SA's Joule to bleed more money?

2011-11-24 09:07

It could cost a lot of green to put South Africa's first home-grown "green" vehicle, the Joule electric car, into commercial production.

"The projected (yet to be verified) investment required to commercialise the Joule is approximately R9-billion," minister for science and technology Naledi Pandor said in a written reply to a parliamentary question on Wednesday, November 23, 2011.

This amount would cover "all production-related matters such as production development, manufacturing and retail operations, to mention but a few", she said.

The battery-driven Joule - developed and designed by the company Optimal Energy - is aimed at urban users. It has a maximum range of 300km and a top speed of 135km/h. It was unveiled at the 2010 Geneva auto show


The government has a shareholding in Optimal Energy.

To date, a few score hand-built Joules have been produced as demonstration models, science and technology director-general Phil Mjwara confirmed to Sapa on Wednesday. Since 2006, the government had invested R125-million on the Joule's development but denied that planned production of the electric vehicle had stalled.

Discussions were under way between his department, trade and industry and other stakeholders on the best way forward.

"At the moment, we're looking at various options... to determine what route we want to go. These will be tabled early next year," Mjwara said.

According to Optimal Energy's website, the Joule will be "in mass manufacture" from 2013, and available for sale in mid-2014.


On the retail price of the car - which appears to be aimed at the upper end of the market - it says this "cannot be fixed now".

In her reply, Pandor said Pandor said government was developing a position paper on the Joule.

"The position paper will indicate government support and plans for the electric vehicle industry, including the Joule," she said.  

A second-generation prototype of the Joule will be among examples of so-called green technology on display in Durban next week during the COP17 climate conference. Wheels24 will also be in Durban to drive the Nissan Leaf, which enjoyed its South African preview at the recent Johannesburg international auto show.


  • christo.stone - 2011-11-24 10:00

    "aimed at the upper end of the market" Thank you for always being there for the not so upper market...

  • Paulus - 2011-11-24 10:45

    The longer you take the more competition there will be from mainstream manufacturers. You stuff around, you will lose any edge you had. More interesting to me though, is that fact that we had a working electric car in 1983 already. I worked at Eskom and parked right next to a Honda that was converted by Eskom into a fully functioning electric car. They could not get any buy-in from government to mass produce it. My believe is that big petrol stop these kind of developments, and government is in their pockets.

      Willie - 2011-11-24 12:10

      Paul i agree with you 10000%,i do not think this goverment understand the long term spinoffs of this project.Mahindra was started way back '48,Kia,Hyundae.Rome was not built in one day.We need to start this project and remove the notion that it is targeted for top earners.average reasonable price so that many of the citizens can afford to buy it.That's how Korea built is economy

      Brad - 2011-11-24 14:02

      Yes, that would be the truth, Paulus. Unfortunately if the government introduced this technology early, they would not receive any kickbacks. Even though it is a more viable solution. You should go back and check the movie "Chain Reaction".

      Bruce - 2011-11-24 20:40

      Paulus, you have hit the nail on the head! Oil is big, big money and rules the world economy. The oil industry will squash anything that looks remotely like a threat. I had the pleasure of riding in that Eskom Honda Civic (as a passenger unfortunately) and it was mindblowing with maximum torque at zero RPM.

  • Willie - 2011-11-24 11:46

    Battery lifetime, costs, etc. still remains a problem and with the amount required to start off, and with the vehicle also being for upper end of market, it is more an exclusive type of vehicle. So spend R9b for an exclusive car targetted at upper end? Not even worth thinking about. They should still have opted for hydrogen. Clean (for greenies), cheap, and efficient, whreas electricity still requires recharging (power has to come from somewhere), and is very expensive as well. "Electricity" or the idea of electricity is completely being over used. But that was the whole purpose of the 'global warming' scheme, now 'changed' to 'climate change'. To try and get people into having a different mindset, and create new markets for a different form of income was a brilliant scheme.

      Ernst - 2011-11-24 12:39

      @Willie: "But that was the whole purpose of the 'global warming' scheme, now 'changed' to 'climate change'." It was the Bush-administration that mandated that "Global warming" be referred to as "Climate Change", because climate change sounds less severe than global warming.

  • Transkie Sun - 2011-11-24 11:50

    I want a hydrogen car. Are we backward idiots.

      raath - 2011-11-24 13:36

      We all do - the problem is that it takes a lot of energy to produce Hydrogen and to transport it.

  • Trevor - 2011-11-24 12:10

    This smells like a scam like Arms Deal to milk money "legally", can see in 10years from now the same old crap as the Arms deal.....would love to know who has vested interest in this car...especially from "our" government...

  • Johan - 2011-11-24 13:01

    This is a feather in the cap of South African Engineering. However, the window of opportunity for this project has probably passed. To make this a success the following is still required: Euro NCAP crash certification, industrialisation to mass produce the vehicle, establishment of an international distribution and service organisation. For the Nissan Leaf all of this is already in place and the Leaf is probably more advanced than the Joule. Other manufacturers are also close to rolling out commercial electric cars e.g. the BMW i8.

  • cate.pretorius - 2011-11-25 08:19

    Get somebody like Toyota or Hyndai to design, build and initially run the new Joule production plant in SA and we slowly take it over from them. That way we will avoid many plant design inadequacies and the first Joules off the line will be relatively high quality.

  • Motor - 2011-12-09 17:53

    Why not just give Nissan the money, and they can build it?

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