There’s some electrifying news from the heart of Woodstock, reports Sybrandus Adema. It’s a first for Africa. It’s beautiful. It’s clean. It’s green… and it’s all happening in our hood. Where else?
Optimal Energy, based in The Palms in Sir Lowry Road, is the driving force behind Joule – this continent’s first battery powered electric car. The silent passenger car, for sale from 2015, is manufactured as a standard five-seater, complies with European and international safety standards, and offers an optimal, no-compromise, zero emission urban driving experience. Big enough to accommodate a family yet zippy enough to deliver what the company describes as the ultimate city driving experience.
And, according to spokesperson Jaco van Loggerenberg, it simply made sense to base their headquarters in Woodstock. “As a central location close to town, The Palms provided an affordable alternative to the high-priced newer developments. We started with only one office in 2005, but Optimal Energy now occupies nine different office spaces in the centre.”
Presenting a radical reduction in noise pollution, Joule is approximately five times more energy efficient than petrol or diesel vehicles, with substantially less pollution and green house gas emissions in an urban environment. The car is battery operated and recharges with electricity from any source, and if obtained from clean sources such as hydro or solar, this multi-source energy carrier can lead to a 100% reduction in pollution. Better still, Joule’s rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are recyclable and contain no heavy metals.
Van Loggerenberg believes Woodstock’s new shops, deli’s and alternative businesses coming onto the scene bring with it a sense of development, and he hopes improved security for the whole area will follow suit. Some of their employees live in the area, and others have been spurred on by the urban renewal process to explore the neighbourhood. “The atmosphere of the area is great, especially with places like the Biscuit Mill and the small shops.”
Back in the car, Joule accelerates with unparallelled smoothness from 0 to 60km/h in under 5 seconds giving it very brisk city performance. With a top speed of 135km/h and a nominal driving range of 300km, Joule also makes filling up at garages a thing of the past. Plug in at your (Woodstock) home instead. Using one normal 220 Volt home outlet and the Joule’s onboard charger, Joule will charge the 300km battery pack in roughly seven hours.
Forget gearboxes and clutches. Aficionados will attest to the fact that electric vehicles deliver unbeatable smooth acceleration. Although only about 3.9m long and 1.8m wide, Joule has a very spacious interior with enough space for a 700 litre trunk. Combined with a very compact exterior, it is ideal for city driving. It is not only sleek and sophisticated; it comes standard with all the expected modern conveniences including bluetooth compatibility and iPod connectivity, making it practical to boot. A regenerative Anti-lock Braking System and steel space frame and side impact protection ensure the necessary safety for occupants.
“There is a need for green energy development in South Africa,” says Van Loggerenberg. “Specifically as the manufacturer of electric cars, we would like to have availability of clean-generated energy.” Optimal Energy’s vision is to establish and lead the electric vehicle industry in the country and expand globally, by using Joule as the product to lead this process. At a test-drive get-together, Optimal Energy’s CEO, Kobus Meiring, said the Joule, supported by R150 million in government funding, was a prime example of ways to boost technology and innovation on a continent which he said had never had its own automotive brand.
While mass production will happen in East London, the head office will remain in Woodstock, adds Van Loggerenberg. “If the current location suits our needs and objectives, we have no reason to move.”
Go Woodstock! Go Green!
* For more information, call 021 462 7804 or go to www.optimalenergy.co.za
PS: If you’ve been racking your brain to recall what you learnt about Joule at school, here it is: one joule is a unit of electrical energy equal to the work done when a current of one ampere is passed through a resistance of one ohm for one second. It’s named after the British physicist James Prescott Joule who established the mechanical theory of heat and discovered the first law of thermodynamics. Hot stuff…