Sustainable energy colutions company VivoPower has inked a major deal with Japanese carmaker Toyota that will see the two collaborate to convert LandCruisers to electric drivetrains using conversion kits made by its subsidiary Tembo e-LV for sale in the broader auto market.
The deal follows on the heels of multiple successful field trials using converted electric Land Cruisers in Australia, the first of which went viral in 2019 when NSW auto electrical group GB Auto posted an image on social media.
These have included two years of testing of fully converted electric Land Cruisers by Australia’s GB Auto, and another recent trial in which a converted LandCruiser is being trialled at a BHP’s Nickel West mining site under a partnership between the mining giant and Toyota. Tembo has also deployed electric Hiluxes in Sweden.
The new partnership between NASDAQ-listed VivoPower and Toyota, which currently stands as a letter of intent and is expected to be signed as a Master Services Agreement in 60 days time, builds on GB Auto’s approach which saw it purchase fully assembled vehicles for conversion in order to put them into field tests in harsh and exacting Australian mine environments.
Rather than remove the combustion engine from pre-assembled vehicles, the new deal will see VivoPower and Toyota work together to assemble new LandCruisers with Tembo electric drivetrains.
“We are extremely pleased to be collaborating with Toyota Motor Company Australia, part of the world’s largest original equipment manufacturer (“OEM”) on the electrification of their LandCruiser vehicles with our Tembo conversion kits,” said Vivopower chair and CEO Kevin Chin in a statement.
“The Land Cruiser is the vehicle of choice worldwide for mining and other ruggedized industries. This partnership with Toyota Australia is a testament to the outstanding potential of Tembo’s technology to decarbonize transportation in some of the world’s toughest and hardest to decarbonize industries.
“More importantly, it is a tremendous opportunity for us to work directly with Toyota Australia to optimize the Tembo product and deliver it to more customers around the world, helping them to achieve their net zero carbon objectives in the process.”
Tembo says it is aiming for the deal to encompass an exclusive agreement for five years with Toyota. While the new deal will apply to Australia only, the fact that Toyota sells 25,000 LandCruisers a year locally – as well as 40,000 Hilux utes – underlines the significance of the deal.
It also means that as opposed to Tembo supplying conversion kits after the point of sale, it will become an integral part of the assembly process. This will also see conversion costs lowered significantly.
For consumers, the deal will also mean the popular LandCruiser may be available in a zero-emissions format long before the arrival of newcomers like the Rivian R1T or the Tesla Cybertruck.
However, it is thought that uptake will initially be in the mining industry where flow-on savings including a reduction in mine ventilation requirements, vehicle maintenance and operating costs will further benefit the industry.
And it could just be the start of widespread electrification of utility vehicles, as well as the mining industry itself.
Analysts say that this is the only such agreement with Toyota globally, and note that with several agreements signed by Tembo in past months including a $A330 million agreement with GB Auto over the next fours years, a $A160 million deal with Canada’s Accès Industriel and a $A77 million deal with Norway’s Arctic Trucks there is the potential to make the deal worldwide.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and 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. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.