In less than 18 months time you may be able to buy an Australian-made electric car from Swedish company Uniti, with a 350km range and priced at a very attractive $20,000.
Speaking to senators at the Select Committee into electric vehicles, Australian Dr Michael Molitor, a director of Uniti Sweden AB, said the only question about the uptake of electric vehicles in Australia was whether we “…should be importing these vehicles into Australia or should we be making them ourselves?”
Uniti Sweden believes they should be made here and the company is forging ahead with plans to initially make as many as 10,000 of the two-seater all-electric car in Australia every year – most likely in Adelaide – by 2020, less than two years away, and priced at around $20,000.
The first cars will have a range of 350km and Dr Molitor says the aim is to have them charged using inductive technology.
That means drivers will park their Uniti over an induction charging pad supplied with the car in their garage or in public spaces like car parks where the car will automatically be charged without having to be plugged in.
The price point is possible says Dr Molitor because if the cars are built here using state-of-the-art manufacturing processes there will be substantial cost savings compared with traditional car manufacture.
Uniti believes the future for electric cars in urban areas is very much tied to car sharing and autonomous rides, rather than people buying one of the admittedly diminutive Unitis outright, but Dr Molitor said fully automated driving was still a way off, so private and fleet purchases would be first.
“We design and build it as a totally autonomous electric vehicle, but the public’s not ready for full autonomy, the technology’s not ready for full autonomy and certainly the public’s not ready for full autonomy.
So we build a state-of-the art urban electric vehicle that is capable, that has all the sensors and the on-board computer and the communications equipment to allow the car to operate at levels 4 and 5 autonomy. And we turn on higher levels of autonomy when regulators allow it and when the market’s ready.”
“We are racing now to build production prototypes,” Dr Molitor said.
“Our goal is to show that vehicle in Australia later this year or early next year. Our goal is also to announce our first launch customer for Australia. Our goal is also to announce our key strategic partners in Australia, including the company that would be assembling the vehicles, and we will be announcing the management team of the company as well.”
Dr Molitor pointed out Australia had all the raw ingredients to build electric vehicles – as well as the automotive expertise in its workforce too thanks to the now-shuttered Ford and Holden operations.
“Our analysis suggests that, with advanced manufacturing techniques, a completely different business model that applies to the assembly and use of these vehicles and with the abundant natural resources and the key elements that we have.
“For example, components in batteries; $2.6 trillion under management in superannuation funds; thousands of world-class automotive engineers who have lost their jobs over the last several years.
“That is the best possible combination, and we are completely convinced that large-scale vehicle assembly of electric vehicles in Australia will return to us this opportunity.”
Adelaide is being looked at for Uniti production because it is set to be one of the first cities in Australia set-up for what’s called level 4 and level 5 autonomy – the infrastructure needed for autonomous driving.
Initially, the Australian built Uniti models will not be autonomous though Dr Molitor says the hardware is already in the cars for when that time arrives.
He points to Australia’s other major pluses when it comes to electric vehicle manufacture.
“We’re the world’s largest net exporter of lithium. We have two large cobalt mines coming online, nickel, graphite—we have all the basic ingredients in Australia.
“There are two battery gigafactories setting up in Australia, one in Townsville and one in Darwin. We are particularly interested in the project in Darwin, for a variety of reasons, but clearly the right ecosystem is emerging.”
As we’ve reported previously at, Tesla is considering an Australian manufacturing plant, and British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has also said he is looking seriously at building an electric car in Adelaide too.
Dr Molitor does caution though that Australia still has a way to go to make electric vehicles more attractive. He is not talking about subsidies, he says, but rather the right policy environment.
“The benefits of accelerating this transition in Australia [from petrol and diesel to electric cars] and producing these vehicles in Australia is so dramatic that the loss of tax income from excise tax on fuel is trivial in comparison.
I would argue that the boost in tax revenue that you’d get from stimulating this industry is going to be an order of magnitude larger than any losses from excise fuel taxes.”