BASED IN CASTLEMAINE, Blade Electric Vehicles retrofits Hyundai's Getz with an electric motor. The result is an electric car named the Blade Electron, and more than 20 have been sold so far.
Driven by a Lithium Iron Phosphate powered electric motor, the 'upfitted' Electron offers a primary range of 100 kilometres and can be fully recharged in just one hour.
Company founder Ross Blade told TMR the Getz was chosen as the Electron's platform less because of its low cost and more because of its shape and design.
"Our major concern was, how appropriate is its design for upfitting. The second was how safe is it after upfitting and, of course, the third consideration was how it fits into the business model; what will be practical in Australia, and the answer was the Getz," Mr Blade said.
The Electron has passed crash safety tests by Government-recognised company Autoliv Australia, and ANCAP crash testing is due early next year.
Owners of the Electron are not required to return to BEV?s workshop in regional Victoria for servicing. The electric motor and battery system can be serviced by any qualified auto electrician.
"The Tesla car, for example, uses 6000 small batteries. If there's a problem, the whole thing has to come out," Mr Blade said.
We use larger prismatic battery cells. There's 56 of them, and if any of them fails, an auto electrician can open it up and replace the cell."
Replacing a cell costs $140, plus labour, Mr Blade said.
The Electron has two forward gears: town and highway (Blade joked "if you want to race somebody at the lights, don't use highway").
All the modern conveniences are there, too, with an auxiliary motor used to power the Getz's heating, air-conditioning and power steering.
Mr Blade said that storage space, an advantage in the Getz thanks to its more square rear-end, is virtually unaffected.
"The batteries don't take up any storage space. There is some electronics on top of the batteries, though, and they take up about ten centimetres of space in the luggage area."
While some might baulk at the Electron's $48,000 asking price, BEV founder Ross Blade estimates that the car will pay for itself after a few years.
"We know, from work done by CSIRO, that if you run our cars off brown coal, it's the same as running a petrol car - except that it's cheaper, and ultimately it pays for itself after three to five years depending on your drive cycle," Mr Blade told TMR.
"The great benefit of electric cars is that you can choose to use 'green' energy. Most households already get 10 percent green as a component of their power provision - that immediately puts you ahead of a petrol car."
"Then if you choose to say "well, I'm going to buy 20 percent more green power from my power company," that's even better."
The Electron is sold with a three year warranty, and BEV offers a buyback plan for the Electron. Owners can sell their car back to the company after one year for $24,000, up to three years for $18,000.