The Joule electric city car is manufactured by Optimal Energy with help from the government of South Africa (SA). The Joule is the first vehicle to be developed and manufactured by a wholly owned SA company. The major powers in the global economy are developing greener vehicles, but so are small companies from less affluent nations. The Joule is getting ready to meet the growing demand. It is widely believed that by 2020, 10% of world automotive production will be in electric vehicles.
The project is being funded partly by the Industrial Development Corporation, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Science and Technology. The Joule is benefiting from the SA government’s second industrial policy action plan, which seeks to increase local automotive content and manufacturing.
Commercial production of the Joule should begin in 2013, reaching 50000 units a year by 2015. The company will employ more than 2000 people in its assembly operation, while supplier and support activities could create a further 8000 downstream jobs.
Kobus Meiring, CEO of Optimal Energy said, “We want to make it clear that we are not aiming at the green market as such, but rather the C-segment, in competition with cars like the Toyota Corolla,” he says.
SA Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said in this year’s budget speech the government hoped “to influence the composition of SA’s vehicle fleet to become more energy efficient and environmentally friendly”.
These efforts will help SA meet her Copenhagen Accord commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025.
Although the car is expected to establish a local market, the company says 90% will be exported. If more green vehicles are to be sold in SA, there needs to be better support infrastructure and better market education.
Above all, “it must be a combined drive between government and industry,” says Mike Whitfield, CEO of Nissan SA.
The fact that the SA motorists will not pay more for a greener car means that the Joule must not only have zero emissions it must also be inexpensive. ________________________________________________
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