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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.

[Source: Optimal Energy]


PEV update

The much-anticipated Joule marketing fleet was delivered to the Optimal Energy head office last week, and embarked on its maiden voyage around Cape Town's city centre with members of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Optimal Energy board as passengers. The four Joule vehicles, each sporting a different colour, caused a stir amongst passing motorists who caught a glimpse of the impressive fleet.

The Optimal Energy engineering team swelled with pride as the vehicles drove off. The team spent a significant amount of time away from home while completing the vehicles, and their efforts have been well rewarded. The initial feedback has been incredibly positive. Members of the IDC, which is a shareholder in Optimal Energy, expressed their awe and astonishment at the incredible performance of the vehicles, in particular the silence and smoothness of the drive.

The marketing fleet was hand-built in Port Elizabeth by Hi-Tech Automotive, a specialist automotive production firm, and to date have undergone extensive testing within the premises. The real test will now begin, with the marketing fleet set to undertake a nation-wide road show in 2011 to display these remarkable vehicles to the media and the public.

The Joule fleet has been designed and built to closely resemble the production version of Joule. Each vehicle will cover approximately 100 000kms on public roads and the feedback that is received from testing will be implemented to further improve on this model. The marketing fleet vehicles boast impressive handling and performance, being able to accelerate from 0 to 60 km/h in under 5 seconds, and comfortably reach the electronically limited top speed of 140km/h.

Testing in real-world conditions is imperative for Optimal Energy, and as the stop-go traffic conditions experienced by most motorists on a daily basis are the ideal environment to test the incredible efficiency of an electric vehicle, the results of the tests should help build an even stronger case for the widespread adoption of EVs.

Announcements of opportunities to see Joule in the metal will be made via the Optimal Energy website from 2011, so keep an eye out for those.

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