The company says it will employ more than 2000 people in its assembly operation, while supplier and support activities could create a further 8000 downstream jobs.
Once the plant is established and production volumes rise, the company says local content value in the car could go as high as 65% — on a par with other local car plants.
The Joule is the first electric car to be developed and manufactured by a wholly owned South African company.
The project is being funded partly by the Industrial Development Corporation and the Department of Trade and Industry, while the Department of Science and Technology has just cut its funding to about R23-million.
South Africa’s other car plants are funded by multinational motor companies.
Production plans are under way and although the car is expected to establish a local market for electric cars, the company says 90% will be exported.
The Joule will be exported to the UK and Commonwealth countries immediately, said Kobus Meiring, CEO of Optimal Energy.
Optimal Energy will market the Joule as a city car, initially discouraging long distances.
The likes of McKinsey told us the electric car concept would never work, said Meiring. "Today, we understand that by 2020, 10% of world automotive production will be in electric vehicles."
Optimal Energy says it is firmly aligned with government’s second industrial policy action plan (IPAP2), which seeks to grow local automotive content and manufacturing, activities which are labour intensive, which would result in South Africa increasing its levels of beneficiation and economic activity.
“Manufacturing constitutes a sizable chunk of South Africa’s value-added production and has not enjoyed sufficient dynamism, said Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies in a speech earlier this year.