SA Joule sparkles in real world

2010-11-30 14:42

Cape Town - South Africans may soon begin seeing the all-electric Joule on the roads as the car is tested in a real world environment.

Revealed as a "sneak-peek" to News24 at Optimal Energy's Cape Town headquarters, the four hand-built cars will be tested on a wide variety of roads and conditions to assess final suitability before mass production begins.

"The testing will be mostly in Cape Town to assess real-world conditions. About 100 000km gives you the real feedback in terms of what a driver will face," Optimal Energy media manger Jaco van Loggerenberg told News24.

He said that the cars were built by High Tech Automotive in Port Elizabeth with Optimal Energy engineers providing oversight.

As world leaders meet in the resort city of CancĂșn in Mexico to hammer out a climate treaty, the focus will be on the world's continued reliance on fossil fuel and pollution. While electric cars don't completely mitigate that reliance, they represent an alternative.

Export market

"The Nissan Leaf winning European Car of the Year has been really good for us. It shows us the need for this type of vehicle. The biggest demand has come from Europe because they have incentives in place for these types of cars and people have already seen them on the roads," said Van Loggerenberg.

He added the factory to mass-produce the Joule was still on track for 2014 and would be based in East London to take advantage of the export market infrastructure already in place there.

The cars have a limited top speed of 135km/h and a range of 300km on a single charge, but driving it is a different experience.

"The way the power comes in is so different; there's no clutch lag as you would find in a regular car, or even in an automatic car," test driver Coen Strijdom, who is also part of the engineering team, told News24.

He has driven over 1 000km in each of the test vehicles and said that the cars perform well.

"It's smoother and there're no vibrations. You get used to it very quickly. I sit nice and high, but the car's centre of gravity is low because of the battery. It feels safe - I would easily put my family in this car," he said.


The car can be charged from a normal domestic outlet, but there are plans to build a charging infrastructure that will have quick-charge facilities at shopping malls. The range of the vehicle is only marginally limited by night driving, Strijdom said.

He said that the test vehicles cost significantly more than the production car will cost, and the electric car passed it's extreme performance tests.

"I've taken this car to the extreme in handling and it performs better. A normal car feels like a dinosaur."

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  • jeremy - 2010-11-30 15:05

    I don't understand the fascination with electric cars. Sure they're "cleaner," but they have to be plugged in and charged, in this case, every 300km. Has anyone bothered to work out how that electricity is generated - and what impact hundreds of electric cars may have on an already over-stretched national grid? The only genuine alternative to petrol/diesel appears to be Honda's hydrogen car, but that's still a few years away from production. The Joule and other electrio cars are, I'm afraid, worthless in the real world...

      Matt - 2010-11-30 15:29

      Clearly you have't done any calculations yourself... so let me enlighten you. A power station produces power 10x more efficiently and at 1/100th the pollution when compared to a cars internal combustion engine. So, yes, an electric car still "produces" pollution, but at a fraction of any diesel/petrol vehicle

      Anstertjie - 2010-11-30 15:32

      Many drivers do not even drive more than 100 km/day. "Cleaner" is also not an argument that you can just brush aside - if you compare the fuel efficiency of a Merc A-class at 5.2liters/100km the Nissan Leaf will give you the equivalent of 0.64 liters for the same distance. It is much easier to control emissions at a power station than what it is to control emissions for thousands of vehicles driving around. If you have green power generation, like in some European countries these vehicles are a very real solution.

      Cobus - 2010-11-30 15:57

      @Anstertjie & Matt..... I believe Jeremy is refering to our already inefficient local power supply and the short range of one charge. Read also: I know it is an extreme situation, but makes one think on the comment: " isn't what you drive that matters, it's how you drive it...."

      tanrack - 2010-11-30 16:17

      Not in the real world where they can plan for capacity and build extra capacity. Coal fired power plants is also a lot more energy efficient than the internal combustion engine. Where do you think they get hydrogen from? They did say that their major target market is export where they have infrastructure and incentives for this type of car.

      burger.marco - 2010-11-30 16:50

      To produce fuel a refinery uses a lot of electricity, insufficiently. To charge an electric car, I think, will be more efficient. Also, to produce hydrogen you also need electricity. It all ads up to the same need electricity

      aw123 - 2010-11-30 21:20

      Cobus, the test that Jeremy Clarkson did between the M3 and the Prius ( was conducted at a speed where the M3 has a better fuel economy. However, there is no way that the M3 would ever beat the Prius in city traffic! I love watching Top Gear. It is great entertainment, but it is just that "great entertainment"...

