Govt mulls expensive 'green' car

2011-11-23 21:04

Cape Town - 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 R9bn," Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said in a written reply to a parliamentary question on Wednesday.

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

Top speed of 135km/h

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.

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.

He said that since 2006, the government had invested R125m on the development of the Joule, but denied that planned production of the electric vehicle had stalled.

Discussions were underway 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".

Investor problems

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 COP 17 climate conference.

  • donovan.penaluna - 2011-11-23 21:17

    And while we sleep the competition catches up...

  • cobus123456 - 2011-11-23 21:28

    What do you mean catches up. We have been left behind again because everyone needs to see what part of the pie he/she would be getting, where they should just be making the car and build up from there.

  • Michele - 2011-11-23 21:34

    The govt position will no doubt be considered very well. They make a LOT of money for their back pockets by selling fossil fuels to us for the road usage that they plan on charging us more for. But shhhhhhhh.

  • Elsa - 2011-11-23 21:55

    I have seen and photographed the Joule - and know some of what has gone into development - Optimal Energy can be very proud of what they have put together to date

      Chumscrubber1 - 2011-11-24 06:00

      I wish people would explain why they disagree with a comment, rather than just thumbs down.

  • Janneman27 - 2011-11-23 22:07

    ...they should look at exporting to other BRICS countries...especially Brazil and India...that would ramp investment and manufacturing/export/employment numbers!

  • arno.breedt - 2011-11-23 22:33

    An car priced for the upper end of the market is moving deck chairs on the Titanic. We need that which got the original motorcar revolution going -- commoditized cheap electric vehicles within the reach of everyone. It's not a complete pipe dream either -- remember the first cellphones? Terrible, clunky, expensive. Today someone can get a mobile phone for under R100. Technologically speaking, the biggest difference between the mobile phone and the electric car is that one has wheels and is bigger. I strongly suspect that we will see a marked drop in the cost of an electric car in the next 5 to 10 years.

      David B Hutton - 2011-11-23 22:45

      @ Arno, in SA many folk just take phones.... No offence to all those who worked on the Joule project, but many brand leaders are launching electric vehicles at way better competitive prices. Why would I buy an unknown brand at a premium price if I can buy a VW, Toyota, Honda, BMW, Merc, Nissan or even a Porsche electric vehicle, just asking!!?

      Herman - 2011-11-23 23:50

      I'd be VERY careful to go into partnership with the ANC, just now they nationalise this project & then??? LOL! "The purchase price of R 235 000 – R 275 000 excludes batteries. The batteries will be leased separately and this monthly lease cost will include the warranty and servicing of the batteries as well as the electricity cost." That's like purchasing an seriously over priced handheld torch for R3000 with NO batteries! If they're serious about Global warming, then they'll make it much more affordable!

      Chumscrubber1 - 2011-11-24 06:03

      Always wonder how they come to the inflated prices. I think too much profit is worked into the price. They should aim at low profits initially to get the things marketed - once they're on the road hopefully people will see the value, and we'll slowly move away from fossil fuel dependance. (The cause of most current wars)

      Horst - 2011-11-24 18:44

      Well, yes, what I can't understand is why do we aim at the top end of the market? When I was still working my trip to work was 28km, and I know many commuters are in this distance range. Thus we don't need a car with a range of 300 km and going at 135 km/h. A cheaper car with lower range, 100 km would do, and lower max speed (80 km/h) would be more than sufficient for most people. That means smaller battery, lower cost. The cost must be such that it becomes affordable for the average commuter to have as a second car.

  • Fredster69 - 2011-11-24 07:56

    1. Gov has a share - makes you think 2. New information bill passed - makes you think 3. Investors scared in investing - wonder why?

  • Peter - 2011-11-24 07:59

    Well i think this car is the only way to go.There is no other immediate options at the moment.This should be given priority as the figures are only initial costs.Long term with production and numbers the figure will be affordable to the man on the street.!

  • sycomachinery - 2011-11-24 08:04

    Why must one lease the batteries is this their way of milking the public?,

      Elsa - 2011-11-24 09:27

      no its to save you money and time ...... same thing as leasing your gas bottle for your gas stove. Eventually the idea is to travel - on the road exchange your battery and continue traveling. like filling up your fuel tank - at a "battery station". Quick turnaround time. You dont need to stop off and recharge first for a couple of hours. Why do every one moan about technology not advancing fast enough - and when it does - you moan about that too? typical South African attitude

  • mmoledis - 2012-04-19 17:09

    There is a say that says to have money one had to make use of his or her own to generate another money, so I think our government by supporting this type of projects will help a country a lot and boost economy of the country because once that is up and running more jobs will be created.This will help also fight against air pollution and contribute to solving climate change problems the world is experiencing. So to my suggestion again this project must start by producing commercial transport vehicles like combis and sold it to taxi owners and then buses and lorries first, so then for anyone willing to buy a combi for use as a taxi then 60% of combis be one locally build while the rest be foreign so as all bus companies operating in South Africa as public transport for communities,like what is happening in Germany and India where most of transport for public and all government departments are one bought from local market at home and produced also locally, then their economies grows bigger and bigger by so doing as that also creates more and more jobs for their citizens.

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