Articles Posted in the Transport category

SA electric car to be mass produced by 2012

April 3, 2009
Posted in Transport


Cape Town-based Optimal Energy plans to mass produce its fully electric vehicle, Joule, in South Africa from 2012, but we can expect to see pilot fleets on our roads and internationally from next year, the company says.

The company has raised the industrialisation capital from a share issue to the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and from the Innovation Fund, the technology investment division of the department of science and technology. It intends raising more private capital towards the end of 2009.

“Interest in the vehicle has been enormous both at a local and international level,” said Kobus Meiring, Optimal Energy’s CEO.

“We are in the process of selecting a site for our first assembly and manufacturing plant. The location of the plant will be announced later this year,” he said.

Space-age cars may soon hit the road

February 17, 2009
Posted in Transport

aptera-1California start-up Aptera’s unusual, three-wheeled electric and hybrid-electric cars will be humming along California’s roads from October this year if all goes according to plan. The company apparently has 4,000 customer orders already for its head-turning two-seaters.

We’re unlikely to see one in this part of the world any time soon, but they look so futuristic it will be interesting to see how they fare when they become available to the public. The car has been aerodynamically designed to be fuel efficient and is said to do about 42km to the litre. The all electric version will drive for about 160km on one charge, say reports. They are expected to sell for between $20,000 and $45,000.

So what do you get for your money ? Well, among the attributes listed on Aptera’s website are the following: the cab is climate controlled, with a bit of help from a solar-cell covered roof; there’s a “cavernous” rear cargo compartment, and the passenger seat can be folded back so you can even fit your surfboard in the car; the seats are covered in fabric made from recycled plastic bottles; oh, and there are two “carefully placed” cupholders.

Read more at Wired Autopia, Road and Track

Energy: Feed-in tariffs and electric VWs

February 13, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy

  • The National Energy Regulator (Nersa) is due to introduce the renewable energy feed-in tariffs for South Africa by the end of this month. These will determine how much local producers of renewable energy will be paid per kilowatt hour for their electricity and help them to decide whether it is worth investing in the industry. But at a meeting last week many prospective investors reportedly told Nersa that its tariffs proposals, which were released for comment last year, were too low to attract investment and that having Eskom, the national electricity utility, as the proposed sole purchasing agency of renewable electricity was problematic. Nersa said it was on track to meet its deadline. Read the full report on Business Day.
  • Volkswagen is joining forces with Toshiba to develop electric cars. Volkswagen says the two companies plan to develop battery systems for the next generation of electric vehicles. [Reuters via Planet Ark]

Cute car for a crowded world

December 18, 2008
Posted in Transport

Electric cars are a big favourite on Treevolution. This cute little bubble car is Nissan’s Pivo2. It’s an electric concept car that is on display in an exhibition called “Japan Car. Designs for a Crowded World” that’s showing at London’s Science Museum at the moment. The car is an environmentally friendly urban commuter with a friendly little onboard “robotic agent”. The cabin can rotate 360 degrees, so the driver never needs to reverse and you’ll never have to parallel park again.

You can see more pics of the Pivo2 and other cars in the exhibition on Flickr and there’s a video of the Pivo 2 in action on Daily Motion.

In the news today …

October 31, 2008
Posted in Green News

  • Green car needs greenbacks: The global credit crisis could delay production of South Africa’s Joule electric car as the manufacturing company, Optimal Energy, needs to raise more than $130-million dollars to build an assembly plant. [More].
  • Please release me: A rare female whale shark being kept as an attraction in an aquarium in Sol Kerner’s  recently opened Atlantis resort in Dubai (he also built SA’s Sun City megaresort) has provoked the ire of environmentalists and the public. A local newspaper has launched a “Free Sammy the Shark” campaign and a Facebook group has been set up calling for the shark’s release. [More]

Who’s who in the world of electric cars

October 26, 2008
Posted in Transport

At the beginning of the year the electric car seemed but a distant dream. But in the past few months there’s been a rash of announcements about new electric cars – even a South African one. We’ve compiled a list of 12 + a plug-in hybrid that we’ve found on the Internet of late. It’ll be interesting to see how many of these make it to market.

