SA electric car on ice as cash dries up
Duncan Alfreds, News24
Cape Town - The South African electric car has been put on hold while the developer works to find international partnerships to produce the vehicle.
The Joule is touted as an answer to city pollution, but the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which has invested a significant amount of money in the project, has told developer Optimal Energy that in order to receive more funding for the project, it had to find a suitable partner to commercialise the vehicle.
Optimal Energy failed to secure a partner and money from the state evaporated, despite support from President Jacob Zuma at the COP 17 climate change summit held in Durban.
Optimal Energy said it will focus on the development of an electrically powered bus in the medium term, even though CEO Kobus Meiring said the company remains committed to producing the Joule.
"Entering the electric bus market requires a much smaller amount of capital expenditure up front, with a positive return on investment in a short time, followed by major opportunity for growth," Optimal Energy said in a statement.
The Joule project has faced challenges, and at the International Battery Conference in 2011, Meiring said the Joule's battery safety remained a difficult challenge.
"Safety is holding us back. In remote controlled aeroplanes they double that [battery power] already, but it's a toy, so it's not such a big issue," he told News24 at the time.
The company says that it is using the electric bus development to raise capital to continue the development of the Joule at a later stage.
"While going through the fundraising process, Optimal Energy has investigated alternative strategies and found that there are a number of applications for this proven technology, of which the electric bus market represents the most feasible business right now," the firm said.
The company had planned a target of 50 000 cars a year and production was slated to begin in 2014.
The Joule development is estimated to have cost R300m so far and major shareholders include the IDC at 50% share along with the department of science and technology at 30%.
- Follow Duncan on Twitter