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Pride of SA takes on Geneva

2010-03-03 11:35
The electric vehicle from South Africa’s Optimal Energy – called Joule – is being shown at the Geneva Motor Show where more detail about the exciting car was revealed.

With initial designs by South African-born Keith Helfet (formerly Jaguar), the pre-production prototype was fine-tuned by Zagato’s Total Design Centre.

The latest iteration of Joule looks a little different to the car first shown at the Paris Motor Show two years ago and in 2010 it forms the centerpiece of Milanese coachbuilder Zagato’s Geneva showstand.

The production model, it is said, will allow electric travel up to 300 km, freeway cruising ability and a four-star safety rating.

Joule is powered by a 36 kWh traction battery, with a number of modules stocked with lithium ion batteries and providing energy to the transversely-mounted permanent magnet motor with 75 kW and 280 Nm on board. The new-generation battery pack is mounted to battery slots housed beneath the car that can be replaced within minutes.

Swift and silent city car

According to its creator, Joule, which is essentially a city car, accelerates to 100 km/h in around 15 seconds and has a top speed of 135 km/h.

Stopping is the work of an all-wheel disc braking system that doubles up to allow for regenerative braking.

Also, because Joule reportedly uses a lower number of moving parts, service intervals are likely to be 40 000 km or every two years. The car is also designed so that repair time and costs, particularly the damage caused at low-speed city prangs, are reduced.

Safety isn’t an afterthought, though, with airbags, Isofix child seat anchor points, stability control and anti-lock brakes forming part of Joule’s arsenal.

And those paranoid about Joule’s recharging and South Africa’s dodgy electricity supply need not worry. It is apparently meant to be “automatic and safe” – just plug it into a wall socket in off-peak periods and leave it to charge for a few hours.

On sale 2013

Joule will also come packed with modcons including infotainment systems, navigation and a range of connectivity options. A cheeky solar panel mounted on the roof is optional.

Following its Geneva showing, Joule will return to South Africa for more testing. Full-scale production comes on line from the end of 2012, while cars should be in showrooms by mid-2013.

Optimal Energy, in securing local production for Joule, has also concluded memoranda of understanding with a range of suppliers including lithium battery manufacturers and engineering service suppliers.

Furthermore, the South African Department of Trade and Industry in its 2010 – 2013 Industrial Policy Action Plan addresses the commercialisation of South Africa’s electric car, including the encouragement of the manufacturer of local electric vehicles and related components, and the creation of testing facilities.

It looks like South Africa’s band of merry petrolheads and the frustration of us not producing a homegrown car is fast becoming a thing of the past. Joule will see to that, even if it’s not quite the petrolhead’s dream (yet)…


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