Australian EV to kick-start local car making

Three model line-up for Aussie electric car maker.

The emerging electric vehicle boom may be centred in places like China, the USA, Europe and Korea, but the technology is also throwing up opportunities for start-ups in Australia.

An Adelaide-based electric car maker is hoping to kick-start Australia’s dormant car-making sector with the launch of three new electric vehicle (EV) models and bold plans to eventually build more than 24,000 EVs per year. 

Australia’s car making industry came to an end in October 2017, when Holden closed its Elizabeth, SA, plant. Now, start-up ACE EV Group is hoping to kick-start car making in the state with plans to build a range of EVs, including a delivery van, a ute and small passenger car. 

Ace EV Group

The man behind the project, Queenslander Greg McGarvie said he had initially hoped to locate manufacturing in his home state, but a lack of support had seen him gravitate to South Australia.

Mr McGarvie, who is listed as managing director of ACE EV Group, said the company’s first locally assembled vehicle was built in the workshops of the Motor Trades Association of Queensland (MTA Queensland and the company was still hopeful of locating its research and development facilities in Queensland. 

South Australian Senator Rex Patrick has thrown his support behind the project, calling on the Federal and South Australian Governments to embrace the opportunity to bring vehicle manufacturing back to SA.

Speaking after the announcement earlier this month that ACE EV had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Victorian computer software company SenSen Networks to develop autonomous driving capabilities for its EVs, Senator Patrick urged both levels of governments to back the establishment of an EV manufacturing plant in Adelaide.

"Electric vehicles are the cars of the future. When it comes to EVs in Australia, we don't want to just be buying them, we want to be building them too," Sen Patrick said. 

"This is a serious opportunity for the return of vehicle manufacturing to SA and one that should be embraced by both the Federal and State governments. 

“It's about 2000 direct and indirect jobs and a billion dollars of annual local economic activity when the program hits its peak."

Mr McGarvie said ACE EV planned to launch its range of Australian-made light commercial electric vans and cars here, with the first of its three-model range due as soon as 2021. 

The ACE Cargo is described on the company’s website as an electric commercial vehicle, with a maximum pay load of 500kg, and a driving range of 150-200km with a partial load. Charging time of its 23.2 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery is listed as a maximum of eight hours on a home AC charging system, with the option of faster high voltage DC charging. The Cargo’s 0-50km/hr acceleration is listed as “under 7-seconds” and its maximum speed at 100km/hr.

At 3900mm long, the Cargo is about the same length as a Toyota Yaris, but the van is wider and taller than the compact Toyota, with a piggyback-style canopy protruding over the cabin to maximise cargo space. 

Ace EV Group

Another model, the ACE Yewt, appears to be based on the same platform and tech package, with identical dimensions and performance, but with an open tray instead of the cargo’s enclosed back section. 

According to the ACE EV website, both models offer “safe, reliable technology (that) ensures maximum range and efficiency, in a comfortable, practical package that will pay for itself faster than any other fleet vehicle available.”

Also featured on the site is the ACE Urban, which is described as, “a four-seater lightweight and nimble city car.” There are few other details provided, other than images which show a small three-door hatchback that appears to be built on the same platform as the other models.  

Standard features of all three vehicles include electric power-assisted steering, electric seat heating, hill hold control, tyre pressure sensor, alloy wheels, and an electronic stability control system.

Mr McGarvie said he was targeting an on-sale date for the Cargo of late 2021 with a price of $29,995, while the Yewt is priced at $25,995 and scheduled for on-sale in early 2022. 

Online reservations are now open for both models, he said, while reservations for the $35,995 Urban would open in February, with an on-sale sale of mid-2022. 

Mr McGarvie said he vehicles are designed in Germany and Taiwan, with a Chinese sourced battery and electric motor, and a sub-frame made of lightweight but high strength carbon-composite, with local assembly taking around 18 hours per vehicle. 

The company plans to manufacture around 24,000 units per annum once fully operational, with 70%  of production destined for overseas markets, thanks to a Smart Pack design that makes the product suited for export and local assembly.