Change the world


This article appeared in The Herald of 26 February 2016.

​NELSON Mandela Metropolitan University is forging ahead in electric vehicle technology in South Africa. As part of their uYilo e-Mobility Programme, the university has many strings to its bow, one being the Joule, South Africa’s first electric vehicle which they acquired from Optimal Energy when the business ceased development and production.

Acting director on the uYilo e-Mobility Programme based at NMMU, Hilten Parmar said the national programme seeks to fast-track the role of electric vehicles and e-mobility technologies into South Africa.

“Our facilities have capacity to support testing and validation of any equipment related to e-mobility – from batteries, to electric mobility components to charging infrastructure.”

Parmar shed light on what happened to South Africa’s first electric car project, the Joule.

“We have all four prototype Joules from the Optimal Energy platform and they are operational.

“The Joules are serving as technology demonstrators with facilitating testing of technology development for supporting services such as charge stations, electric vehicle telematics and data capturing, as well as local drivetrain development,” he said.

“From activities of these field-testing platforms, technology evaluations can then be carried out extensively to facilitate the successful final roll-out, as well as formulation of general business models to support the e-mobility industry.

“By having such vehicles within a fleet, uYilo can provide the service to support local development of charge stations, electric vehicle telematics solutions and smart grid networks with integration of electric vehicles,” he said.

“With the closure of Optimal Energy, the Technology Innovation Agency aimed to pursue the global technology revolution with focus towards the e-mobility landscape as a whole rather than the competitive passenger car market as anticipated with the Joule development.’’

Another development of the uYilo e-Mobility Programme, is a 20-seater electric truck was established through a pilot R&D project with Eskom and South African Nation Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) which saw the vehicle being deployed at Kruger National Park for field testing and environment validation.

“With the latter established through the uYilo Programme in 2013, the vehicle was brought down to Port Elizabeth for refurbishment.

“Shamwari Game Reserve provided the safari application environment for field testing and technology validation,” Parmar said.

“To expand the green initiative, an off-grid solar charging station with storage was established by uYilo at the Shamwari Conservation Experience Centre.

“With Shamwari supporting the initiative, eight additional all-terrain electric vehicles have been deployed across the reserve to assist with mobility operations and provide technology evaluations for the safari industry.”

The programme also announced that a fleet-sharing scheme using electric bicycles (e-Bikes), has been deployed at the North and South Campus.

“The sharing scheme will allow staff and students the opportunity to use the e-Bikes for intercampus transport,” Parmar said.

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057