Sunday, February 5, 2017

South Africa's 'Joule' Electric Car, launched October 2008

Since my post on 3 February about the South African Joule electric car, I have done some more research.

The information I have sourced below is from Wikipedia. 
The Joule was built by Optimal Energy, a Cape Town based company. It was designed by Jaguar XJ220 and F-type designer Keith Helfet. It had five seats and was to have a top speed on 135kmh and a range of 150km. It was unveiled to the public on 2nd October 2008 at the Paris Motor Show.

The Joule was designed to achieve a Euro NCAP 4 star safety rating, it complied with the stringent EU standards. It was planned to sell the Joule in South Africa and Europe from 2014 but it never went into commercial production and after only a few examples of the Joule were built before Optimal Energy closed down due to lack of finance in 2012.
This is really quite a tragic story. It would appear that the Joule would have competed with the other low range electric vehicles on the market in 2014 such as the Nissan Leaf. It appears to have the range, speed and safety requirements. It's no mean feat though for a brand new company to produce a new car and get it into mass production and so Optimal Energy and all those concerned should be proud they achieved what they did. As can be seen by Teslas example, lots of money is needed to mass produce vehicles, really lots of money. Even though Tesla have been around and selling reasonably large amounts of vehicles for quite a few years now, there are still regular news articles reporting on their continuing financing plans, primarily it seems to get the Model 3 into production.

Maybe the Joule was too far ahead of the game, in South Africa at least. I think in 2012 the only electric vehicle available in the country was the Nissan Leaf and for most people electric cars were still a novelty. Now five years later and people are ever increasingly becoming aware that electric vehicles are a viable alternative to petrol and diesel cars. Not only are Tesla selling thousands of Model S and X's but most other car manufacturers have at least one electric vehicle for sale. Charging points are now also a common sight in most of Europe and the US and even in South Africa a charging network is very slowly materialising.

If the Joule was announced today in 2017 I wonder if  it would be taken more seriously and if the necessary finance would be more readily available. Questions we will never probably know the answers to. All we can do is both celebrate South African ingenuity in creating such a superb vehicle, and lamenting it's premature demise.

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