      Concerned Citizen - 2010-12-01 08:28

      Jeremy, think you need to remember that night our power supply sits idle as the demand drops sgnificantly when people go to bed. Thus while people drive electric cars during they day they will not be a burden to the power grid. Instead they will charge over night when the extra capacity sits idle.

      Picasso - 2010-12-02 07:47

      Hehehe, everytime Eishkom is going to do load shedding, there is a change that you might not be able to go to work.

      kenroid - 2010-12-06 14:13

      Agree! an electric car that needs to be plugged into the grid will not be as efficient as a hydrogen car that generates its own electricity from hydrogen. Honda's FCX Clarity will be the benchmark...

  • Terry - 2010-11-30 15:54

    Its obvious the test driver is paid by the people at Joule, and while electric cars might be an alternative, there are other technologies that are cheaper and are more effective at mitigating Climate Change, maybe Duncan should explore those!

      aw123 - 2010-11-30 20:48

      "there are other technologies that are cheaper and are more effective at mitigating Climate Change" Terry, I see you like making bold statements. Can you prove it??

      Duncan Alfreds - 2010-12-01 08:21

      Correct Terry, we have looked at solar power and wind energy. Hydrogen sounds good, but the technology is a (much) longer way away. Economies of scale will help electric cars to mitigate, but aircraft and industry also needs to change.

  • Bosj - 2010-11-30 16:04

    How long does it take to charge ou Joule? is there going to be recharge stations and how much does it cost to recharge?

      aw123 - 2010-11-30 18:00

      The Nissan Leaf has a battery pack of 24kWh (if you drive slowly the range will be more and if you drive fast the range will be less). If we work on a cost of R1/kWh it means it costs R24 to "fill up". That's not bad. From Optimal Energy's website it seems they've got a 36kWh battery pack ( As a result it will cost R36 to fill up.

      aw123 - 2010-11-30 18:16

      Sorry, forgot to mention that the Leaf has a nominal range of 160km. This number depends on the driving cycle they are measuring against. If you drive slower than the average of the driving cycle your range will be more and if you drive faster it will be less.

  • YasButIDunno - 2010-11-30 16:49

    Theyre using the Hewlett Packard business model. You buy the printer at what seems a reasonable price, but then you pay through the nose for ink cartridges forever after. The Joule will be sold at prices comparable to other cars in its class, but you can only LEASE the battery pack. Nice annuity income for the dudes at Joule. Also, they have sucked millions in funding out of our economy for years and they are only now starting to "test" the cars? Give me a break.

      aw123 - 2010-11-30 18:12

      EV companies have different business models. Some sell the battery to you, while others prefer a leasing arrangement. Each approach has its pros and cons. This project can be very beneficial for South Africa. Why should we always be so negative about good things being done locally??

      Anstertjie - 2010-12-01 08:09

      The Nissan Leaf is leasing the battery at a price where the cost of charging and the battery lease is less than the monthly cost of fueling your ICE car. Nissan quote a battery cost of $1000/kWh that is a $24000 (R170k) battery pack. If you buy the pack with the car the price would double (~R240k for car = R170k for pack). Battery leasing is a smart business model both ways.

      Duncan Alfreds - 2010-12-01 08:24

      Their problem is that they are so public. And that means they've had to conduct R&D in the public domain. In this game, the firms that get in first will score big.

  • paulgertzen - 2010-11-30 17:10

    Were they not asking for government funding for this ugly piece of cr@p (probably to misappropriate). That means you and I must pay for this waste-of-time technology. Battery powered cars are never going to be the solution (seen what's in a battery lately?). As Jeremy says, hydrogen is the only thing that seems feasible.