Tesla Roadster
The ultimate electric sports car, apparently owned by the likes of George Clooney, started to roll off the production line in July. It goes from 0 to 100kph in about 4 seconds, has a top speed of about 200kph and can go for about 400km on one charge – as long as you don’t drive it like a sports car. Tesla Motors says that about 1,200 people have already paid a deposit to reserve the $100,000 car.

The company has announced that it plans produce a five-passenger luxury sedan powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. The Model S is expected to roll off the assembly line in late 2010.

Venturi Volage

This fully electric babe magnet that was at the Paris Motor Show recently goes from 0-100 in less than 5 seconds. Its top speed is said to be about 250kph and it has a range of 300km (but not at top speed, I’m sure). It looks like it’s planned for production in 2012. Read more at Inhabitat and Venturi Volage.

Chryser Dodge EV
Inhabitat also featured Chrysler’s Dodge EV recently. It says it does 0 to 100kph in five seconds flat, its top speed is about 190kph, and a single charge could last up to 320km – in city driving.

Electric Porsche

The E-Ruf Porsche electric Model A is an all-electric concept car based on the Porsche 997. It’s being made by Ruf Automobile GmbH, a German automotive company that tunes Porsches. To get the low-down, visit Road and Track, they took it for a spin and posted lots of pictures. Treehugger also wrote about it.

Mini E
BMW’s electric Mini, which will make its global debut next month at the Los Angeles motor show, will have a range of more than 240km. It goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.5 seconds and its top speed is 152kph. It will go for 240km on one charge. The MINI E will initially be made available to select private and corporate customers as part of a pilot project in the US states of California, New York and New Jersey. Read more on CNN and Market Watch

Pininfarina B0 (B-Zero)
This little car, which is my personal favourite, was also unveiled at this year’s Paris Motor Show. It has a range of 240km and an electronically limited top speed of about 130kph and goes from 0 to 60kph in a time of 6.3 seconds. Read about it on EcoGeek and CarTech. And you can go to Pininfarina’s website to see more pictures. The roof has integrated solar panels and the inside is quite lovely.

Smart Fortwo EV

DaimlerChrysler has produced an all-electric version of the Smart Fortwo and will run a market trial for the car in the UK, leasing it to select corporate customers. It goes 0-60 kph in about 6.5 seconds and a top speed of about 110kph. London’s metropolitan police are even driving them. See also Green Car Site and LeftlaneNews,

Tata Indica EV

Indian car manufacturer Tata has announced that it will be selling an all-electric car based in the Indica hatchback (pictured above) in Norway in 2009 and then in India in 2010. The electric Indica can go from 0 to 60kph in “less than 10 seconds” and it can go for about 190km on a single charge. There is talk of an electric version of the Tata Nano being on the cards, as well. Read more at EcoGeek and Cleantech. See pictures of the Indica EV prototype that was launched at the SIAM show in India in September at Cubi[CC]apacity

Lumeneo Smera

This one’s pretty unusual-looking, but it does have a certain French elegance. It’s been designed to deal with congested roads and to be easy to park. It seats two people and is, quite remarkably, only 80cm wide. Athough you wouldn’t think it to look at it, the car’s top speed is 130kph, it goes from 0 to 100kph in 8 seconds and it has a range of 150km. I found it on Inhabitat. See more pics on Lumeneo’s website.


REVA is a battery electric vehicle made by the Reva Electric Car company in India. It is a hatchback and can apparently seat two adults and two children. t’s been commercially available for a while. It is designed for low speed, congested, urban conditions and is classified as a quadricycle (category L7e) under UK and European law. In the UK it’s sold as the G Wiz. More on Wikipedia.

Citroen C Cactus

This car debuted as a concept hybrid that could apparently do “100 miles to the gallon” but a concept Cactus electric car was unveiled at this year’s Paris motor show. The interior of this car is quite something. Go to Citroen’s website for some pictures and Smart Planet has written about it. Like the hubcaps.


Nearly last but not least is South Africa’s very own Joule electric car. We’ve written about it quite a bit already on this site, but briefly: it goes from 0 to 100kph in 15 seconds; it’s top speed is 130kph and it can go for 400km on a single charge when fitted with two batteries.

