GridCars' electric vehicle project hopes for transport revolution
Cape Town|Pretoria|Eskom|Gautrain|Rosebank|France|South Africa|USD|Gautrain|Pretoria Gautrain Station|Car Manufacturers|Electric Car|Electricity Demand|Electricity Tap|Fickle Oil-price|Oil|Oil Price|Technology Evangelist|Transport|Gautrain|Carel Snyman|Gautrain|Winstone Jordaan|Joule
© Reuse this
Electric vehicles are not new to South Africa.
Carel Snyman, who headed up power utility Eskom’s electric vehicle programme for many years, says his team developed a prototype electric vehicle which was exhibited in France. The Kruger Park also made use of several electric-game driving vehicles, to name but a few examples.
Ironically, the reason the now short-on-juice Eskom started the programme, was that it wanted to stimulate electricity demand, especially during off-peak periods when the electricity tap was still open, but nobody used it.
Eskom terminated its electric vehicle project in 2002, as the oil price tanked to $10 a barrel, and the hype grew around hydrogen as the fuel of the future.
However, now it seems the plug, charge and drive electric car, once upon a time insinuated to have been killed by the oil companies, have won the battle as the technology to take over the immediate crown from the internal combustion engine, with several major car manufacturers pushing their mass-produced electric vehicles onto the market, starting from this year.
Again, ironically enough, the fickle oil-price was the midwife for this revolution, as it hurtled towards $200 a barrel in 2008. (Talk is rife of the black stuff again reaching this level around 2012.)
So, where does this leave South Africa?
Well, there is the Joule electric vehicle, being developed by Cape Town based Optimal Energy, and the carefully worded promises from existing car manufacturers that electric vehicles will start arriving in the country when the market is ready.
But there is also other ways to tap into the market, says Snyman.
Snyman and business partner, technology evangelist and Advanced Energy Foundation CEO Winstone Jordaan, are working to get a concept called GridCars off the ground.
With a rather cavalier disregard for styling norms and the pride and ego-extension often associated with vehicle ownership, Snyman and Jordaan want commuters to buy the use of a three-wheel electric car like they would pay for a cellphone contract: they pay only for what they use.
“If you use the car only every now and then, you pay more per kilometre, and if you use the car a lot, you pay less per kilometre,” adds Jordaan.
In practice it will mean that a business director, for example, will drive her own car to the Pretoria Gautrain station, travel by train to Sandton, where she will then pick up a small electric vehicle from a pool of similar vehicles and use it to reach all of her appointments.
She does not even have to return the vehicle to Sandton, but drive it onwards to, say, another vehicle pool in Rosebank, and leave it there to get on the Gautrain rapid-link again, back to Pretoria.
The car will not require a key, but will make use of a sophisticated identification system which will log her fingerprint, and record the mileage she accumulates, charging her accordingly.
Typically, she will buy a contract for the amount of kilometres she will log on a GridCar every month, at around R2 000 to R3 000 a month.
“The car is a three-wheeler,” says Snyman. “It is basically a one-plus-one seater, with room for a little bit of luggage.”
The design for the vehicle has already been completed by an university abroad.
Jordaan and Snyman remain mum on the identity of this tertiary institution.
“We developed the business concept,” notes Jordaan. “We looked at 60 vehicles, and finally chose this particular one – obviously we want to make a few changes.”
The vehicle the Snyman/Jordaan team is considering will weigh between 300 kg and 340 kg, battery included, and will have a top speed of 80 km/h. It will not use a steering wheel, but a ‘joystick’, also called drive-by-wire.
“We will conduct crash tests, and we will consider including airbags. We still have to homologate the vehicle. The South African Bureau of Standards currently classifies it as a motorcycle,” says Jordaan.
Homologate refers to the process of ensuring a vehicle adheres to a country’s regulatory standards.
The aim is also for the car to be of modular design – a nice word for a Lego-type design where ‘blocks’ can be added and removed while the basic concept remains the same – which will allow for the implementation of new technology as and when it becomes available.
