Saturday, October 18, 2008

Few more details on the Joule.

A week ago I wrote about the newly-unveiled prototype of the Joule, a vehicle by South African company Optimal Energy and I was a bit short for details.

The vehicle is claimed to be capable of around 200km range on a single battery pack and 400km on dual battery pack.  That's quite a useable range.  All in all, it makes the Joule sound like a very useful and serviceable vehicle.

One quibble, you don't pay for the battery packs apparently - you lease them from Optimal.  If they just mean you lease the batteries and can then charge them yourself, that is fine.  They specifically mention a seven year lifespan for the batteries, as though you will retain lesseeship of them for the whole seven years.

But there's another alternative, one that needs to be clarified by Joule PR - what if they are just commenting in general that battery packs will last for seven years, but that their "lease" scheme means that you drive until the battery pack is flat, and then need to swap the battery pack for another "leased" battery pack?
I.e. they won't give you a Joule with a battery you own for seven years plus a charging cord, but rather it's like the "swap" system in use for propane gas bottles.  In this latter case, unless Joule has an outlet at every service station, the usefulness of the Joule would approach zero really quickly.  Because I seriously doubt Optimal Energy has that good an infrastructure in place.

So there's the battery to consider, and also, that kind of range comes at a price, which is top speed - the Joule is claimed to top out at "83mph," for whatever reasons.  It seems strange that they mention the odd 3 miles per hout, as though they have been straining all systems to get to that speed, like downhill with a tailwind...  Or it may be to give you inchworm-like 3mph awesome overtaking speed at 80.

Either way, I would not rely on a Joule to take me out in the country, which means EVs are not flexible enough yet.  That said, I still think the Joule is a commendable effort, and if they were available and I was able to afford a new car, the Joule would, at this stage, probably be it.

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