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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  10 Nov 2008

VENTURES: Africa's First All Electric Vehicle


Recent Western Cape Business News

OPTIMAL Energy, a privately-owned South African company based in Cape Town that specialises in solutions for urban transport, has revealed plans to launch Africa’s first all electric vehicle.

Appropriately named Joule, the zero emission car is a six-seater MPV (multi-purpose vehicle). Designed by Optimal Energy in association with South African born automotive designer, Keith Helfet, the ultra sleek Joule is scheduled to make its global debut at the Paris Motor Show this month.

So far it represents an investment of close to R50 million, much of it funded by the Innovation Fund and the IDC.

Comments Kobus Meiring, CEO of Optimal Energy, “The world’s finite energy sources are being used inefficiently and urban transport plays a major role in energy wastage and climate changing pollution. Joule is Optimal Energy’s solution to change that.”

“We have capitalised on the opportunity presented by the exponential increase in oil costs and the dramatic improvement in battery price, life and performance.”

“Joule’s value proposition is made more compelling when environmental influences such as increasing pollution and global warming phenomena caused by the rapid increase in urbanisation are also considered.”

“Furthermore, Joule is fully aligned with Optimal Energy’s vision to establish and lead the electric vehicle industry in South Africa as a springboard to global expansion,” Meiring says.

Joule’s interior and exterior was styled by Keith Helfet who has a long history as chief stylist at Jaguar and, who was responsible for such iconic designs as the XJ220, the XK180 and the F-Type.

“Keith was serendipitously introduced to Optimal Energy while purchasing coastal property in South Africa and was immediately captivated by our vision. Optimal Energy was searching for a world class designer.”

“The fact that Keith is South African born and has strong South African roots matched our criteria perfectly,” says Meiring.

Joule’s chassis has been designed to accommodate two large-cell lithium ion battery packs which employ chemistry similar to that used in mobile phones and laptop computers.

This chemistry is inherently safe; lithium is found in many medicinal applications and the batteries do not contain any heavy metals.

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

Joule’s large battery bay is able to accommodate a number of different battery configurations from different suppliers, giving the customer the choice of performance and cost.

“Studies show that 99 percent of urban users drive less than 150km’s a day, Optimal Energy recommends that only one battery pack is necessary to power Joule,” continues Meiring.

Independent analysis of Eskom, the country’s sole electricity provider, has confirmed that the South African grid has enough capacity to supply electrical energy to millions of cars without affecting its customer base or requiring any additional infrastructure.

Eskom has vast amounts of excess energy between 11 PM and 6 AM (GMT +2); this will be the recommended recharging time.

Electric cars only require about 20 percent of the energy that conventional cars require; this means that the total emissions are much less, even if Eskom’s coal dominated electricity is used.

With the global trend of electricity generation becoming more renewable and cleaner, total emissions caused by electric cars will continue to shrink.

The South African Province of Gauteng is currently being evaluated for Joule’s first assembly plant as it has the biggest cities and has expressed interest in placing the first fleet orders.

Although supplier lists are not yet final, it is expected that the local content of Joule will be more than 50 percent.

Joule will be sold in all major South African centres; Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban and will be available towards the end of 2010.

Joule was developed for the international market and sales and exports will follow shortly after the South African launch.

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