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EDay launch delayed again

That was then: The EDay E15 was supposed to lead the Chinese electric vehicle charge, but has been scrapped and replaced by an SUV from another supplier.

Chinese belt-tightening prompts EDay to seek new supplier for electric car

14 Dec 2012

THE Australian launch of EDay Life’s Chinese-made electric car has been delayed again after the Australian company behind the venture was forced to seek a new supplier.

EDay managing director Robert Lane – a former prominent Mercedes-Benz and Toyota dealer in Melbourne – said the original Chinese manufacturer engaged to develop the car had suddenly asked EDay for financial assistance to develop it for Australian conditions.

Mr Lane said that was going to be expensive as the car needed to be engineered for right-hand drive, among other things.

He said EDay had now held talks with another supplier who could provide a full electric two-door SUV that was already available in right-hand drive and already engineered with electronic stability control.

That car will also be available with a petrol engine and will only be available through a rental scheme.

“Electric vehicles do not appear to have captured the imagination of the broader market yet,” he said.

Yesterday, Renault Australia announced that it had postponed the introduction of its first EV on the Australian market, the Fluence ZE, until more public charging infrastructure was available.

88 center imageFrom top: EDay managing director Robert Lane and EDay director Dr Laurie Sparke EDay E15 front and rear.

Mr Lane said he believed the first EDay model would be priced comfortably below $30,000.

He said EDay was still planning to trial almost 100 cars in Australia to see what drivers liked and disliked about them. This feedback would be used to refine the product.

The trial fleet was to have arrived in Australia early this year as part of the Victorian government’s EV trial.

Mr Lane said the latest manufacturer that EDay had been negotiating with also required some financial assistance to finalise the product, but Mr Lane said less capital would be required, given the vehicle is already RHD and has ESC as standard.

The car would not be exclusive to EDay and would, in fact, first go on sale in South Africa, Mr Lane said.

The first fleet of almost 100 vehicles to come to Australia will not have the centre airbags as the specifications will be set by the South African distributor.

Mr Lane said the investment climate in the Chinese industry had changed recently after the withdrawal of a central government stimulus package that encouraged the purchase of small cars.

“It’s an extremely competitive market, and now they are in a bit of a trough,” he said.

EDay was preparing an information memorandum for investors that would be released in the new year, Mr Lane said.

He said he was apprehensive about the reaction he would receive from Australian investors, who seemed to be focused on safe, secure real estate.

EDay will also approach investors in Hong Kong and in mainland China.

“This capital raising is something we always had to do, and current conditions have made it more problematic,” he said.

If all goes well with the capital raising, the development work in Australia would take about three months.

“Then it gets back to how quickly the factory can respond and how well we can work with the engineers over there,” he said.

“They are a couple of unknowns but, if everyone was motivated, they could do it in six months.”

EDay says it is still determined to break new ground, with a tablet computer for instrument panel, ground-breaking safety technology and car-and-house domestic electricity management systems.

The company is planning to be one of the first in the world to offer a head-protecting airbag between the driver and the front seat passenger, EDay director and former GM Holden director Laurie Sparke said.

“Research by the AutoCRC has shown that many crashes in urban areas are side collisions or T-bone crashes,” Dr Sparke told the Plug in 4 Power electric vehicle conference at Swinburne University in Melbourne.

“The research showed that many injuries, including fatalities, suffered in these collisions are caused by head strikes between the driver and the passenger as they are thrown around inside the vehicle.”

Dr Sparke said EDay was determined to provide a safe car, but he restated his misgivings about the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) crash safety standards, arguing that they are designed for high-speed autobahn models and are excessive for urban runabouts.

“The ANCAP standards are well intentioned but not what is really needed around town,” he said “The EDay will be a very safe car. It will have a satisfactory ANCAP rating.”

Dr Sparke said the slow take up of electric vehicles was because the purchase prices were “unjustifiably inflated”.

“The prices are not in proportion to what the cars offer,” he said.

Dr Sparke said manufacturers seemed more intent on recouping their costs than popularising a new technology.

He said recent developments had knocked over the most common criticisms leveled at electric cars, including range limitations.

Lack of range was not an issue for EVs, he said, because EVs were not meant to be a replacement for a conventional car.

“They are city transport, pure and simple,” he said. “The Victorian EV trial has shown that most people drive less than 40km a day.

“EV drivers will fly to Sydney, not drive, and they will hire 4WDs to go skiing.”

Dr Sparke said EVs were a better bet than a hybrid, which was just trying to duplicate a conventional car.

“With its two drivetrains, the Toyota Prius takes 15 years to recoup the CO2 emissions embedded in its mechanicals.”

Dr Sparke said that the issue of not being able to readily recycle lithium-ion batteries was irrelevant, at least for EDay, because the used batteries would be incorporated into the EDay home energy management system that would store power generated by solar cells on the roof.

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