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Is govt going to play the Joule joke again?

2014-10-15 15:08

FAILED PROJECT: This was SA's only modern effort at building an electric car - the Joule soaked up millions of taxpaper's rands but never reached commercial production. Image: Wheels24

DONWALD PRESSLY

All is not lost with the Joule electric car programme developed in South Africa, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor told parliament.

In reply to a question from Deidre Carter, a Cope MP, who asked whether her department had totally abandoned the prestige Joule project, the minister said that the technological innovations made were still being put to use in South Africa.

Pandor said using “the assets and know-how from the project”, a product development and testing platform had been set up at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University – in Port Elizabeth – to support local component manufacturing associated with electric vehicles.

UYILO MOBILITY PROGRAMME

“The tangible assets – Joule prototype cars and battery testing infrastructure – are part of the uYilo Mobility programme. Some of the Joule experts are also employed by Hydrogen South Africa (a science and technology department project) under the fuel cell powered vehicle programme,” she told Carter.

In addition her department of science and technology had contributed to the department of trade and industry’s development of “the electric vehicle roadmap that seeks to develop the country’s technical capabilities”. Different investment incentives were provided to the electric vehicle industry.

The uYilo E-Mobility Technology Innovation programme was launched in March 2013 by the Technology Innovation Agency to fast track the development and commercialisation of key technologies that would support the electric vehicle industry.

The uYilo – which is Xhosa for “to create a new thing” - programme will run for five years and is focused on charging networks, battery technology and EV drive train components.

R128-MILLION INVESTMENT

Pandor reported that her department and its agencies including the Innovation Fund and the Technology Innovation Agency had invested R128 million into the research, development and “pre-commercialisation” requirements of the electric vehicle project. In addition R119 million was invested by the Industrial Development Corporation in pre-commercialisation activities. "To take the project to commercialisation, major capital investments and government policy interventions were required,” she said.

The government agencies responsible for manufacturing and commercialising the Joule had decided not to proceed with these plans, she said. Part of the reason was that the IDC had been unsuccessful in raising a capital investment of R10-billion and that a strategic equity partner had not been found.
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