The practicalities of the electric car (and why Africa’s first electric car rocks)

by EcoStreet on May 14, 2009

in Responsible Transport


Hats off to South Africa’s Optimal Energy for developing an electric car with a range that can cope with the distances between towns here. Let’s face it, the 190km that the Tata Indica electric car can stretch to wouldn’t get you from Cape Town to Hermanus for a whale watching weekend. With the Joule on the other hand, you could make it all the way to Oudtshoorn for the KKNK. Of course, you could make the same distance with the Tesla Roadster, but that would cost you a whole lot more, and need to be imported (import duty, massive carbon footprint, etc.).

So the Joule is pretty cool, it’s looks aren’t bad at all, and it is going to manufactured as a six-seater, so it’s perfect for all the rugby/cricket/hockey moms to be driving around town. Best of all, it will take your carbon footprint right down and reduce the pollution that you’re creating for all those little kiddies (and us grown-ups) to breathe in while they’re going about their daily school run. But that doesn’t solve the challenge of how you’re going to get from Cape Town to Splashy Fen without overnighting a couple of times to charge up your car.

There is a solution in the pipeline thanks to EV superhero Shai Agassi and his Silicon Valley start-up Better Place. It’s a prototype at the moment, and in Japan, but perhaps one day we’ll see our cities and towns dotted with battery swap stations like this one.

I think that we’re probably unlikely to see battery change stations in small Karoo towns anytime soon, but in the future, who knows.

Depending on affordability, I’d be interested in acquiring a Joule as our family car when they become available in 2012. In the meantime, I’ll be considering installing solar panels on the garage roof to keep it charged without relying on dirty electricity.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dianne May 20, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Thanks for the update Tracy, it looks like these cars are going to be a real hit when they reach South Africa in 2012. Any idea how long it takes to recharge the battery? Filling up with petrol, although damaging to the environment, doesn’t cut too much into your travel time (like I assume recharging would). Unless it gives you the opportunity to spend the night in a place you wouldn’t normally have stopped at 

Dianne’s last blog post..34% Power price hike? Have your say


Tracy Stokes May 21, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Hi Diane, it’ll take around 7 hours to recharge the Joule’s battery, so until there’s a battery change station in every Karoo dorpie, Joule owners will be making some interesting overnight stops that they might not otherwise have done.


Croydon Car Garage September 1, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Fantastic design, i think the eco cars are brilliant i live in london and i can charge my vehicle from the charging points, only problem when i leave london i will be screwed


Automatic Driving Lessons October 3, 2009 at 7:09 pm

They have installed more charging points in London now, this is great news, the electric car is taking of in a big way in London as you do NOT have to pay a congestion charge WICKED !!!!!


Plumbers Bexley November 10, 2009 at 11:13 am

I’m not to sure on the design of this vehicle the concept is great thou electric cars has got to be the way forward its just a shame the technology isn’t quite there yet !
.-= Plumbers Bexley´s last blog ..Plumbers in Bexley, Plumbers Bexley =-.


Change June 21, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I think that vegetable oil powered cars are a much better option as far as using untapped resources. Most places still make electricity with non eco-friendly resources.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: