A novel, flat pack electric vehicle (EV) could soon be largely manufactured and constructed in Australia with local components and ingenuity, thanks to a research agreement between ACE Electric Vehicle group and Flinders University.
ACE-EV, a German and Taiwanese backed start-up which recently launched its small, modern electric van in Australia, has set its sights on boosting Australian content in the vehicle’s design and manufacture – and will collaborate with Flinders for the Research and Development support to realise its vision.
Director of Flinders University’s Australian Industrial Transformation Institute Professor John Spoehr says the MoU seeks to harness Flinders’ R&D expertise in support of the manufacture of this EV under licence here in Australia.
“It represents an important step in the potential revival of the Australian automotive industry,” Professor Spoehr says.
“We’re seeing a seismic shift in the global automotive industry to vastly different vehicles. Currently the van’s components are sourced from multiple places, but assembly can occur in destination markets provided the necessary manufacturing skills base is present.
“In Australia’s case, this is a phoenix prospect, where a new era of automotive technology could rise from the ashes of the former industry and re-establish a fresh generation of evolved electric vehicles in Australia,” Professor Spoehr says.
“Flinders will bring its research expertise to a range of potential applications, from 3D manufacturing of components and development of futuristic composite materials to onboard vehicles systems and advanced i4.0 manufacturing assembly processes.
“We also have expertise in autonomous vehicles and that could potentially be another aspect of future development.
“In this collaboration, we’re laying the groundwork to get Australia back into the automotive manufacturing value chain,” Professor Spoehr says.
“This represents an important workforce development opportunity, because while the cars are flat pack, they can’t be assembled at home – a skilled workforce will be needed, and the aim is for that to be in South Australia.
“Assembly generates one tranche of jobs; increasing opportunities for Australian companies to be suppliers by building supply chains that can support the development of existing and future vehicle models creates further jobs and that is our goal.
“It’s exciting to think that a former home of vehicle manufacturing at Tonsley could once again play a role in the re-emergence of vehicle manufacturing through Flinders University expertise in advanced manufacturing and our Research and Development support for “Australianising” the vehicle.
“Meanwhile, ACE-EV is considering where in Australia it might locate operations – should Adelaide ultimately become the site of manufacture it would indeed be a full circle in the domestic automotive manufacturing story.
“ACE’s van is made of composite materials meaning it’s lightweight and efficient. It’s essentially stuck together with space age adhesives rather than the traditional nuts, bolts and rivets. And being electric is energy efficient, especially if recharged with renewables. Fewer moving parts mean less maintenance too.
“Flinders’ Tonsley Manufacturing Innovation Hub is ideally placed for R&D support to develop advanced manufacturing assembly processes, like collaborative robots.
“Looking ahead, we could foresee these vehicles – lightweight, low maintenance and low running costs – as ideal fleet vehicles, or for tradies.
“This ‘business on wheels’ concept would not only be reliable and efficient for getting workers to a job site, but would be an excellent solution for transporting materials and tools where they’re needed on big scale sites such as mines… especially if Flinders’ research into autonomous technologies were applied.
“In essence, EV advanced manufacturing holds promise for the regeneration of the automotive industry sector as well as efficiencies for business, supported by Flinders’ research know-how,” Profesor Spoehr says.