SA market hungry for the Joule

Written by: Bongani Nkosi

The South African market looks ready to buy into the Joule, the country’s first stylish electric car. Although it will only be mass-produced late in 2012 and go on sale in 2013, there’s already a considerable demand for it, said Jaco van Loggerenberg, spokesperson for the car’s developer, Optimal Energy.

Demand in South Africa is there and it will grow,” he said. “We get phone calls from customers everyday, people are asking where they can buy the Joule.” The South African Department of Science and Technology and state-owned Industrial Development Corporation have invested heavily in Optimal Energy to get the project off the ground. Optimal Energy is a private South African company based in Cape Town.

South Africa is proving to be one of the markets willing to embrace eco-friendly electrical cars, according to Van Loggerenberg. “You can see that readiness in many countries is growing. You see a level of readiness even in South Africa.” Most potential buyers have indicated they are concerned about conventional vehicles’ impact on the environment. “People want the electric car because it has fewer emissions,” said Van Loggerenberg.

Export plans

The outlook is that Joule sales will surge in the UK and other European countries, where there’s already strong demand for electric vehicles. Optimal Energy is planning to produce between 30 000 and 50 000 Joule units per year from 2013. “A lot of these cars would go to Europe, looking at the readiness of those countries,” Van Loggerenberg said.

The South African market is important to us,” he added, “we’ll sell many cars in South Africa, as much as the market can absorb”. Optimal Energy is hoping that the South African government will give incentives to electric car buyers, as is already done in countries like UK, the US, Japan, France and Spain.

Chic, high-speed vehicle

The Joule, launched at the Paris Motor Show in 2008, is a trendy four-wheel vehicle with a top speed of 135km/h, enabling it to drive on highways. The five-seater zero carbon-emission car is powered by a lithium-ion battery which, if charged overnight, could last for about 300km.

But experts say the Joule is more suitable for urban motorists, who drive about 150km a day. The batteries are currently produced by South Korea’s Energy Innovation Group, but there are plans to manufacture them in South Africa closer to production time, Van Loggerenberg said. The Joule also has an additional solar panel fitted on its rooftop to power accessories like the air-conditioner and electric windows. The vehicle, designed by South African-born Keith Helfet, a former top designer at Jaguar, will sell for between R235 000 and R285 000 (US$31 000 and $37 700).

Creating jobs

All Joule cars will be manufactured in South Africa, with the production plant certain to be set up in Port Elizabeth or East London in the Eastern Cape province. The project is expected to create between 8 000 and 10 000 jobs for locals, “which will be of great benefit to South Africa”, Van Loggerenberg said. A limited number of Joule cars will be released onto the South African market later in 2010 to test the public’s interest. “We want to gauge feedback from customers and the media,” said Van Loggerenberg.

Source: Media Club South Africa

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