Other South African bloggers have already picked this up here and here and here; but what the heck, when the South African Innovation Fund supports the development of a homegrown electric vehicle that could even make it to commercial production, I might as well join the hoopla. The Cape Times picked this up today because the "Joule", designed in SA by Optimal Energy in association with SA-born designer Keith Helfet, will be shown this week at the Paris Motor Show.
It's always great to see local initiative, but many of the factors that killed the electric car decades ago are still in play, so I wonder how far this will get. One can still hope. And there's a fascinating article in the latest edition of Wired magazine about an American who has suggested a new model for getting electric cars on the road. And he's starting to get noticed. I don't see the article on the website today, but it's in stores now.
Power storage is the biggest technical issue preventing rapid adoption of electric vehicles - primarily the weight of batteries, and the recharge time - and that's what this proposal addresses. The gist of it is that companies could be set up to sell electricity along with the cars. Buy yourself a contract that allows you to recharge your vehicle from a grid of power points, or simply by swapping batteries. The batteries are owned by the power supplier, making a battery swap an easy way to eliminate recharge time if you need to extend your travel range over one day, thereby eliminating the need for a costly backup internal combustion engine. And if you are not travelling far, you can keep fewer batteries on board to reduce weight. The car itself could even be free with a five-year contract for people who travel a lot, while others might buy the car and get electricity on a pay-as-you-go arrangement. Sound familiar? Yep, it's the cellphone contract model.