No More juice for Joule

I’m not sure most of the world is aware that South Africa and South Africans have been working on an experimental electric car project called the Joule.

Developed by Optimal Energy over many years and at great cost – R300-million at last count – and was proudly unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in 2008. It was supposed to be the future, an electric car for the masses (something I find hard to believe) and something made proudly South African.

The problem of the joule in marketing terms was the fact the producers lived in an ideological world were every South African lived the life they were living. Talking of producing up to 500 000 cars a year was simply not possible. Electric cars sales at present don’t come close to that figure. And with South Africa’s high labour and production costs, the price was likely to be somewhere in the region of R200 000. To my point earlier, that ain’t no car for the masses in South Africa, but maybe a niche of 5% with heavy competition.

Those are cons but ultimately the pros would definitely outweigh them. As increase production would definitely decrease cost. Start up fees are generally always capital intensive for heavy industrial investments. The projected future of the automobile industry is moving to more energy efficient power usages and the ability to bring out different models and price options when successful.

If you are familiar with the project, you would know that government has withdrawn funding for the project and now all that hard work stands in tatters. The SA IDC (Industrial Development Council) has met recently and decided to withdraw all funding. Sad that we couldn’t get this one off it’s feet.

This brings me to the conundrum of SA government’s mandate to create jobs. Should large scale industrial investment like the ones needed by the joule be the answer? Wouldn’t it create a stimulus in an already established industry? Wouldn’t it be entrepreneurial? Something SA desperately needs?

Optimal Energy announced over the weekend that they will shut down operations.


Related reading –

Optima Energy – Joule Car

BusinessDay – SA’s electric-car dream dashed after Joule fails

Daily Maverick – Lights go off on SA electric car project

SA electric vehicle unplugged as Optimal Energy closes its doors


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