Revolution in the garage

It’s a long way from feeling guilty about your car to being awarded $10 million to help other Australians into electric vehicles but that’s what three Australian environmental scientists have done.

On October 6, philanthropic venture Boundless, chaired by Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, announced it would invest $10 million in the Good Car Company, to help boost the number of affordable second-hand EVs in Australia.

Just three years ago, Anton Vikstrom, Anthony Broese van Groenou and Sam Whitehead started a social enterprise – the Good Car Company – in Tasmania.

The three saw a problem with supportive government policy and found a way to solve it.

They were, Broese van Groenou says, just getting started when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, putting a dint in their plans to hold events and auctions around the country.

Despite the challenges, the Good Car Company, which bills itself as having held the “world’s first community electric vehicle bulk-buy,” has now held auctions of EVs imported from the UK and Japan in both city and regional destinations, including Broken Hill in New South Wales, Southern Tasmania and Hepburn in Victoria.

Broese van Groenou says Australia is not seen as a viable market for many EV manufacturers, which has left Australians with little choice in vehicles. Many think the higher-priced Tesla is the only option.

“We import vehicles and that way people can get a second-hand vehicle and save a lot of money,” he says.

“Part of operating as a social enterprise is that we don’t have profit as a motive. We don’t have a board demanding mass profits.”

An electric vehicle community

The Good Car Company partners with community environmental organisations to hold events in regions ahead of auctions. It also forms a community fund with those organisations to put money back in for things like charging stations.

Since forming, the enterprise has only brought in about 500 cars but with the $10 million Boundless investment, imports will go from about 200 a year to 2000.

Boundless say the funding is a “significant step towards solving two of the biggest barriers to EV adoption in Australia – supply and affordability”.

“This boosted capacity to add 2000 more affordable EVs to the Australian marketplace annually will have the transformative impact in Australian communities that we need,” Broese van Groenou says.

“When we bring people together in communities, it’s catalysing. It’s creating change and enabling access, demystifying EVs and helping transform a society dependent on fossil fuels.

“We’re helping communities so that not only can households switch to an EV but communities will be able to take advantage of the opportunities for energy transformation in their cars’ batteries. The investment from Boundless enables a massive scaling up of this community mobilisation of people taking control of their emissions.”

EV sales doubled in Australia in August from 2% to 4.4%.

CEO  Eytan Lenko said Boundless was focused on Australia  becoming a renewable energy superpower  by  2030.

“With transport accounting for 18% of Australia’s emissions, we knew our first priority had to be bridging the growing gap between demand for EVs among Australians and the supply available within an attainable price point.”

Cameron Adams, co-founder of Canva, and his wife Lisa Miller, have also chipped in with  investment.

For Broese van Groenou, this is the start of a revolution in the garage, with Australians recognising that cars are basically a big battery on wheels.

“Individuals can be rewarded for playing their part in this transition,” he says.

“Your car sits stationary for lots of its life, but if plugged in with a bi-directional charger, you can respond to events in the grid. You can use the energy to power your house while your car is in the garage.

“We don’t have enough storage at the moment. The huge spikes we  see can be alleviated by having more storage. Millions of cars are exactly that.”

And, Broese van Groenou says, the support seems to be coming, with promising signs from the new Federal Government, work starting on a national EV strategy, and increasing interest in environmental, social and corporate governance.

“People are keen,” he says. “People have seen the potential.”

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