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Optimal Energy, the South African-based company behind the six- five-seat Joule electric vehicle (EV), reports that its funky, battery-powered minivan is now one step closer to reaching production-ready status. The Joule, first introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 2008 and initially expected to launch in 2010, is now scheduled to reach full-scale production status in late 2013, with vehicles arriving in showrooms by early 2014. That's quite a delay, even for the EV industry.

Optimal Energy confirmed that the Joule has undergone prototype testing and that production of a small marketing fleet is currently underway. Additionally, the company has modified the Joule's spec sheet and updated its design goals to reflect these changes. The production Joule will now 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.
Hit the jump for more on the status of Optimal Energy's Joule EV.

[Source: Optimal Energy]


The ultimate city car completes prototype phase and nears volume production

Joule, the revolutionary electric vehicle from South African company Optimal Energy, which was on display at the 80th International Motor Show in Geneva in a form tantalisingly close to the planned production version, has completed the prototype phase recently and is nearing the start of volume production.

Designed by South African-born Keith Helfet, Joule has been developed from a static display model and engineering prototype into a pre-production prototype by Zagato's Total Design Centre, and Joule deservedly formed the centrepiece of a stand at Geneva shared by Optimal Energy and the iconic Milanese design house.

The Optimal Energy-Zagato-Helfet team has made a number of changes to Joule and the car shown in Geneva was somewhat different, especially at the rear, from the version first unveiled in Paris two years ago. This car was hand-built near Port Elizabeth, South Africa by Hi-Tech Automotive, which is also responsible for building a marketing and test fleet of vehicles that will double as research and development units.

The display in Geneva proved the perfect opportunity to gauge the reactions from both the media and the public, and have confirmed that Joule is a stylishly designed urban transport solution, optimally created to operate most efficiently in cities.

Optimal Energy completed the prototype phase with the completion of the HT4 test vehicle, affectionately know as Spot because of the spotty camouflage used to disguise its feature lines. HT4 was designed specifically to operate as the next generation testing vehicle, and its sole purpose was to give feedback to the engineers regarding battery performance, drive, handling and software.

The information received from Spot will be implemented in the production of the marketing fleet, which is currently underway. These vehicles will be used to gauge media and customer feedback, which in turn will be implemented in the production version of Joule.

Born Electric

Joule's mantra is Born Electric. A key strength and differentiator of Optimal Energy is freedom from many of the constraints that affect traditional car companies. As virtually the only automotive manufacturer focused exclusively on electric cars for the mass market, everything Optimal Energy does is directed towards achieving that goal. Not only has this fresh approach led to the creation of a new kind of car, but it will ultimately also lead to a new way of buying a car and a new kind of customer ownership experience.

Full-scale production of Joule will begin at the end of 2013, with cars in showrooms by mid-2014. Key design goals for the finished product include a range of 230 kilometres based on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) or 300km 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.

Optimal Energy has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with EDAG, a German automotive full service supplier, to industrialise the Joule. EDAG has built an outstanding reputation working with many well-known carmakers over the past 40 years, and in partnering with EDAG, Optimal Energy is ensuring that the best of German automotive engineering will be integrated into the series production Joule.

Optimal Energy works with the best partners in the industry, and IDIADA, the Spanish firm tasked to assist Optimal Energy in complying with the stringent ECE safety standards, recently completed a series of meetings in Cape Town.

Optimal Energy has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Energy Innovation Group (EIG), a South Korean lithium battery cell supplier, to explore the potential of setting up a manufacturing facility in South Africa, for the non-exclusive supply of cells to Optimal Energy. The Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC), as potential investor, is party to this Memorandum. The IDC is currently an investor in Optimal Energy.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of South Africa has just announced its 2010 – 2013 Industrial Policy Action Plan, in which the commercialisation of South Africa's electric car is specifically addressed. This includes the provision of appropriate support to encourage local manufacture of EV's and related components, infrastructure roll-out for such EV's, creation of testing facilities, provision of demand stimulation mechanisms and public education on the use and benefits of alternative energy source vehicles.

These are major steps towards reaching Optimal Energy's vision of establishing and leading the electric vehicle industry in South Africa and expanding globally.

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