Electric vehicles, made in South Australia


Denham Sadler
Senior Reporter

Australia has an opportunity to be an exporter of electric vehicle technology and drive its modern manufacturing industry, according to ACE-Electric Vehicle Group managing director Greg McGarvie.

This month’s federal budget provided a $5 million grant to ACE-EV for the company to assemble up to 40 of its composite-chassis commercial electric vehicles and conduct a “world-first” trial of using these vehicles as grid-storage devices when not in use.

If successful, the technology could help Australia address its energy issues, create new jobs and drive a new manufacturing industry, Mr McGarvie said.

“We’re looking at vehicles as energy management solutions, to support the grid and increase home energy. It’ll give a greater level of grid management that’s never been possible before,” Mr McGarvie told InnovationAus.

electric vehicle rex patrick
Rex Patrick: Australia is falling behind the world on electric vehicles and must act

“The federal funding isn’t enough to fully cover the trial costs, but it is certainly a good start. It will mean that the vehicles will be running in various fleets throughout Australia. It will be demonstrating capabilities in managing energy flow to and from the vehicle battery, in a way that maximises the opportunity for grid service and stability.”

The $5 million in funding in 2020-21, from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, will go toward setting up an Advanced Manufacturing Facility in South Australia and for the trial of the bi-directional vehicle-to-grid technology.

ACE-EV will focus on the commercial market for its product, and also build battery storage systems for the domestic and business market. The company will also focus on exports of its composite vehicles around the world.

The budget funding is the result in part of lobbying by crossbench South Australian Senator Rex Patrick, who said Australia lagged much of the world on electric vehicles, and this new project could kickstart a period of growth in the sector.

“Australia is really behind in terms of electric vehicles. This gives us a chance to push electric vehicles a little bit harder, and perhaps more importantly to become involved from a manufacturing perspective rather than just importing vehicles,” Senator Patrick told InnovationAus.

“We are behind the eight ball and this project brings some attention to electric vehicles, but more importantly it will see the return of vehicle manufacturing to South Australia. Electric vehicles are coming,” he said.

“The sooner we adopt the technology and the sooner we start getting involved in manufacturing here, the better.

“I can’t explain the government’s reluctance but thankfully they have indulged in my requests to assist this company as a way of springboarding a lot more activity in Australia.”

Australia should be looking to embrace electric vehicles through acting as an exporter, Mr McGarvie said.

“This can regenerate and give future opportunities to future Australians. There’s a positive future where Australia doesn’t just import everything – we’re in a strong position to be an exporter of this vehicle,” he said.

“We’ve got so many clever Australians here who are frustrated, and they haven’t got an outlet for their skills. This new project provides that in spades. Just based on the demand we’re receiving internationally, we think Australia is in a really strong position, and we’re in a really strong position with our vehicle.”

Governments around the country have important roles to play in fostering the growth of electric vehicles in Australia, Mr McGarvie said.

“The various taskforces set up by governments have all been a little slow in reporting back. I would be hoping that they’re learning from what’s happening overseas and doing a better job of it here in Australia,” he said.

“There are a lot of small things that can be done. One is education – most people don’t realise that once you’ve got an electric vehicle, your home is your power station. It’s as convenient as charging your phone. You’re not hunting for a petrol station, you’ve got the best price out of the powerpoint at your home.”

The federal budget also included $74.5 million over four years for the Future Fuels Fund, which will provide cash to businesses looking to integrate new vehicle technologies, perform integration analysis and develop improved information on electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

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