Important announcements at 2019 Batteries & Electric Vehicles Conference

Important announcements at 2019 Batteries & Electric Vehicles Conference

The 2019 Batteries and Electric Vehicles Conference hosted by the uYilo eMobility Programme rounded out South Africa's October Transport Month last week. The conference provided critical thought leadership and the latest updates in current processes, development and technologies in the fields of Batteries and Electric Vehicles from local and international speakers.

Two important announcements were made at the conference. The MegaMillion Energy Company, Africa's first lithium-ion mega-factory was introduced by its Chief Executive Officer, Nechan Naicker. "We are a local company focused on manufacturing battery powders and lithium-ion cells locally. The vision is very clear, we want to energise Africa for its own future."

Kevin Campbell, Managing Director: Digatron Power Electronics GmbH announced a new division at Digatron launching in November, providing mechanical solutions for lithium cell pilot assembly lines.

"October highlights the critically important role transport plays in the economy," says uYilo director, Hiten Parmar. "The Batteries & Electric Vehicles Conference aims to increase multi-stakeholder engagements towards advancing the electric vehicle and complementary battery storage industries in South Africa. This provides further alignment to the 2030 National Development Plan and the Green Transport Strategy of national Department of Transport to which strategic pillar 8 promotes hybrid and electric vehicles”.

The Opening Address was delivered by Mr Themba Tenza, Acting Deputy Director-General: Integrated Transport Planning at the Department of Transport. He stated, "The Department is fully supportive of the growth of both the batteries and electric vehicles industries. We want to make an impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially from roads".

Professor Chris Adendorff (Commissioner: Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution) tackled the topic of "The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Rise of Electric Transportation". "Transportation is going to move forward rapidly in the coming years, driverless cars will be electric and demand will grow exponentially," says Adendorff. "Most transport-related noise levels will be cut by half and 80 per cent of autonomous fleets will be designed around single-person occupancy in the coming decades."

Chief Executive Officer of The MegaMillion Energy Company, Nechan Naicker, spoke on "Battery Manufacturing for Africa, in Africa. According to Naicker, seventy per cent of sub-Saharan Africa does not have reliable access to electricity. Reliable, affordable, sustainable energy for all is the way to build employment and the economy through Africa."

"Currently the bulk of investment is into lithium-ion technology and the results are fantastic," says Naicker. "It is driving down the price of batteries while improving the technology, but this is happening in the Northern Hemisphere, nothing in Africa. The question is, will Africa get enough lithium-ion batteries to meet demand - and how do we get it here? We have the battery minerals needed for energy storage. We have the largest reserves of battery minerals compared with any other continent and South Africa has 80% of the best quality manganese in the world," says Naicker. "We have been an extractive economy for too long, it is time to beneficiate for local production and supply."

Jochen Maehliss (Head of Business Development: VDE) presented at the conference via video call, covering "Trends in the Lithium-Ion Battery Market". He provided an insight into the history of electric vehicles, which dates back as far as 1884 with growing popularity until large oil reserves were discovered in the United States in the 1920s. A brief resurgence was experienced in the 1970s during the oil crisis but has shown consistent growth since the commercialisation of the lithium-ion cell in the 1990s. Future EV growth is projected to increase dramatically globally, with battery demand increasing accordingly, driven both by e-mobility needs and demands for electronic and portable equipment.

Marcello Fantoni (Sales Director: Sovema Group) covered Sovema's production process and abilities in the lead-acid and lithium-ion manufacturing process.

Paul Schiffbänker (Product Manager: AVL) presented "Glimpses into xEV Batteries on the Market". He suggested that the limiting factor of EVs is not the motor, but rather the battery pack. "We are at the point where a mass-produced car is on the edge of being introduced to the market as a technology available to everyone," says Schiffbänker. "The battery is the main constraint."

Olivier Kasikala (Line Manager: Energy Storage Innovation Lab) spoke on "Growing pains at the Lithium-ion 18650 cell assembly pilot plant." Olivier says, "Beneficiation of local materials will boost the economy and drive electrification of the SADC region with increased access to water, healthcare and jobs, allowing us to compete on the global market."

"Innovations using SiC technology for Battery Testing" was the subject of the presentation by Kevin Campbell (Managing Director: Digatron Power Electronics GmbH). Campbell explained how fast the pace of technology is changing, and how this is impacting on battery testing, testing equipment and the access it provides to data and information.

