BMW South Africa has launched an initiative it hopes will kick-start a revolution in solar power in the country.
At its head office in Midrand on Friday it unveiled its first solar carport, which is used to recharge electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Tim Abbott, the chief executive of BMW SA and sub-Saharan Africa, said it wanted to roll out another three solar carports at sites around the country, probably in Cape Town, Durban and Gauteng.
“This is just the start. Why can’t it be 50 or 500?” Abbott asked.
He said BMW SA had signed a memorandum of understanding with Nissan SA a year ago to collaborate on the roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and were still working on this.
Abbott said large corporations were indicating that they wanted to be part of this, and supermarket chain Pick n Pay was talking about having a charging port at all of their outlets.
He said BMW wanted to showcase the technology in high visibility areas and were planning to install solar charging ports at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
Alan Boyd, the product manager for BMW i and 360° Electric portfolio, said there were already public charging points at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, and work would start this week on the installation of public charging points at Constantia Village Mall and were also scheduled to be installed at the Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria.
Menlyn Park Shopping Centre in Pretoria was also interested in installing charging ports, he said.
Boyd said 19 BMW dealers countrywide already had charging ports, which would increase to 33 dealers by the end of this year with plans to expand that further next year.
Abbott said sales of plug-in hybrids accounted for 15 percent of all car sales in the US last month, which was indicative the technology was gaining acceptance.
He said BMW SA wanted to ensure they had an offering for consumers, who could also use the power produced by the solar carports in their homes to operate appliances.
Abbott said the overcharge from the solar carport in Midrand was used to subsidise the power requirements of their nearby training centre for Motorrad, the group’s motorcycle division.
Boyd said the cost of the solar carport had not yet been determined, but would be launched in July after ensuring it worked and was affordable.
Abbott said BMW SA wanted to offer a system that did not necessarily have to be installed as a carport, but the hardware was installed in a consumer’s house.
Boyd said it would take 19 kilowatt-hours to fully charge a BMW i3, which at home at R1.30 would cost about R25 for the car to do 150km, while it would easily cost R68 for a similar sized diesel car to travel the same distance.
Abbott said the solar initiative was in line with BMW’s focus on sustainable development.
His vision for BMW’s manufacturing plant in Rosslyn is that it should be 100 percent sustainable by 2020.
Abbott said that would probably involve an extension of the Bio2Watt biogas programme at Bronkhorstspruit, which currently provides 35 percent of the plant’s energy needs.
With the Tshwane Metro it was also looking at bringing methane gas into the plant from the landfill site close to the plant, he said.
BMW SA is investing R6 billion in the Rosslyn plant in preparation for the production of the X3.
Abbott said they were looking at a 35 percent reduction in water usage by the plant when production shifted from the 3-Series to the X3.