      aw123 - 2010-11-30 20:40

      Jeremy is not a scientist... This from Setting up a hydrogen economy would require huge investments in the infrastructure to store and distribute hydrogen to vehicles. In contrast, battery electric vehicles, which are already publicly available, would not necessitate immediate expansion of the existing infrastructure for electricity transmission and distribution, since much of the electricity currently being generated by power plants goes unused at night when the majority of electric vehicles would be recharged. A study conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy in December 2006 found that the idle off-peak grid capacity in the US would be sufficient to power 84% of all vehicles in the US if they all were immediately replaced with electric vehicles.[57]

      aw123 - 2010-11-30 20:44

      Jeremy is not a scientist... This from Setting up a hydrogen economy would require huge investments in the infrastructure to store and distribute hydrogen to vehicles. In contrast, battery electric vehicles, which are already publicly available, would not necessitate immediate expansion of the existing infrastructure for electricity transmission and distribution, since much of the electricity currently being generated by power plants goes unused at night when the majority of electric vehicles would be recharged. A study conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy in December 2006 found that the idle off-peak grid capacity in the US would be sufficient to power 84% of all vehicles in the US if they all were immediately replaced with electric vehicles.[57]

      Chronoman - 2011-04-18 11:06

      @paulgertzen, hydrogen cars also run on batteries. Battery cars are the ONLY viable solution at this point and the fact that they are coming onto the market means considerable amounts have been invested in them. The are the next big thing in cars whether you like it or not. You will quickly fall in love with them when the petrol price flies past $1000.

      Chronoman - 2011-04-18 11:16

      There are currently fantastic new developments in bettery technology and as the need for improvement increases the solutions will make our lives a great deal easier. It is expected (and this has already been done in certain types of test batteries) that car batteries will be rechargeable in a few minutes not too far from now. Also, your battery pack can be refurbished at a fraction of its original cost after 100 000 kms.

  • aw123 - 2010-11-30 17:50

    Current battery technology allows vehicles like the Nissan Leaf to be charged to 80% State of Charge in 30min by an external fast charger. If one charges from a normal wall socket it takes up to 12h. In this case, the limitation is not the battery pack, but the amount of power one can draw from the wall socket. The battery chemistry used by the Joule is similar to that used by the Leaf and can therefore also be fast charged.

      Duncan Alfreds - 2010-12-01 08:25

      Also open the market to 3-phase charge stations at shopping malls and office blocks. Drive, park, charge.

  • cornsterenator - 2010-11-30 18:08

    Eksdom is currently struggling to generate sufficient electricity during peak hours if we can believe the notices we constantly get on SABC at night. I can only imagine what is going to happen when everybody gets home and plug their electric cars in as well...

      aw123 - 2010-11-30 20:25

      Eskom has a problem with peak demand. However, the majority of charging will take place during the night when they have more than enough excess capacity available.

      tommo - 2010-12-02 10:05

      @ aw123 - its quite an assumption that the majority will be overnight. If wall socket charging takes approx 12 hrs, people will be much more inclined to "fast charge", and I assume fast chargers will have to be close to places of work, as this in itself will probably take around 1 hour. So if it turns out people would prefer to charge at work, this will fall right into peak times. The answer to all of this I suppose is that only a European structured economy would be able to make this work, especially when factoring power plants, distances driven etc. This type of car would not make sense in SA yet, but i still support moving to more efficient and 'greener' technologies.

  • wdvilliers - 2010-11-30 19:00

    Gimme one I will test drive it for you!!!!!

  • mariuskoen - 2010-11-30 19:13

    this is a step in the right direction...

  • chub - 2010-12-01 10:19

    The car is only "cleaner" and only if the power station was utilised @100% all the time. Definitely not cheaper to run. Once the lease agreement is taken into consideration you are paying "competitive" rates against current petrol prices. The only difference is, if you go on holiday or take the train for a month. You still have to pay for the lease of the battery! Yet you haven't driven and have to pay something for nothing! Battery weight + price will have to come down considerably before it really makes sense to start using one on a regular basis.

