SA Joule sparkles in real world

2010-11-30 14:42

Cape Town - South Africans may soon begin seeing the all-electric Joule on the roads as the car is tested in a real world environment.

Revealed as a "sneak-peek" to News24 at Optimal Energy's Cape Town headquarters, the four hand-built cars will be tested on a wide variety of roads and conditions to assess final suitability before mass production begins.

"The testing will be mostly in Cape Town to assess real-world conditions. About 100 000km gives you the real feedback in terms of what a driver will face," Optimal Energy media manger Jaco van Loggerenberg told News24.

He said that the cars were built by High Tech Automotive in Port Elizabeth with Optimal Energy engineers providing oversight.

As world leaders meet in the resort city of Cancún in Mexico to hammer out a climate treaty, the focus will be on the world's continued reliance on fossil fuel and pollution. While electric cars don't completely mitigate that reliance, they represent an alternative.

Export market

"The Nissan Leaf winning European Car of the Year has been really good for us. It shows us the need for this type of vehicle. The biggest demand has come from Europe because they have incentives in place for these types of cars and people have already seen them on the roads," said Van Loggerenberg.

He added the factory to mass-produce the Joule was still on track for 2014 and would be based in East London to take advantage of the export market infrastructure already in place there.

The cars have a limited top speed of 135km/h and a range of 300km on a single charge, but driving it is a different experience.

"The way the power comes in is so different; there's no clutch lag as you would find in a regular car, or even in an automatic car," test driver Coen Strijdom, who is also part of the engineering team, told News24.

He has driven over 1 000km in each of the test vehicles and said that the cars perform well.

"It's smoother and there're no vibrations. You get used to it very quickly. I sit nice and high, but the car's centre of gravity is low because of the battery. It feels safe - I would easily put my family in this car," he said.

'Dinosaur'

The car can be charged from a normal domestic outlet, but there are plans to build a charging infrastructure that will have quick-charge facilities at shopping malls. The range of the vehicle is only marginally limited by night driving, Strijdom said.

He said that the test vehicles cost significantly more than the production car will cost, and the electric car passed it's extreme performance tests.

"I've taken this car to the extreme in handling and it performs better. A normal car feels like a dinosaur."


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