By 4 March 2010 | Categories: interviews



Conceived by Cape Town-based Optimal Energy and originally designed by South African-born Keith Helfet, South Africa’s very own all-electric car, Joule, will be proudly showcased at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland this month.

TechSmart talked to Jaco van Loggerenberg, media & events manager at Optimal Energy, about this achievement.

What gets you most excited about Joule?

With Optimal Energy, South Africa will have its own OEM, and the launch of Joule will be an historic occasion that we are truly excited to be a part of. Joule was born electric, which gives it a significant design and functional advantage over electric vehicle competitors.

How did you get the famous Milanese design house Zagato to play ball in designing the car?

Optimal Energy contracted Zagato to develop the A-class surfaces for Joule’s exterior and interior, based on the original design and working closely with Keith Helfet, Optimal Energy’s designer. Zagato did this in record time and to the highest quality.

What was the biggest challenge faced when building Joule?

The biggest challenge has been keeping the development cycle as short as possible to be able to satisfy demand. Building a car requires a certain amount of developing and testing before production, and we have employed the best industry partners from around the word to streamline this process.

Is South Africa ready for a R235 000 electric car?

Certainly yes, anyone living and working in a large city will be interested in acquiring Joule. Joule’s green credentials are impeccable, but it is first and foremost a car that is competitive with conventional petrol or diesel offerings in this segment, offering world-class safety and a generous level of performance, comfort and value.

How do you expect the reaction will be like at the Geneva Motor Show this month?
The Electric Vehicle market is in its infancy, but will experience exponential growth in the next decades, driven by oil prices, climate change and rapid improvements in battery technology. The world is becoming more aware of this impending change and the spotlight will fall squarely on the launch of electric vehicles like Joule, making the Geneva Motor Show a very important event for Optimal Energy.

So what’s next for Optimal Energy?

Optimal Energy plans to start volume production of the Joule in South Africa in 2013. A green field, low carbon footprint plant, sized for 50 000 units per year is being planned. Joule will be followed by further EV models. Optimal Energy’s vision is to establish and lead an electric vehicle industry in South Africa.


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