Ambitious electric vehicle manufacturing company Nexport is to soon unveil details of deal to bring in four electric passenger car and SUV models from Chinese car giant BYD, the first stage of a plan to make many more electric brands available to Australian consumers.
The Australian EV market has shown signs of life in the last 12 months with the success of the Tesla Model 3, the Hyundai Kona and Ioniq EVs, and the launch of new electric models from Nissan, Mercedes, Audi, Mini and, next month, MG.
But there are precious few models available in Australia, at least compared to the big European and Asian markets, and countries such as Norway, where the share of pure electric vehicles is now more than 60 per cent of the new car market.
Nexport chief executive Luke Todd plans to dramatically broaden the menu with the launch of EVDirect, an online platform that will allow international EV manufacturers to bring cars into Australia without having a local dealership network.
EVDirect is expected to be launched in the next month or so, and first on the menu will be four BYD electric cars and SUVs, ranging in price from $59,000 to $99,000, including the newly released top-end Tang electric SUV, which Todd has his eyes on for his personal use.
“We are looking to bring BYD cars to Australia, and there’s still some announcements to be made in the coming weeks in regards to that,” Todd says in an interview in the latest episode of The Driven podcast.
That will be a very big step forward in the number of vehicles that are available on the Australian market. Currently, we’ve got a bit of a mixed bag, we’ve got some smaller vehicles, and then you’ve got your top end electric vehicles.
“What we’re going to bring to Australia is a range of four BYD vehicles, that will be priced between $A59,000 to $A99,000. There will be two electric sedans and two electric SUVs.”
“We feel that we’ll be hitting that sweet spot where the vehicles are affordable, especially when you factor in the lower running cost of an electric versus petrol or diesel alternative.
“But the bigger plan that we’re working on is our platform which is called EVDirect.com.au. That will be launched in December, and this is a platform to enable as many car producers around the world to bring their cars to Australia.”
Todd says the platform will enable the new EV manufacturers to circumvent the traditional dealership model that is embedded in the Australian industry, which largely depends on the sales and delivery of spare parts and maintenance.
“This will allow the vehicle manufacturers to to go direct to consumer,” he says. “So we’ll have a direct contact ad as a sales platform. And then in behind that there’ll be a whole logistics and operational network platform where we can provide a turnkey solution for manufacturers to enable them to bring their product to market in Australia.”
Todd is not expecting to attract the big car makers who already have a dealerhip network in Australia, but notes there are more than 200 different vehicle manufacturers around the world that are currently not in the Australian market.
And while the BYD offerings will not exactly be priced at the “mass market”, Todd says they will offer good range from 450kms to 650kms.
Nexport last week unveiled details of its plans to spend $700 million to create an electric vehicle manufacturing hub in southern NSW, based near Moss Vale, that will focus on buses initially, then probably move into electric vans and trucks, and possibly into electric cars.
One of the reasons car manufacturing can be a success in Australia, even after the failure of the previous legacy car makers such as Holden, Ford and Mitsubishi, is the increased automation in modern manufacturing and the reduction in the number of parts in an EV.
“We can so this is by going back to intelligent production, which is a combination of using the best local supply chain, and the best globally sourced components, and then bringing them all to Australia, and then assembling them in a production facility that is lean and agile.
“We can’t go back to the bad old days of having pre-production facilities that had extremely intense labour outcomes, we’ll be, we’ll be creating plenty of jobs (around 2,000 in Moss Valee), but the vehicles that we’ll be producing will be focused on volume, as opposed to having a large amount of labour hours going into each individual vehicle.”
Todd believes that once affordable electric vehicles are available in Australia, then the transition to EVs will happen quickly, but he is not looking for government mandates.
“We need vehicles that people are willing to buy. If we require governments to put a policy in place to force people to buy electric vehicles, I don’t think that’s a good way to start.
“So I don’t think governments need to make any policy changes, other than just to encourage cleaner communities and cleaner environments which would be the result of zero emission vehicles.”