Joule costs bleeding government

2011-11-25 10:11

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,” Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said in a written reply to a parliamentary question earlier this week.

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/hour.

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.

He said that since 2006, the government had invested R125 million on the development of the Joule, 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,” he 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 finding a “one-stop” investor for the Joule project had proved a challenge.

“There has been a challenge in getting a one-stop investor, and the signal from potential investors is that they may consider partnering on certain parts of the value chain.

“This work is expected to be completed by the end of this year.”

Pandor said the 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.

“The position is essential and provides a sense of government commitment to the development of the industry and will be useful in improving investor confidence,” 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.

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