Switched on: With growing interest in its range of petrol, diesel and now electric vehicles, startup car-maker Tomcar is looking increasingly like the Tesla of the Australian all-terrain vehicle market.
AFTER 11 years battling for its place in the challenging Australian
manufacturing industry, tough all-terrain vehicle (ATV) company Tomcar has
reached a crucial tipping point with several large contracts nearing fruition
and its imminent LV1 model about to take the title as the world’s first
industrial production electric vehicle.
The Melbourne-based ATV-maker has been steadily forging a presence with a
growing range of high-end off-road vehicles that have found a strong footing in
agriculture, but the company is poised to finalise a number of significant
mining and defence contracts that will take it to the next level.
If successful, production at the scalable facility in the south-eastern
Melbourne suburb of Moorabbin will have to increase to many times the current
output to meet the exponential boost in demand.
Speaking exclusively to GoAuto, Tomcar Australia founder and CEO David Brim
explained that growing sales in agriculture and consumer markets were combining
with significant demand from new industries and shifting the company’s focus
from finding customers to meeting rapidly increasing demand.
“It’s an issue that’s nice to have and something we’ve never worried about
before,” he said. “The hard part was creating the brand but we are now into
“We’re talking mining and defence and we are looking at 400 or 500 cars in the
next 12 months. We are working on a number of projects and if they pay off all
at once ... it’s going to be ongoing.”
While the Tomcar range currently spans petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, the
company’s most ambitious venture to date – the electric LV1 – has attracted a
flurry of interest.
With a zero-emissions drivetrain, IP66-rated components and a range of
class-leading safety features, Tomcar says its LV1 pure-electric go-anywhere
vehicle will become the world’s first industrial electric vehicle (IEV) when it
rolls out to the first customers in March next year.
Mr Brim is staying tight-lipped about naming which “blue-chip mining
organisations” the company is negotiating with, but said he is in communication
with a majority of the big-hitters as well as the Australian Defence Force
“We are now talking really closely with the ADF and with the EV the market
acceptance for our cars underground is incredible,” he said.
“We are bidding on a contract in Mongolia right now for our diesel models but
on that same mine they are trialling an electric car. They’re still
apprehensive about where this technology is going. Once they become comfortable
with it, it will happen very quickly.”
Unlike many other electric vehicles, Tomcar’s LV1 battery was developed to
allow upgrades as the technology advances. The agnostic approach has already
allowed the company to upgrade the LV1 lithium-ion pack with a higher
Customers can choose from a number of battery sizes and charge rate options,
with the longest-range pack offering up to 300km. The power pack is
liquid-cooled, allowing both fast charging and high performance as well as
reliable operation in high-temperature environments.
A single 140kW motor sends power to the rear wheels and is the same drive unit
used by a “European supercar-maker” – possibly Italian sportscar-builder Rimac
– and the prototype uses a beefy 325 volts for maximum performance.
As with any Tomcar, customers are offered a range of customisation options and
the LV1 has a number of unique design features for the mining industry such as
glow-in-the-dark panels, air-conditioning, military-spec spaceframe
construction and high corrosion resistance.
Mining and industrial applications can be harsh for plant equipment but the LV1
componentry has an ingress protection rating (IP) of 66 which offers the
highest resistance to dust and can withstand high-pressure water jets.
GoAuto was the first motoring publication to test the LV1 last week in an
exclusive first drive, and the pre-production prototype is proof that electric
drivetrains offer significant potential for all-terrain vehicles.
Like the range of petrol and diesel models, the electric Tomcar has incredibly
agile off-road ability thanks to a combination of its light weight, long-travel
suspension and a unique rear-drive transmission that actually forces the driven
wheels into the surface as more torque is applied.
Its virtually non-existent front and rear overhang and clever independent
suspension allows severe undulations to be approached with speeds that would
upset many, if not all quads and side-by-sides that compete in the compact ATV
On-road, the LV1’s knobbly tyres roar loudly but in its natural habitat the
Tomcar glides eerily over challenging obstacles in silence. Only its electric
brake pump occasionally interrupts the silence, but Tomcar’s engineers are
developing an even quieter unit for production.
Even when the undulations become too severe for all four wheels to stay in
contact with the dirt, bellying out does not bother the LV1 thanks to its tough
military-spec construction and highly articulate rear wheels. Its ability,
combined with snug bucket seats and full rollcage, creates a sense of
imperviousness and inspires the confidence to really throw it at some
As previously reported, combustion-powered Tomcars are just as impressive on a
range of tricky terrain, but the electric drivetrain of the LV1 takes it into a
different realm. Its massive torque is available from zero rpm and scaling
steep inclines from a standstill is effortless and, when descending,
regenerative braking is an effective limiter while having the beneficial effect
of topping up the battery.
Power delivery and regeneration maps are still being finalised by drivetrain
partner, Armidale-based Energetique, but even in prototype form the delivery
and performance is impressive. A tendency to oversteer is huge fun in a
slippery paddock but may be tamed for the final production version and top
speed can be limited to 70km/h as it was in our test car.
Production versions will be set up for individual applications but the
prototype has a number of interesting development tools accessible through the
hi-tech digital control panel, including adjustable regenerative braking as
well as extensive drivetrain diagnostic information.
With various flexible charging and battery configurations, users should have no
concerns over range in the LV1 and it is worth noting that even with the
smallest battery pack we used just one per cent of its range during our drive.
We have always been impressed by the Tomcar irrespective of its drivetrain. The
range of go-anywhere vehicles offer surprising off-road potential and peerless
build quality wrapped up in a package that is safer than anything else on the
market, but the company’s latest locally made offering is genuinely