You may not have heard of them, but ACE EV is an Australian startup that’s been plugging away for 4-years with its Yewt and Cargo light commercial electric vehicles. I had a chat with ACE EV co-founder Greg McGarvie at the recently Smart Energy Exhibition in Sydney, to find out more about his plan to use the simplicity of EVs to re-establish the Australian car manufacturing industry, provide jobs for locals and help transition the Australian transport sector to an electric future.
ACE EV has been operating for 4 years now, how big is the team these days?
It has been 4 years now! The team is much the same plus a management team which was established 12 months ago. Initially, it was just Will Qiang (business partner) and myself, plus our German and Taiwanese partners who have been onboard throughout the process. So, a rough total of 10 people.
In having German and Taiwanese counterparts along with an Australian contingent, where are the jobs and why?
For both Stage 1 and Stage 2, which will see 100 units produced by the end of 2019, we’ll have a workforce of 8 people which will then increase to 16 people depending on order numbers. By 2020 we are anticipating a production rate of 3 vehicles per day, eventually that would become 3,000 units (per year) which would mean further team growth. Most importantly, our local product sourcing would equal 25%, and over 50% once we enter full manufacturing.
With all the different stages, manufacturing, fabrication, and assembly, that raises the question of “Aussie Made vs Made in Taiwan”. What’s the current workforce split between the international team and where is it going?
Right at the start the split will be about 80% out of the Ningbo (Taiwan) factory for our parts, then we’ll have the remainder (tyres, struts, linkages, etc) sourced locally. As production ramps up and we start creating our high pressure moulds locally that percentage split will transition and lean heavily toward Australia.
Which markets/industry have been the most responsive to the Yewt and Cargo so far?
Locally we’re getting a lot of fleet interest but also independent operators such as florists, pizza delivery companies, plumbers, electricians and solar fitters, who are all looking at it as the perfect vehicle for their business. The Cargo and Yewt are low upfront cost, low fuel cost and, for businesses or fleets with access to solar power, it also means free charging. As for global markets, for every 100 vehicles built about 70% would be exported with the iconic Kangaroo brand emblem which gives us, and EVs in Australia, some solid brand recognition.
You’re not without your critics, whether misinformed or otherwise simply not getting behind your efforts. What’s your take on those that readily shoot down the concept even after the fact we’re now looking at a working demo?
We don’t really worry about them because there are people out there that want the vehicle and understand what we’re all about. I mean, we’ve got a federal Energy Minister who has described EVs as “no good for tradies”. Well, that’s bullshit because this thing is designed for specifically for that market and in actual fact is tougher than a common tradie vehicle. You could drop one of these vehicles and it would bounce (not break) thanks to our use of the best in German material technology.
Has the Government(s) been able or willing to assist ACE EV Group deliver or develop this Aussie-Made vision?
All levels of Government take a low risk approach, so they’ve done nothing, and that’s effectively it! In fairness, we did get a bit of support from the Queensland state government; and only after many meetings did we eventually get a letter stating that they would buy or consider buying our vehicles once we enter full production. It’s something that we greatly appreciate, but until then we’re on our own. We are just after a bit of assistance, not funding or financial incentives.
When we first saw the skeleton frame at the Brisbane AEVA Expo in 2018 that came across as a somewhat universal frame design, is that still the case?
Yes it is, there are 19 parts which are all glued together to form the skeleton that’s common to our vehicle offerings; the Cargo, Yewt and the Urban. We’re firmly planted in this particular market, but in future we may focus more on the passenger vehicle market.
How has the process been during crash testing and are there any concerns toward getting ADR certifications?
We have no real concerns toward ADR certifications because our work has been done to European standards anyway. For us it’s just the simple matter of duplicating those results here, which we’ve already done many times over without issue since 2015.
You’ve already mentioned the ACE EV models being offered, the Cargo, Yewt and Urban. Do you have a price point you’re advising for each of those?
Well, the target really depends on what the Government is going to do. With an election looming we’re hearing a Labor Government may focus on the EV sector in Australia. Ultimately, we’re looking around the $40K mark. In the case of the Urban commuter EV that could be as much as $45K once it has been optioned out. The battery configuration which would start with a 23KWhr battery or you go up to a 40KWhr battery providing as much as 300kms in range. All of this would delivered in a package weighing around 1000 kilograms.
And finally, is this an IKEA or made-to-order EV?
Definitely, made to order!
Zoran Bravo is Business Development Manager at EVolution Australia.