South Australia has taken another step towards the revival of auto manufacturing in the state with the official launch of Australian Clean Energy Electric Vehicle (ACE-EV) at the Tonsley innovation centre in Adelaide.
The electric light commercial vehicle start-up, which in May inked a deal with Adelaide auto body builders Aldom to manage the assembly of electric vehicles, hosted a launch on Tuesday to mark the milestone on what is a challenging journey.
The self-funded start-up started from humble beginnings in a garage in Queensland’s Hervey Bay, with $1 million invested so far to develop the carbon fibre reinforced monocoque shells and drivetrain technology to power the three electric vehicles (a tradie van, a ute and a city car) planned by the company.
Today, ACE-EV announced an advisory board that will guide what CEO Gregory McGarvie hopes will be a new start for auto manufacturing in South Australia.
Names like ex-Liberal party leader John Hewson, former Queensland MP Lawrence Springborg, former Amazon Australia director of operations Robert Bruce, automotive legal specialist Kate Mathews, and CEO of supply chain logistics company Blockbit, Reeanjou Ram, will help ACE-EV bring its products to market.
Australian rock singer Jimmy Barnes, who is on the record for his enthusiasm about electric vehicles, has also thrown his support behind the project.
“About 6 months ago Jane and I drove past the old Holden plant and we said “wouldn’t it be great if someone re-opened it and built electric cars there instead?” So we were really pleased when we heard that was actually happening,” Barnes said in a statement.
For McGarvie, his motivation for ACE-EV is simple.
“It’s about the future for my grandchildren and the passion to get something done for Australia and the world,” McGarvie tells The Driven.
“Even if carbon isn’t causing the issue its makes sense to use vehicles that are more cost effective than fossil fuel burners.”
Barnes agrees. “We all know that we can’t keep burning fossil fuels if we want our grandkids to enjoy a decent climate so I really hope ACE-EV can make a go of this. There’s a lot of hard workers in Adelaide and they know how to build good stuff so good on ‘em for having a go.”
The deal with Aldom will see a first run of 100 of the ACE-EV Cargo vans assembled at Aldom’s facility in Wingsfield, South Australia, using just under 100 parts that are currently manufactured overseas to make the chassis and bodywork.
“We’ve got terrific support from Aldom who have huge passion and all the skills to help us make this work for South Australia,” McGarvie says.
“You and I could put it together in abut 18 ours – the design is very clever,” said Mark Aldom of Aldom Motor Body Builders.
The ACE-EV Cargo van, which was first unveiled in Sydney in March, is a 3.9 metre long vehicle with a payload of up to 500kg and a range of as much as 250km (depending on driving style).
It and its stablemates, the Yewt utility truck and Urban passenger vehicle, will have a 33kWh battery and 45kW motor.
In addition to the already designed Cargo, Yewt and Urban electric vehicles, McGarvie says there is also a fourth vehicle planned that will provide a “mobile office on wheels”.
“It’s like the commercial vehicles but comes with an connectivity ecosystem, like a mobile phone on wheels that allows a business to operate without an office,” he says.
In addition to allowing business owners to operate out and about, it would have the potential become an integral part of the electricity grid, says McGarvie.
“This vehicle is an energy solution [that will have] 2-way connectivity to the grid,” he says.
Talks are underway with investors to raise a tranche of $5 million capital that if successful will see a further 15,000 vehicles made right here in Australia by 2025.
For those who want to be first off the block for an Australian-made electric vehicle, reservations for the ACE-EV Cargo are now open for a fully refundable $480 fee.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.