Adelaide based firm Evant has signed a memorandum of understanding with Warren Buffett-backed Chinese vehicle giant BYD to collaborate on the development and production of electric vehicles in South Australia.
Evant is a joint venture between Fusion Capital and transport technology company Nexport.
Both firms have operations based in Australia. Fusion Capital is an offshoot of parts manufacturer Precision Components, who previously supplied components to GM Holden.
As part of the plan, Evant will progressively ramp up of the level of manufacturing that is completed on the Australian side, with the eventual aim of the full manufacture and assembly of vehicles in Australia.
Starting as early as next year, BYD will undertake the initial manufacture of vehicles in China before vehicles are sent to Adelaide for adaption by Evant for the Australian market, including ensuring integration with rapid-charging systems.
The deal will see three variants of BYD’s electric vehicles offered to the Australian market. These will include a seven-seat SUV, a mid-size SUV and the availability of a traditional family sedan style electric vehicle aiming to compete with the Tesla Model 3.
While Evant is unable to reveal its target price points for each of the vehicles, it is confident that it will be highly competitive with current market offers.
Evant is aiming to take first orders for vehicles in the first half of 2020, with the first deliveries before the end of that year.
The partnership will be a major boost for the South Australian manufacturing sector, which has suffered a significant downturn since the closure of major vehicle manufacturing plants owned by Holden, Toyota and Mitsubishi.
Evant hopes that the deal will be the beginning of a long-term plan to reignite the Australian automotive sector, according to Nexport head Luke Todd who has been facilitating the deal.
“Having worked with BYD for a number of years on various electric vehicle projects, partnering with BYD Co. on bringing electric cars to Australia was a natural next step,” Todd said.
“A global movement towards clean energy and the necessity to embrace electric vehicles gives us a unique opportunity to reignite car manufacturing in Australia.”
Many of the former automotive manufacturing sites in South Australia are being adapted for the production of clean energy technologies, including the repurposing of the former Holden site by Sonnen for battery manufacture.
Evant is headed by former Tesla manufacturing director Christian Reynolds, who hopes to leverage that experience to revive the automotive sector in Australia.
“This is an exciting period in the evolution of Australian manufacturing, and we need to harness the opportunities that this can present. We have been working on this project for over three years having identified a gap in the Australian manufacturing landscape which is now maturing at a significant rate.” Evant director Christian Reynolds said.
BYD produces a range of all-electric vehicles, including small to medium size sedans and larger SUV vehicles and has brought on board former Audi Group head designer Wolfgang Egger as BYD’s design director in 2017.
BYD has a target of producing 650,000 electric vehicles in 2019 and has emerged as one of China’s fastest-growing all-electric vehicle manufacturers.
A new BNEF report has found that China leads the world in electric vehicle production and will account for 48% of electric vehicle sales by 2025.
In 2018, 1.1 million electric vehicles were sold in China, with the market dominated by Chinese based manufacturers.
Partnerships like that struck with Evant will see the first moves by Chinese manufacturers to adapt their vehicles for Western markets.
Evant’s deal follows Sanjeev Gupta’s own intentions to establish his own niche electric vehicle manufacturer in South Australia.
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist with RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy sector for more than a decade.