Lithium-ion is the flavour of the month in terms of batteries, for example, but as computers and cellphones and other bits of technology keep on reminding us, the future is not set in stone.
The car being electric means that it saves on emissions, and running costs for GridCars.
Optimal Energy intends for the Joule to be serviced only every 40 000 km, for example, as it has so much less moving parts than an internal combustion engine, which requires a peek under the hood every 15 000 km.
“But, always remember, this is about more than the car,” emphasises Snyman. “It is a completely new transport system we want to introduce.”
Jordaan says the aim is to have two prototype cars running around in South Africa by the end of the year. This will cost around R12-million to build.
The second phase of the project is build 30 cars, which will then be made available to a selected group of people by the end of next year. This will cost around R40-million.
The team is currently looking for a black economic empowerment partner to take equity in GridCars.
Following this – as well as having some other investors sign on the dotted line – the plan is to put in place all the required infrastructure.
The duo wants the cars to be build locally, in Gauteng, and is having exploratory talks with the government’s Automotive Industry Development Centre to achieve this.
Jordaan indicates that the Gauteng government has showed interest in the project, however, at this point it is still only talk.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
© Reuse this
Updated 7 hours ago
South Africa's State pension fund said on Friday it remained opposed to a $1.2-billion cash and stock takeover offer for local drugmaker Adcock Ingram from CFR Pharmaceuticals, saying it did not want shares in the Chilean company.
Opposition from the state-run...
Updated 7 hours ago
South Africa's biggest union will not support the ruling ANC in elections next year, its general secretary said on Friday, in a blow to President Jacob Zuma, whose political support with the working class is fast eroding.
The salvo from the 330 000-member National...
Zimbabwe announced plans to raise the tax on mining companies for diamond sales in its budget on Thursday and said it was planning a new levy on unprocessed platinum as part of efforts to force platinum mines to set up a refinery in the country.Finance Minister...
Recent Research Reports
Defence 2013: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Defence Report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key players in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the defence sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial...
Road and Rail 2013: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2013 Report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move...
Liquid Fuels 2013 (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Liquid Fuels report examines South Africa’s liquid fuels market, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing,...
Projects in Progress - Second Edition (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s second Projects in Progress supplement considers some of the major project developments under way, including high-profile energy and transport projects, as well as a few of the lower-profile public and private developments.
What remains apparent is...
Water 2013: A review of South Africa’s water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2013 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
Canadian Mining Roundup for June 2013 (PDF Report)
The June 2013 roundup includes details of the development of TSX-V-listed Aldridge Minerals’ flagship Yenipazar polymetallic project, in Turkey; the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s renewal of Cameco’s uranium mining licence pertaining to the Cigar Lake...
This Week's Magazine
DCD Rolling Stock’s recapitalisation programme would be rolled out over three to five years, beginning with the R100-million investment in Phase 1
Johannesburg-based locomotive solutions provider DCD Rolling Stock officially launched Phase 1 of its R240-million recapitalisation programme at its Boksburg manufacturing facility, last month.
CHARGE IT A Leaf charging station at a Nissan dealership
Sales of electric cars should pick up once more such vehicles become available on the South African market, says Nissan South Africa (SA) chief marketing manager Ross Garvie. The local arm of the Japanese car company launched the country’s first fully electric...
MUCH IMPROVED The NG2000 series Casspir wide-body ambulance
Denel Land Systems’ (DLS) Mechem division is successfully marketing the latest version of its highly regarded Casspir mine-protected vehicle, the Casspir NG2000 series wide body ambulance. As its description says, this has a notably wider body than standard...
WARNING LIGHT A crane at a building site in Accra, Ghana. But the Deloitte report warns that Africa is no easy market for contractors
The infrastructure boom in Africa has seen investment in 322 megaprojects reach $222.7-billion, says professional services firm Deloitte in its ‘African Construction Trends’ report. Deloitte Southern Africa infrastructure and capital projects leader André Pottas...
ASME, the international engineering profession’s cooperative, educational and training, research, outreach and codes and standards development organisation (originally the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, founded in 1880), is seeking to improve the...