sa's electric car joule: official pics

Submitted by turbosprout on Wed, 2008-10-01 00:00

Joule:: look at those curvesJoule:: look at those curvesDevelopment of South Africa's first battery-operated electric car has been kept strictly under wraps, but a few weeks ago some journalists were given a sneak peak. An IOL journalist let the cat out of the bag ahead of the media embargo (and urban sprout and others unwittingly took up on the story), but as of today it's official: private SA company Optimal Energy has unveiled a full electric vehicle named the Joule and it will be presented to the public at the Paris Motor Show in a few days time.

We're proud to release these never-seen-before pics (more after the jump).

The zero emission Joule is a six-seater MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) and Cape Town based Optimal Energy has spent over two years and R50-million in funding from the National Research Foundation's innovation fund developing the car.

According to IOL a working prototype was given a spin by Minister of Science and Technology, Mosibudi Mangena, at the Killarney Race Track nearly three weeks ago. "This car is simply gorgeous, and many of us would love to drive it", the Minister said.

SA's first electric car is designed by SA-born Keith Helfet, designer of the iconic Jaguar XJ-220 supercar - which was for a time the world's fastest car - and the XK-180 and F-Type Concept cars.

Kobus Meiring, head of Optimal Energy, and formerly of Denel Aviation and the Sutherland African Large Telescope project, said that urban transport played a major role in energy wastage and climate-changing pollution.

"Joule is Optimal Energy's solution to change that. We have capitalised on the opportunity presented by the exponential increase in oil costs and the dramatic improvement in battery price, life and performance."

Battery range has previously been the biggest limiting factor with electric cars, but that looks set to change. The Joule will sport two lithium ion battery packs that will ensure the car has a range of 400km. The recharge time will be approximately 7 hours so it can be charged over night. Regenerative braking, where the battery is charged by the energy generated in braking, will add to the car's range.

The body work will consist of a steel space frame with a combination of glass-carbon composites and plastic body panels. The flat chassis design will make the Joule extra spacious.

The Joule will be available in two drive options: a purpose developed asynchronous permanent magnet motor driving the front wheels through an 8:1 reduction gearbox, or, secondly, asynchronous permanent magnet motors located in the wheels, for rear or four wheel drive.

According to Optimal Energy, the Joule "sports fast acceleration from a standstill, motorway compatible speed with a top speed of 130km, a tight turning circle, short wheel base and small front and rear overhangs offering a pleasurable driving experience in the modern city environment".

To keep the Joule firmly on the road the suspension will consist of McPherson struts in front and a semi-independent trailing twist beam system in the rear.

Predictions are that 50 percent of the Joule's materials will be local and that it should be available towards the end of 2010 at a cost of R200 000. It is likely to be manufactured in Gauteng, but will also be available in Durban and Cape Town.

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