Prowl the green jungle

2011-02-19 14:27

After much anticipation, South Africa awaits the launch of Joule – the first locally built electric car – in 2013.

But another company has surpassed them in the development stage. And Puma already has a waiting list of customers who will receive their electric cars in six months.

And no, this Puma has nothing to do with the popular sports apparel. Puma was manufactured by a Brazilian company between 1967 and 1997 before closing business due to import costs.

South Africa restarted a limited production of the Puma sports car in 2006. The all-electric propulsion version was soon after developed and researched by a local company, EV Drive.

Since then, the company has successfully developed the electric version and it will officially be on sale in August. It will initially cost R350?000 but economy of scale will see costs come down significantly once more orders are placed. This means while the numbers are still relatively small, the costs to build these vehicles are quite high.

The car doesn’t look as fancy as a Honda CR-X hybrid nor is it as powerful as a Porsche Cayenne hybrid, which both run on secondary electric motors.

But if one set aside the bells and whistles you would find in its green competitors, the Puma is the only electric-propelled vehicle in the South African market – and it comes standard with a computer system which allows the driver to connect to the internet.

EV Drive’s technical engineer Cobus Pentz says Puma will also allow users to watch six DStv channels which will operate on the same principle as mobile TV, and that it comes with a DVD player.

“You won’t spend a cent on petrol. When the lithium-ion battery is completely flat, it will only take six hours to recharge. The plug fits any standard power socket in your home,” he says. The electric propulsion motor is set at 75kW of power with 154Nm of torque.

The EV Drive team showcased the prototype electric car to a select few recently at the Midvaal Raceway track, outside
Vereeniging. While the prototype looked a bit raw on the inside, Pentz says the interior will look much better on the end product.

If you’re not willing to part with R350?000 right away, the Puma electric car can be customised to look the way you want – even with a different body.

EV Drive chief executive Gerhard Terblanche says they can take any vehicle and transform it into an electric car. “If you bring the body shell of another car, we’ll convert it into an electric car. Obviously the cost will be much less than ordering a car from the factory.”

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