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Cabinet may back SA electric car

2009-03-19 08:58

Michael Hamlyn

A team from six different ministerial departments is to evaluate the options for the government to invest in the commercialisation of the South African-designed battery-driven electric car. 

The car – called the Joule by its design team – was unveiled last October at the Paris Motor Show, and has already been given a resoundingly warm welcome by Mosibudi Mangena, the Science and Technology Minister. 

Speaking at the South African launch of Joule, Mangena said that the launch of this vehicle was a watershed moment in terms of South African innovation.  

The zero emission Joule is a six-seater multi-purpose vehicle and Cape Town-based Optimal Energy has spent over two years and 50 million rand in funding from the National Research Foundation's innovation fund developing the car. SA's first electric car is designed by SA-born Keith Helfet, designer of the Jaguar XJ-220 supercar – for a time the world's fastest car – and the XK-180 and F-Type Concept cars. 

Kobus Meiring, head of Optimal Energy, and formerly of Denel Aviation and the Sutherland African Large Telescope project, said at the launch that urban transport played 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." 

He reckoned the production of the new all-electric vehicle would start towards the end of 2010. 

The inter-ministerial committee looking at the project will be drawn from Science and Technology, the Treasury, Transport, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Minerals, and Energy and Trade and Industry.

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