Joule of South Africa’s highway

6 April 2009

A pilot fleet of South African-made electric cars are due to hit the country’s roads by 2010, the company which builds them said on Thursday.

Optimal Energy, the company which manufactures the electric-powered Joule, has received financial backing from the Department of Science and Technology and issued shares to the Industrial Development Corporation, spokeswoman Diana Blake told the South African Press Assocation (Sapa).

“This investment helps us to drive the industrialisation process, taking us to the next level,” Optimal Energy CEO Kobus Meiring said.

The Joule: it’s clean, it’s mean – and it’s good-looking, to boot! Click arrow to play video.

“Optimal Energy is capitalising on South Africa’s technological prowess, its track record of building premium cars for the export market, the current sea of change in transport technology brought about by climate change, pollution and energy security issues, and the immense progress in battery technology,” Meiring told Sapa.

After the pilot fleet is launched, the company plans to begin mass production in 2012.

Meiring said this meant the company would not be hindered by the current economic situation, adding that there was “enormous interest” in the Joule.

“Current market conditions are slowing down the traditional manufacturers’ efforts while the market, especially for clean vehicles, is predicted to be in a strong upward swing from 2012 onwards.”

Zero emissions

The zero-emission Joule is a six-seater multi-purpose vehicle designed by Cape Town-based Optimal Energy in association with legendary South African-born automotive designer Keith Helfet.

The Joule was unveiled at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, and recently displayed at a climate change conference in Johannesburg.

The chassis of the Joule has been designed to accommodate two large-cell lithium ion battery packs which use chemistry similar to that used in mobile phones and laptop computers.

Using a normal 220 Volt home outlet and the Joule’s onboard charger, it takes approximately seven hours to recharge the Joule’s battery for a 200km driving range, with two packs providing 400km in total.

Studies show that 99 percent of urban users drive less than 150 kilometres a day. Optimal Energy recommends that only one battery pack is necessary to power the Joule.

Electric cars use about 20 percent of the energy that conventional cars use, meaning that the total emissions are much less. And with the global trend of electricity generation becoming “cleaner”, the emissions generated by electric cars will continue to shrink.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews

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