Australian mining vehicle company GB Auto has secured final approval for the proposed $US250 million ($A322 million) deal to convert Toyota Hilux and Land Cruisers to electric drivetrains.
Flagged in late December by Dutch firm Tembo 4×4, which creates electric conversion kits for Toyota utes, the official signing of the deal with parent company Vivopower saw the NASDAQ-listed company’s share price jump 31% on Monday (US time) to a high of $US18.22 ($A23.51).
GB Auto first caught The Driven’s attention in May 2019, when it shared a photo on social media of its first battery-electric Land Cruiser it was testing for the mining industry – just days after the federal election campaign which saw prime minister Scott Morrison and ministers Angus Taylor and Michaelia Cash mount a destructive disinformation campaign aginst electric vehicles.
Morrison claimed before the election – without any evidence – that electric vehicles would “ruin the weekend”, Cash made out that electric utes are of no use to tradespeople, and Taylor trashed Labor’s proposed 50% EV target accusing it of being tantamount to a new tax.
But GB Auto’s photo went viral, reaching more than 340,000 users within a week of sharing.
The inking of the latest deal with Vivopower – though to be the largest deal of its kind in the Southern hemisphere – again proves just how incorrect the notion that electric vehicles are not suited to heavy-duty tasks is.
Following deployment of its test vehicles to Australian mines in some of the most extreme environments on the planet, GB Auto’s new deal will see 2,000 Toyota utes converted using Tembo 4×4 conversion kits in the first four years of the seven-year term of the agreement.
This first wave of electric utes will be kitted with 72kWh batteries, and Vivopower says it expects first vehicles will be delivered to companies in mid-2021 depending on pandemic considerations.
“We are already witnessing strong demand for these vehicles and this agreement bolsters our ability to play a prominent role in the overall drive to improve the sustainability of our economy,” said GB Auto CEO and founder Graeme Bensley in a statement.
A major expansion of the company is expected thanks to the deal, including exploration of Tembo electric vehicles in other sectors including construction, defense and utilities.
Vivopower executive chair and CEO Kevin Chin says he believes the deal will be a springboard for further applications of electric conversions for commercial, government and other industrial fleets.
“GB Auto, given its well-established reputation and fantastic customer base—including some of the world’s leading mining houses—is an excellent partner. We are of the view that this will be a very successful commercial partnership that has the potential to benefit a broad range of industries,” he said.
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.