Optimal Energy, the South African-based company behind the funky five-seat Joule electric vehicle (EV), is reporting that real-world testing of four of its battery-powered minivans has officially commenced. The Joule, first introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 2008 and initially expected to launch in 2010, has been delayed until late 2013 – at least progress is being made.
Delivery of the first four Joule EVs, hand-built in Port Elizabeth by Hi-Tech Automotive, occurred earlier this week. The four battery-powered MPVs will be placed into Optimal Energy's marketing and evaluation fleet and will partake in a nationwide tour in 2011. Optimal Energy plans to drive each of the four vehicles on public roads for at least 62,000 miles before evaluating their performance and making modifications prior to its scheduled launch. The Joule is claimed to scamper to 37 miles per hour in less than five seconds and top out at 87 mph. In addition to those specs, the production Joule will supposedly offer:
A range of 230 kilometers (143 miles) based on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) or 300 km (186 miles) using the Urban Dynamometer Driving Schedule (UDDS), integration with existing charging infrastructure, a genuine freeway cruising capability, seating for five, a 5-star NCAP safety rating and a retail price that will place Joule in a competitive position in the C-segment of the automotive market.