used is specifically designed for the 2nd LiFe cells and is not the same system used in the vehicle either.

What are some of the biggest REVOV 2nd LiFe installations you are aware of, and were they used for UPS or renewable setups?

We currently have a number of REVOV 2nd LiFe installations exceeding 320kWh, these are in total off-grid applications where the customer has disconnected Eskom or doesn’t have reliable access to Eskom, to similar size units which provide UPS functionality in case of Eskom failure. These are typically in the 48V nominal range, and 300-350 kWh is really the limit that a low voltage (48VDC) installation should be built at. Larger than that the requirement for larger conductors becomes critical, and installation becomes impractical.

The vast majority of our installations and applications are between 10kWh and 100kwh. We are currently working on some much larger applications, but these will ultimately use a High Voltage setup and design, where the batteries are connected in series to reach voltages up to the 800VDC range, this, in turn, has a significant effect in terms of ease of installation and cable sizes and costs.

Watch this space carefully as REVOV launches the first 2nd LiFe HVDC battery product in Africa in the next few months.

View more

Smarter Mobility Africa LIVE on will take place on 27-29 October 2020

Smarter Mobility Africa LIVE is a creative 3 day summit including Walking, Cycling and Shared Transport, Public Transport and Electric Vehicles.

Continue reading View more