The aim of this internal project, launched in July last year, was to produce an electric car within four months and with a bill-of-materials cost of less than R60 000.
The R60 000 includes all the components of the car should it be produced on a large scale and excludes labour. Development costs of the vehicle amounted to R500 000.
Also, the “fun project”, as Metair referred to the venture, set out to use the company’s proprietary start/stop battery technology as its fundamental power source and aimed to incorporate the skills, equipment and other technologies housed across the group’s subsidiary companies in South Africa.
First National Battery (FNB) and Supreme Springs led the collaborative response across the group.
The project delivered two vehicles. One was a retro-fit to an old vehicle, while the other was designed and built from scratch.
Smiths Plastics & Automold was responsible for the retrofit vehicle.
Both cars were presented at the company’s managing director conference in early November, after being produced on time and within budget.
“The Met-Elec-R60 project is a great success,” said Metair CE Theo Loock.
“We did not do it to exploit commercial opportunities. We achieved all our goals within a precise time period and without impacting on any employee’s day-to-day responsibilities. Management and associates from across the group worked together to design and build the vehicles using different and complementary technologies, housed across a number of our subsidiary companies.”
Loock said the project demonstrated that, contrary to popular belief, the development and manufacturing costs of a local electric vehicle could be much lower than those incurred by the now defunct local Joule electric vehicle project, as well as other similar local development projects.
It also showed that a locally built range-extended lead-acid hybrid vehicle was an economically viable and practical solution to the growing demand for low-emission transport.
Furthermore, these technologies could be adapted and scaled up to include public transport vehicles, noted Loock.
“The Met-Elec-R60 is a range-extended electrical vehicle demonstrator that uses high performance valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) battery technology and a small internal combustion engine to charge the batteries when necessary to extend the range,” explained FNB MD Dr Louis Denner.
“It is a known fact that lithium-ion battery technology is the power source of choice for electrical vehicles, but using lead-acid battery technology with a range extension option is a viable, more economical alternative. The VRLA batteries can also be charged in your garage with a standard household plug, using the special high-frequency charger developed by FNB.”