Local electric vehicle developer EV Drive will enter the biennial Sasol Solar Challenge South Africa, to be held for the third time in September this year, with an electric Puma sports car.
EV Drive director Gerhard Terblanche says the vehicle will compete in the ‘Green Fleet’ technology class of the race, for vehicles demonstrating practical advancements in automotive technology.
The Gauteng-based EV Drive specialises in converting any petrol or diesel vehicle into an electric vehicle, including private vehicles, light commercial vehicles, trucks, buses, as well as subsurface mine and other specialised vehicles.
“The electric Puma sports car is a proof of concept car showing that we can convert any petrol- or diesel-powered vehicle into a electric vehicle, which provides the user the benefit of saving more than 80% on fuel costs by using electricity, instead of petrol or diesel,” says Terblanche.
The car, which spent the past 36 months in development, retails at around R350 000. The body is built in Babelegi near Pretoria, and the electric propulsion drivetrain in Vereeniging.
“At this stage, the batteries and controller are imported,” says Terblanche.
The 940 kg electric Puma sports car has a top speed of 200 km/h. It uses a direct-current brush electric motor, as well as lithium-ion batteries, with the charge time required either a 15 minute top-up, or a six-hour charge from a normal household plug.
With the Puma’s range at 250 km between full charges, Terblanche says the vehicle will cover the demanding daily solar-race distances of more than 450 km with interchangeable battery packs.
“Our driver is Shane Kroon, an experienced race-car driver that competed in the Goldwagen Challenge and Silver Cup Racing,” he adds.
Shane also drove the Puma for initial testing and analysis at various drag racing events in South Africa, including the Tarlton International Raceway.
“We researched and developed two electric motors in South Africa – one for application in cars and one for heavier commercial vehicles,” notes Terblanche.
The commercial vehicles include those with a complete weight between 5 t and 15 t, and not the heavy long-distance haulers.
“The conversion of your existing family sedan, light delivery vehicle or sports-utility vehicle costs around R95 000 to R150 000. Then also keep in mind that your running cost thereafter is less than 3c a kilometre, instead of the R1 a kilometre you spend now on an average car,” says Terblanche.
He notes electric cars have “cheap, cost-effective service intervals every 80 000 kilometres” at a cost of less than R100.
Terblanche says one of the only remaining challenges for EV Drive is to prove its vehicle can do the job it was designed to do, with the solar challenge the ideal platform to do so.
“We have one potential sponsor interested, but nothing is finalised yet. We are hoping for some more support, especially from green companies, as we gear up for the two-week, 4 500 km race.
“The Sasol Solar Challenge 2012, set to start on September 18, is one of a few events available in the world to showcase renewable energy in action.”
The race has international backing from the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile.