Australia’s First EV Company Thinks Car Culture Needs To Change

Australia’s First EV Company Thinks Car Culture Needs To Change
From left to right: The Ace Cargo, The Ace Yewt and the ACE Urban. Image: ACE EV

In October 2017, Australia’s car industry was laid to rest. Ford, Holden and Toyota closed their doors and the Holden name (one of Australia’s most successful car companies) began to wither away.

There was no government support coming to save the local manufacturing industry – high production costs, a lacking Australian dollar and unfavourable economics of scale made little sense for companies to keep the industry up – so Australia was forced to part ways with the concept of a national car.

Thousands of jobs were lost and lives were turned upside down – and the local vehicle manufacturing industry hasn’t bounced back. At least in the form that we’re used to. That’s where ACE EV believes it can help.

ACE EV is an Australian electric car company that was founded in 2017. Based in Australia, with manufacturing facilities operating in Queensland, ACE EV is intended on not just bringing affordable electric cars to Australia and restarting Australia’s manufacturing industry, but also on changing the way we approach EVs.

While ACE EV has built prototypes, there’s no actual vehicle available yet to purchase.

So what exactly is ACE EV doing?

The company has been on the Australian radar for a while, however. But, over the past year, things have been a bit silent from ACE EV. Despite this, the company is still alive and kicking, with its first vehicle targeted for release in 2022.

Gregory McGarvie is the managing director of the ACE EV group, which is comprised of about 60 people internationally from the UK, France, the U.S. and Australia, all with the mission of making this business work and “leaving behind a better world”.

“We’ve got a young team of people globally, very focused on making a difference for our grandchildren so that we leave them something not as bad as it could be if we continue down the track of fossil fuels,” McGarvie told Gizmodo Australia.

It’s no startup, McGarvie says. ACE EV has the lifeblood of dozens of people working on it from all around the world, including former Holden designers and co-founder Gehard Kurr, one of the designers behind the Mercedes Benz Smart Car.

“In terms of the vehicle design, they were designed in Sweden and it’s a design that’s had a few changes. You can see now with our transformer, it’s a renewed design, I think probably looks a lot smarter and more acceptable for the Australian marketplace.”

Backing the ACE EV mission, however, is the Australian government, which has invested $5 million in the company, in line with the Paris agreement. McGarvie says they’ve spent about half of that money so far.

“We’ve got $4 million-worth of first-year reservations already, our production sold out and we’re moving now to reservations on our second year,” McGarvie added.

The interest is obviously there, despite ACE vehicles not even being ADR or ANCAP rated just yet. McGarvie says that those ratings will come sometime next year. And although it’ll still be about a year before ACE electric cars are found on Australian roads, McGarvie said fleet sales have led purchases. He also said that ACE EV has fleet agreements “with South America and South Africa” in the works.

And yet, despite mostly relying on fleet sales so far, such a big part of the ACE EV philosophy is a culture change around cars in general.

An Aussie car culture change

You’ll notice on the ACE EV website that the maximum range for each vehicle is well below the average fossil fuel car and also below what you’d normally expect from an electric vehicle due for an upcoming release.

The V1 Transformer lists a maximum range of 258km at partial load before needing a recharge, whereas the other vehicles listed by ACE are well below 250km.

ACE Australian Electric car
Image: ACE EV

McGarvie says that this was no error – although batteries with double the capacity are offered to fleet customers, the standard range batteries are intended for the average Australian consumer.

“The average driver, here in Australia, doesn’t do more than 38 kilometres a day. We’re not talking about couriers, we’re just talking about the average driver… The only time you need charge stations is if you’re doing a big intercity trip.”

He also specified that, with the planning of the V2 Transformer vehicle, an interchangeable battery is intended to be used. This is something that’s intended for fleet vehicles, which is why he was hesitant to call interchangeable batteries the future of electric cars. Range anxiety is something that needs to change, according to McGarvie. Rather than being anxious about vehicle range, McGarvie thinks people should plan out their commutes to accommodate their vehicle range best.

That brings up another point about the cultural change McGarvie says the ACE fleet relies upon – a sustainable approach to electricity, through one of ACE’s inventions, the energy management device (EMD). He says it’s where Australia has taken a global lead, with funding assistance from the federal government.

ACE Australian Electric car
Greg McGarvie. Image: Tim Swanston/ABC

The EMD is a system that doesn’t just take energy from the grid, but works in tandem with it, storing excess energy with the ability to redeposit it into the grid.

In a situation like what happened in South Australia, where solar power led to there being too much energy for the first time, a fleet of electric vehicles could store that excess energy for later, making sure nothing goes to waste.

“If there had been EV’s around to soak all that up, it would have been much better. At the moment, what South Australia does is when there’s too much, they start turning off solar that’s pumping into the grid.”

A situation using the EMD, McGarvie describes, is much more economical – with the option for the consumers to buy and sell the energy that flows through their battery on wheels. This is what McGarvie calls a “bidirectional” electric vehicle.

Through the EMD, McGarvie envisions a future where an electric vehicle owner can use a phone app to buy and sell energy, trading overnight or through the day and making use of the vehicle’s battery. Based on tests his team have observed and done, he’s confident in the EMD’s ability to do this.

But it’s still all an idea

So, how far off is ACE from entering the market? Well, as wonderful as all of this sounds, everything is still in development.

The first ACE electric cars are due to drive in Australia in late 2022, with the ACE Transformer V1, while the ACE Cargo, ACE Urban and Ace Yewt are due for release in 2023. After that though, McGarvie says a 4WD and a sports car are in the planning stages.

As for the Energy Management Device, that’s due for public release in 2022, as a product that can be installed into any electric vehicle. It’s also currently still in development.

It’s still early days for ACE EV and while the company is yet to bring a product to market, we’ll have to wait and see what happens with this Aussie EV company with ambitious goals for our future.