Chevy Volt

This one’s not really a totally electric car, it’s more of a plug-in hybrid, although GM doesn’t seem to like to call it that. It has a range of about 60km on the onboard battery, enough for the average American commute, but a conventional engine kicks in for longer journeys. See the Chevrolet website for more info and pics.

Joule is a hit in Paris

October 11, 2008
Posted in Transport

SA’s Joule electric car was described as “the darling of the Paris autoshow” this week. Which is something to make us Sefricans feel very proud of Optimal Energy, the Cape Town company that made the car. Now that Optimal has lifted the veil of secrecy, you can go to the website to find out more about the Joule and see pictures. But, in the meantime, here are some facts about the car that weren’t in the press release:

  • The Joule’s lithium-ion battery pack will cost about a third of the price of the car (word is the car will sell for around R200,000), so Optimal Energy plans to lease the batteries rather than sell them. A battery is expected to have a lifespan of about seven years. They are recyclable and contain no heavy metals.
  • The car’s overall running costs will be around 20 percent lower than a petrol- or diesel-powered car at today’s fuel prices, and this could increase to as much as a 40 percent saving by the time the vehicle is launched in 2010 if fuel prices continue to rise as expected, according to Optimal Energy.
  • Maintenance costs will be half that of petrol or diesel equivalent vehicles, the company says.
  • The car goes from 0-50km/h in 4.8 seconds and 0-100km/h in 15 seconds.
  • The car is 3.9m long and 1.8m wide, seats six and has a 700-litre boot.
  • It comes standard with blue tooth compatibility and iPod functionality,
  • It will be available for media test drives next year.

Sources: Edmunds Inside Line, Wired Blog Network, Optimal Energy, Car Today

South Africa unveils its first electric car

October 1, 2008
Posted in Transport

South Africa’s first electric car, the Joule, has finally been unveiled to the public. We’ve been waiting months to get a look at this six-seater designed by Keith Helfet, the South African-born former chief stylist for Jaguar, and built on “practically a shoestring budget” by Cape Town-based Optimal Energy. (Video here)

The chassis has been designed to accommodate two large-cell lithium ion battery packs, but since research shows that 99 percent of urban users drive less than 150km a day, Optimal Energy says only one battery is needed to power the Joule. That battery will give you a range of about 200km – adding another one will double the range to 400km.

The batteries are charged using a normal 220 volt home outlet and take about seven hours to recharge – which in South Africa, where there are concerns about electricity supply, could be done at night without placing stress on the grid, the firm says in a press release.

The Joule is silent and has zero emissions (except of course for those produced in generating the electricity needed to charge its batteries). Its top speed is 130km/hour and it has fast acceleration and a tight turning circle, says the release.

Gauteng province is being evaluated as the site for the Joule’s first assembly plant, the release says. The car will be sold in all the major South African centres and should be available towards then end of 2010. The car will also be available on the international market.

The car will make its global debut at the Paris Motor Show on October 4.

Range Rover goes electric

September 24, 2008
Posted in Transport

Range Rover, the fuel-hungry SUV that is parked on the pavements of the most exclusive Jo’burg shopping malls, is going green. I can hear the excited rattle of ethical jewellery already. The prototype Liberty electric Range Rover will be unveiled next year, reports the Telegraph. It won’t be cheap, though – probably somewhere between R1.4-million and R1.9-million – but it’ll do about 320km on a single charge and the manufacturer says that it’ll cost 80 percent less to run than a petrol equivalent. It will also have solar panels mounted on the roof that can charge the battery. The Liberty could be on sale next year, the Telegraph reports.

New battery touted as breakthrough for electric cars

September 22, 2008
Posted in Transport

Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries are set to dominate the market for electric cars and bikes, according to Metaefficient. They are apparently the least environmentally toxic of all the battery types, plus they have greater range, power and safety – and faster charging times. There’s a graph comparing the energy density of various battery types in the Metaefficient post as well as a list of the advantages of LiFePO4 batteries. The batteries are apparently widely used in Asia.

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