  • clinton.cook - 2010-12-01 10:33

    The big lie that everyone believe is that electricity is clean, when in real terms, coal is one of the most polluting ways to produce power.We have to stop looking at just CO2 emisions. To mine coal, in 90% of all cases the surounding water table and nearby rivers will be polluted. To turn the coal into electricity we produce millions of tons of ash per year per station.The new Medupi powerstation that is being built will produce about 25million tons of Co2 per year, draw water from three already strained major water catchment areas: the Vaal, Orange and Limpopo river systems and create about 40 new coal mines.While using 'carbon capture and storage'or CCS technology the output will only be about 3600MWH. We have about 50,000 MW in available wind energy, capable of powering up 70 per cent of the nation's estimated future energy requirements, in addition to 500,000 MW of solar power. The other problem we face is that electric cars are perfect to get to work and back ( as they can be charged at night) but we forget that we have a intense transport based economy. Goods need to be moved around and to use a car with a 100-200km range and 5-12hour charging period just does not make sense. To conclude, I do not have the answers to our future fuel needs, but I hope that we will stop believing the hype and lies regarding coal power.

      jacowium - 2010-12-01 14:48

      Thank you, thank you, thank you Clinton, for bringing facts and not sentiment to the table. With regards to your closing statement - to which I concur - I do think we'll have to ultimately find effective ways to harness solar and wind power for road transport requirements as well, though I know that will still take decades before it'll be feasible, if at all. And I have no idea what solutions there are regarding aviation and shipping (necessary requirements in the 'global village'). We're stuck with a mighty dilemma.

      chub - 2010-12-03 13:36

      And to add: mining and transportation of lithium requires more energy and cost than conventional oil. We will just create "Oil Kings" out of countries that have the scarce resource, lithium. To put it in simple words: Electric Cars to day have made little improvement over electric cars in 1890. Batteries unfortunately are the ultimate Achilles heel of the electric car for centuries.

  • Picasso - 2010-12-02 07:54

    My Jeep Cherokee gives me 9km/L, I'll gladly test drive one for you guys for let's say 10 years? :-D

  • christodeclerk - 2010-12-02 15:21

    So many miths and misconseptions. The electric car is the future, accept it. Its effiecency and power supply already exists. This makes it the easiest technology to implement other than gasoline. Gas, oil needs to be found drilled, extracted, transported, refined, transported again and then enters the tank where it is burned and adds CO2 on top off the process that has gone before. There is the real CO2 footprint of gas. Electricity is generated and yes there is your CO2 from there directly to the car that does not cause any pollution when used. That is a dramatic decrease in CO2 coupled to the fact that the elctric motor is 80% more effiecent than the internal combustion engine even more when you consider the process to obtain gas in the first place. Power stations has to run 24/7 charging will take typacally for average use as tested in USA 30 minutes to max 5 hours if the battery is reaaly dead over night when elictricity is being made to sustain the grid but not neccesarily used. Here is where the electric car can use the electricity in off peak times. Fact every time you fill your tank you are giveing your money to the towel heads in Saudi. What do they contribute besides oil to South Africa? Electicity produced in SA stays in SA if used in electric vechiles in SA. The Towel heads wont see that money if it stays here contributing to our economy to make the grid better for electric vehile use. Electric cars make so much sense only lost profiting Gov officials can't agree.

      clinton.cook - 2010-12-02 16:05

      Dear Christo,are you a retard or just plain stupid? First if you are going to suck "facts" out of your thumb, please tell it to a five year old as they might believe your bullsh*t.We import about 63% of our oil,with only 52% of that coming from Saudia and Iran.The rest from Yemen, Nigeria,Angola,Venezuela and Russia.We will still need oil even if we only use electric cars as it takes about 5-7gallons of oil per tyre.All plastics are made from oil,Tar is made from oil(duh) But back to the beginning, I am sorry for calling you retarded.It just make me a bit upset when people refer to Arabs as "towelheads" as it is a sign of ignorance,and when they make childish claims about a subject (electric cars) that they dont know anything about. Hmmmmmmnn on second thought, and re-reading your post........... you are a retard.

      HiertJy - 2010-12-03 09:17

      Dear Christo, there is always a bigger picture. If all laws around supply and demand is correct. Introduction of electric vehicles will push down oil prices. I agree that electric vehicles are here to stay, but that does not mean they are the answer, purely a small step in the right direction.

  • Lawson - 2010-12-03 06:15

    Wow this is not a leap but a step in the right direction, the smaller the dependancy on crude oil the greater the impact on global economy for one the speculators will have to find an alternate source of income, as for recharging stations, why not follow the "service station" concept and force the "service station" to generate at least 75% of its eenergy through bio effecienct technolgy like wind, solar, bio fuels, etc. Whilst the real feasible solutions are in the future, the joule can only be a positive learning experience.

  • Boer - 2012-01-25 01:33

    Where can I see some pictures of this JOULE vehicle.???

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