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Optimal Energy to Introduce Pilot Fleets of Joule EV by 2010, Mass Production by 2012

Optimal Energy’s Joule. Click to enlarge.

Optimal Energy, the Cape Town, South Africa-based company that unveiled the Joule full battery-electric multi-purpose urban passenger vehicle to the world at the Paris Motor Show in 2008 (earlier post), plans to have pilot fleets on the road in South Africa and globally from 2010 onwards, with mass production to start in South Africa from 2012.

This announcement comes following a further share issue to the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), as well as Innovation Fund, the technology investment division of the Department of Science and Technology, for a fourth round capital investment. Optimal Energy intends raising further private capital towards the end of 2009.

Engineering News reported that Optimal plans production volumes of an initial 50,000 units per year, with 80% of the production slated for export.

Asked if the global economic crisis impacting so heavily on the large automotive manufacturers will hinder production of the Joule, Kobus Meiring, CEO of Optimal Energy, is firm that it will not.

Interest in the vehicle has been enormous both at a local and international level. The timing of this investment and the planned 2012 start of volume production is ideal. Current market conditions are slowing down the traditional manufacturers’ efforts while the market, especially for clean vehicles, is predicted to be in a strong upward swing from 2012 onwards.

—Kobus Meiring

Once production of Joule begins, Meiring estimates that Optimal Energy, which currently employs more than 80, will directly increase headcount to around 1,000 employees while a further approximately 5,000 people will be employed in various related and support industries.

The Joule is a passenger vehicle with up to six seats. The vehicle was designed by Keith Helfet, South African-born former Jaguar designer.

Joule offers a choice of two drive options: a purpose-developed asynchronous permanent magnet motor driving the front wheels through an 8:1 reduction gearbox; or asynchronous permanent magnet motors located in the wheels, for rear or four-wheel drive.

Energy is supplied by a modular, large-cell lithium-ion battery pack with sufficient capacity to provide a range of 200 km (124 miles) per module, with two packs providing 400 km (249 miles) in total. The chassis is a flat wafer structure comprising front and rear crumple zones, the batteries and electronics bays. The batteries slide in from below.

Optimal Energy says that Joule’s large battery bay accommodates a number of different battery configurations from different suppliers, giving the customer the choice of performance and cost. Optimal Energy currently uses batteries from “a number of suppliers from the Far-East.”

Optimal intends to lease the battery, and currently expects that the monthly lease of a 200 km battery pack, including the warranty and electricity, will cost in the region of R1,500 (US$164).This is expected to decrease substantially in the future.

Joule will have a top speed in excess of 130 km/h (81 mph), and will accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 14 seconds. The car will come with a full three-year warranty.

Optimal is also developing a utility/cargo vehicle based on the Joule platform.

(A hat-tip to Albertus!)



Looks good.


For suburban trips of less than 20 miles, I can see EVs being popular. As a second car, a car conversion might be cost effective. For $20k, you get a regular small 4 door sedan than you just plug in. Converting used Corolla, Civics or other models might actually sell.


The investment numbers work and so do the employee numbers.

About $300m - I doubt they will get by that cheaply - invested divided by 50K cars is $6K per car. And 1000 employees gives about $35 labor hours per car. Affordable at SA wages.

But where are the battery packs? They plan to import them. If it were that easy wouldn't every one be importing them?

They seem to value the leased battery packs at $15K-$25K; prime targets for theft.

(All numbers are rough estimates made from data that was rough to begin with.)

Will S

The Joule is a passenger vehicle with up to six seats.

A minivan killer that can make 124 mile round trips; sounds like a pretty large niche. It will be interesting to see if they can ramp up to the production they are targeting.


To me, it is more like a four seat vehicle where the back seats are for kids. Once you go 50 miles, you better turn back or run out of energy.

I like the looks and specifications of the car, but look at utility. You are going to pay more for a car that does less. Not a value proposition for most no matter how much some like it.

Will S

With an extension cord, charging stations, or a generator trailer, it looks like one could go about anywhere with this. And the six seats makes it workable even with big families and/or carpools. Hard to beat that kind of value.


They replaced the cup holders with a childs seat up front and crammed in 3 seats in back... so realy a 4 seater.

Since its a small company the numbers are city only and not adjusted so its alot lower then speced. And its gona be rather spendy and it looks like a dustbuster.


Dustbusters sold well, but point taken. Styling is really important. The Japanese learned this. What looks good to them may not look good to us, so they got west coast design firms to do some of the work.

In spite of all the interest in specifications, design and color remain large factors in the final sale. If you can not get people to close the deal, not many are sold. People will own the car a while and want to be proud of it.

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