SA Joule producer firm canned

2012-06-23 17:24

Cape Town - The company that produced the Joule electric car has been shut down after facing funding shortfalls.

Optimal Energy produced South Africa's Joule electric car that was meant to be launch in 2014 with an initial production run of 50 000 units per year.

Earlier this year, it emerged that the company could not secure an international partner for production and it was announced that the Joule was being shuttered in favour of an electrically powered bus, known as the "E-bus".

The company pinned its hopes on the electric bus as it felt that the project would require less funding and give the firm breathing space while it considered options for reviving the Joule.

However, on Saturday Optimal Energy told News24 that a board meeting with shareholders the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) had concluded that the company was no longer viable and would be shut down entirely.

"In a special board meeting of Optimal Energy directors held on 21 June 2012 the notification from the shareholders, IDC and TIA, not to fund the 'E-Bus' strategy was reviewed. Based on the lack of the required funding available, the board made the decision to shut down Optimal Energy as soon as possible," the company said.

The development of the Joule has cost R300m so far and the company had touted its range and performance as a viable alternative to traditional cars.

Despite much interest from international distributors and support from President Jacob Zuma at the COP 17 climate conference in Durban in 2011, the project had been hampered by funding shortfalls for mass production.

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  • manie.engelbrecht.10 - 2012-06-23 18:32

    Another dream down the drain. They shouldve gotten the overseas investors...

      Irene - 2012-06-24 03:31

      Who in their right mind would want to invest in SA with all the war talk of land grabs and nationalisation!

      leenesh.singh - 2012-06-25 08:39

      My guess is that petrol companies paid them off not to develop.

  • merkwaardig.obskuur - 2012-06-23 19:07

    Eugene Lottering was another BEE appointment to the Innovation Fund, nowadays TIA, who recklessly wasted tax money on crackpot ideas. R300M... Should he not be criminally liable?A

  • Tim√ęsto Van Dyk - 2012-06-23 19:44

    Ay,bright ideas never make it far in SA

  • francois.viljoen.731 - 2012-06-23 20:25

    R300m is half of what Mc Donald's spends a year on advertising.

  • richard.sloman.5 - 2012-06-23 21:09

    I am surprised someone ilk Elon Musk didn't show interest seeing as his cars are doing well in the US!

  • diaan.robbertse - 2012-06-23 21:36

    what do you expect??We get what we asked . Didnt Gwede Matashe and Juju say we dont need international investors??

  • cameronjohnprice - 2012-06-23 23:19

    What a pity

  • Tony Lapson - 2012-06-23 23:34

    This is an example of money hindering advancements.

  • paul.aarden - 2012-06-24 08:03

    A pity indeed, it may have made more sense to have it built in China where the infrastructure is friendlier. The likelihood of funding may have been improved by such an approach, local is seen as anything but lekker for foreign investment it would appear given the future being plotted by those who know no better...

  • craig.king.7505 - 2012-06-24 08:20

    Electric cars have along history of financial and technological failure. Batteries haven't improved significantly in 100 years. Just more unicorn droppings really.

  • michael.barns.1 - 2012-06-24 08:59

    so now im guessing the directors who stole R300m live in huge houses in Sandhurst or Clifton and drive Ferraris and never have to work another day in their lives? You could have run a formula 1 team for a year for that! R300m and you didnt even produce a car?! What a typical South African scam! Steal steal steal steal, gimme gimme gimme, pay me first!!!!

      Shaka - 2012-06-24 09:21

      I think you've guessed it wrong. They used the money to develop an electric car that could have set up a great industry in SA. It is real, tangible, you can touch the product. Check out They used their own money to get the thing running. For some perspective the Tesla in the US has cost over $1Bn including a $450M investment by the US government. Development takes years and costs millions. Its not like running a print shop. The returns only surface in 30 years time, and they are huge.

      Trevor - 2012-06-24 10:04

      @Shaka, what utter rubbish. fully driven Electric cars have not proven to be viable in ANY country, what makes SA special? China has the ONLY viable electric option, bicycle, I see it everyday. So do some more research and get educated.

