Can Namibia Sustain Electric Vehicles on the Grid?

By Sybrand de Waal

Namibia has committed to have 96 500 electric vehicles (EVs) on its roads by 2025. This means we have less than 700 days left to achieve the goal set by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism of replacing a third of all passenger vehicles with EVs.

This move is Namibia’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from the transport sector.

One other main benefit of making the switch to EVs is the large monetary savings associated with driving electric. For example, when comparing a Nissan Leaf to a petrol fuelled Volkswagen Polo, you would save about N$16 000 per annum using an electric Leaf. If you replaced your luxury town vehicle with an EV, you would save even more.

When comparing a Volkswagen T-Roc to the all-electric GWM Ora O3 you would save about N$18 300 per year.

The biggest concern remains how Namibia will achieve the ambitious target of having 96 500 EVs on its roads by 2025 and also after that, how the grid will support these vehicles.

The most common way of charging an EV is with a 3-pin domestic socket at home during the evening. Charging this way uses about 3kW and adds about 21km of range per hour of charging, which is more than enough for daily driving.

When taking the average Windhoek commuter’s driving distance to 12 500km per annum, each EV will use about 2MWh of electricity. This works out to ±186GWh per annum for the envisaged 96 500 EVs by 2025. This may seem like an astronomical amount of electricity, but considering that Namibia uses 3 983GWh of electricity per year, this amounts to a 4.7% increase in yearly power consumption.

To produce the extra 186GWh locally with renewable electricity it would require the installation of about 100MWp of solar panels.

O&L Nexentury – a subsidiary of the Ohlthaver & List Group – recently received its generation licence and export licence from the Electricity Control Board (ECB) for its 100MW solar photovoltaic (PV) plant just outside of Windhoek.

This plant alone will be able to easily power the 96 500 EVs.

To solve the problem with a rather decentralised approach, each of the 96 500 EV owners in Namibia would have to install 1kWp solar power unit at their home. The smallest practical grid-tied home solar installation is 3kWp and would set you back about N$40 000. With the system you would be able to charge your EV as well as to offset 300kWh from your household electricity consumption.

It would take between 3.2 and 4.2 years to reach break-even point with the solar system, but after that you would save between N$800 and N$1 000 per month on electricity.

With residential solar panels lasting 25 to 30 years over their lifespan, you would save between N$270 000 and N$360 000 depending on whether you have pre-paid or post-paid electricity.

In conclusion, the addition of 96 500 electric vehicles to Namibian roads poses no risk to the national electricity grid. The bigger question is: How are we going to get 96 500 EVs on our roads in two years?

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