Shmuel De-Leon (Chief Executive Officer: Shmuel De-Leon Energy) put safety first with "Battery Safety (Hazards, Guidelines, Equipment)". From this perspective, De-Leon suggests "You will face a safety event, sooner or later. Then you need to decide on a course of corrective action or you will face that problem again." 

As EV adoption grows, so does the need for greater safety awareness. "In 2018 there were 90 million new vehicles sold worldwide," says De-Leon. "There is a huge need for lithium-ion cells worldwide, mainly for EVs and for grid storage as a larger number of those vehicles become electric. This demand will push industry, from mining through to the final suppliers in the chain."

Hideki Machida (Team Leader, Mobility 2030: KPMG) started day two of the conference with "A global and South African perspective". As South Africa follows global trends, so developments overseas will come to our shores. "Some of the metropolitan areas in South Africa could become low emissions zones," says Machida. "This will help to alleviate congestion and will improve the quality of air, leading to a healthier populace."

Sam Jaffe (Managing Director: Cairn Energy Research Advisors) spoke on EV Market Sizing and Forecasts, "The switch to electric vehicles is about clean air," says Jaffe. "EV sales are not driven by fuel costs, infrastructure, carbon, subsidies, range, design or performance. Cairn predicts EV market penetration globally will be 40 per cent in Asia Pacific versus 18 per cent in Europe."

Anthony Dane (Director: Change Pathways) covered The MacroEconomic Impact of Electric Vehicles in South Africa. "This transition period to EV is an opportunity to think about the towns and cities we all want to live in, that is more sustainable, more equitable and just," says Dane. "Benefits to South Africa from EVs will be reduced imports of petroleum, reduced government expenditure, lower transport costs, increased electricity sales, a reduction in Greenhouse Gases by between 34 and 67 per cent, improved air quality and benefits to the national grid."

Yanesh Naidoo (Sales and Design Director: Jendamark Automation) presented "South Africa's automation solutions for global Electric Vehicle production". "A customer today isn't necessarily one that pays money, they could be a customer that transfers value," says Naidoo who included in his presentation a Virtual Reality demonstration of an electric vehicle battery pack production line. 

Patuxolo Nodada (Chief Executive Officer: Busmark) spoke on Alternative Powertrain buses for Africa and how Busmark has the company has adapted their design and production systems to ease and speed up servicing and maintenance while also making them quickly adaptable to any drivetrain.

Chrystal Christian (Manager: Customer Experience Centre: Volkswagen Group South Africa) spoke on "Skills Training Readiness for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles" suggesting that educators must be part of the change to electric vehicles for all companies in communicating with their customers.

The highest mileage electric vehicle in Africa, the BMW i3 of Shaun Maidment was also present at the conference, with Maidment getting right to the heart of the matter regarding owning an EV in South Africa. Delegates were treated to a video of Maidment's two year-old daughter plugging in the charger for the car, by herself, highlighting how simple the process is.

The Director, Energy Green Economy of Western Cape Government, Ajay Trikam, spoke on "A Provincial Government’s outlook for electric vehicles". "Within the city the largest energy use is transport," says Trikam. "Cape Town aims to be EV-friendly while also being emission-free by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2050."

Nick Singh (Head - Smart Grid Centre of Excellence: Eskom) presented "Smart Grids and Electric Vehicles - Impact on the Smarter Grid". "The future customer will be one with diverse energy needs, gas, electricity, renewables and storage," says Singh. "They will have a combination of AC and DC networks and system efficiencies with appliance and load control."

"Achieving first-and-last mile electric mobility in South Africa" was the subject of the Lead Electrical Engineer: Mellowcabs, Bartho Horn’s presentation. "Twenty-eight per cent of transport costs are incurred in the last mile of transport, with 23 per cent of carbon emissions are from urban transportation," says Horn. "This despite the fact that 80 per cent of urban vehicle trips are shorter than four kilometres." This translates that the current vehicle being used for urban transport is too large, too heavy and too costly, which can be changed by using appropriate EVs.

The event included tours of both the uYilo Battery Testing Laboratory which is the most advanced accredited battery laboratory in Africa, and the uYilo Smart Grid EcoSystem facility which is the largest and most technology advanced infrastructure support charging of electric vehicles.

The 2019 Batteries and Electric Vehicles Conference provided networking opportunities amongst the delegates and presenters, with the aim of furthering South Africa's capabilities and encouraging greater utilisation of local resources to grow the EV, battery and associated industries.

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