      Freddie - 2012-06-24 12:36

      michael, you are dead right! There was absolutely nothing unique about the Joule, and no reason for it to succeed. The whole deal was a con job and the stupid politicians fell for it. Shaka, a South African electric car could only have succeeded if it worked eficiently! The Joule didn't and never had any hope of working efficiently, see above, THERE WAS NOTHING UNIQUE ABOUT THE JOULE! The whole deal was a con job, the directors have made a fortune from the tax payer.

      georg.vanreenen - 2012-06-24 13:14

      Eh...guys, you not in engineering or and science field I assume from you comments. These boys were involved in another projedt as well..ummm.. SALT telescope in Sutherland (pretty damn successful). Easy to look that upon the net if you not a basic science follower. Science based projects are win some loose some. It's the way it is. Not like accounting where you move and possibly loose someone elses money. You actually take risks with your and others moola, research, create something - good or bad idea- and possibly come out second best. Some science clever investors thought it a good idea, so they thought it not a con job like you folk. But that's out types business for you. Lots engineering R&D business Ive been in we've had that. That money's small change in possible payoff. Whether it was a good or bad idea is another thing. But to call ideas con,etc when its science/engineering with its risks and R&D is to show why you didnt consider science as a field, isnt it?

      michael.barns.1 - 2012-06-25 14:43

      you not getting my point dumbo.... R300m, do you want me to say that again... three hundred million rand! You wont earn that in a hundred life times! Do you honestly think you can take on Toyota or Honda etc.. come on man... R300m and they dont even have a car worth producing, thats robbery and its disgusting! You might as well have just bought 1000 Toyota prius's! They stole the money, but dont you worry im sure they paid themselves R250 000pm first hmmmmm....

  • Shaka - 2012-06-24 09:09

    Lets put R300m in the perspective of our R17 Billion "investment" into the IMF. It is 2%. The Joule would create a manufacturing industry, with a supply chain, and many many jobs, and not just job jobs but actual careers. This would have been a far better investment than the IMF. Its time we got some big match temperament.

      Trevor - 2012-06-24 10:06

      Where do you come with this crap, are you in INVOLVED in the motor trade bar owning a car, maybe???? Must be an ANC card carrying member who swallows anything that is fed to you.

      georg.vanreenen - 2012-06-24 13:21

      Trevor.bush Go read science magazines. Not the Popular M you have on your shelf. Im talking Science, Nature and the like. There you'll quickly see how R&D works. We're talking billions of investments and losses on ideas. But thats what people in R&D accept and work in every day.

  • hugh.olphart - 2012-06-24 11:20

    Electric Cars are like the ANC, just promises promises. Environmental disasters, unpractical, unsustainable. Hydrogen is the only way to go for the foreseeable future. Id prefer a small nuclear plant, drives forever..

  • Pagel - 2012-06-24 13:40

    To put this in perspective - the development of the Nissan Leaf cost billions of Euro's. The Joule could have worked, but needed significant funding up front (2005) to get to market in the window of opportunity before their were many alternatives. But seems we are shackled to thinking small, so no new SA product - that would have resulted in industries developing around it and many jobs - has been created.

  • Zing - 2012-06-24 21:24

    300m is nothing to get a project like this off the ground. Someone didn't do their homework, or maybe what they have to offer is not worth investing any more money in? We're spoilt with oil at the moment. Coal for electricity and oil for transport. Cheap energy! We will only get really serious about alternative energy when the entire world's lights are about to be switched off. Then everyone will co-operate and contribute :)

  • - 2012-06-25 08:53

    they should have cut those huge salaries and bonusses they wanted to award themselves. greedy fools.

  • victor.windsor - 2012-06-25 09:22

    I smell a big rat !!!!!!!

  • thabo.mtaner - 2013-02-06 09:31

    Development that comes from a 3rd world country will not be supported by foreign investors unless they get a huge chunk of shares in the company. Our beloved useless government, DTI, ministries of science and technology should have been involved and get money in for this project. If they have monies for Zumaville, cars and houses, surely there is money for this project until investors buy out the government's shares.

  • Jeff Mulovhedzi - 2013-02-26 22:37

    Why is that I see Nissan Leaf on the news tonight? I should have been Joule on the news being officially launched. I don't understand the decision making of our government. Since when it gets exciting to support foreign innovation in the expense of local inventions and innovation? Someone help me here, I am getting frustrated of these. Whats next? Are they going to abort the SKA project as well? I am concerned of lip service and abortion of critical skills projects and companies by current South African government. Look what is happening with Denel... We are loosing skills like a cracked jar. This is disheartening on a national scale.

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