The drive to bring electric vehicles to regional Australia revs up

It has been said regional Australia has long been leery of the electrification trend.

Can these cars, trucks and buses go far enough, fast enough?

And where are all the roadhouses offering a refill of electrons anyway?

Now, in 2022, the technology has proven itself.

And the infrastructure and supply side of things is catching up.

A $43.5 million project initiated by the WA government aims to link “the world’s most isolated city” with remote mining, fishing, agriculture and tourism hotspots through an “EV Highway”.

And the likes of Dandenong-based SEA Electric and Brendale-based Ausev hope to hitch a ride on this significant infrastructure investment.

Brisbane’s Tritium DCFC manufacturing facility will be one of the suppliers of 98 modular fast-charge stations installed across 49 different road stops positioned no more than 200km apart. These 15-minute rechargers will stretch from Perth north to Kununurra, south to Esperance and east to Kalgoorlie.

The network is expected to be fully operational by 2024.

Electric vehicles: from stuck in mud to the fast lane

“Western Australia is a state with vast unpopulated distances, and governments have a role to play supporting highway electrification in rural and remote areas where site utilisation may not be profitable for private sector operators,” says Tritium CEO Jane Hunter.

While the likes of Tesla’s Model 3 and Toyota Leafs have appeared in metropolitan Australia, their relevance to regional Australia remains limited.

Something of greater utility is needed to get the electric vehicle ball rolling.

And now electric trucks, pickups, utes and four-wheel-drives are poised to take their place on country roads. Not to mention in and around the new mining and processing facilities producing the raw materials needed for modern batteries and electric motors.

The Brendale-based BossCap group  in Queensland aims to move on from remanufacturing up to 1000 US-sourced Ram and Ford trucks and utilities each year to Australian standards.

It’s not just a matter of converting everything to right-hand drive. The engineering and manufacturing challenge involves building replacement dashboards, steering links and even windscreen wiper assemblies.

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It began by converting the EV Ford F150, among others. Now it is building its own Australia-optimised bodies under its Ausev brand on an imported electric vehicle chassis.

“We see an opportunity in electric trucks which are already very popular in the Australian market – it looks like being a very long time before supplies of EV trucks get here,” says BossCap managing director Eddie Kocwa.

SEA Electric also recognises this opportunity.

It’s doubling the size of its solar-powered assembly facility in Dandenong, Melbourne, to enable a production rate of eight electric heavy vehicles per day.

“We have attracted incredible interest from a wide cross-section of leading companies and government bodies, who seek to improve their environmental sustainability, despite a lack of policy and incentives to fuel growth in the sector on these shores,” CEO Tony Fairweather says.

“The recent change of Federal Government and the subsequent increase in EV activity, has provided SEA Electric with renewed confidence that appropriate policy and incentives may be close.”

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