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Australia readies its own electric supercar

Lighting: The scissor-doored EVR450 electric supercar is a product of Australian company Varley.

Varley announces scissor-doored electric EVR450 supercar designed in Brisbane

1 Nov 2011

AN AUSTRALIAN company has revealed a locally designed and developed all-electric supercar that it plans to release in January at a price of less than $200,000.

The Varley Group’s radical scissor-doored EVR450 super-coupe promises Tesla Roadster-style levels of performance including 0-100km/h acceleration in an estimated 3.8 seconds and an electronically limited 200km/h top speed.

Although it will be cheaper than the Tesla, which costs $222,995 drive-away in NSW, the EVR450 will have a shorter driving range at 150km in standard form or 300km with a range-extension pack comprising more batteries.

Tesla claims its Roadster sprints to 100km/h in a Porsche 911 Turbo-like 3.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 212km/h, while offering a range of 394km depending on driving style.

Unveiled in Brisbane’s King George Square in conjunction with the third annual Australian Electric Vehicle Conference last week, the radical EVR450 will beat to market Australia’s other supercar, the petrol-powered Joss JP1.

“You could expect to see our EVR450 driving on Queensland roads as early as January 2012,” said Varley Electric Vehicles divisional manager John Bettini.

“We are proud of its technology based on Varley’s long experience in electric vehicles and our close relationship with Tritium and Ultramotive, two other local technology companies.”

90 center imageLeft: A range of other Varley products.

Tritium will supply the EVR450’s inverter, while Ultramotive is behind the unspecified electric motor that Mr Bettini said was designed uniquely for this application.

“Currently we have a new project underway,” said Mr Bettini. “It’s something we’re working on with a few smart people locally.

“A year ago or so we also bought out a company which was part of the German Edag group, so we now have our own automotive design house for engineering called Idis.

“We have extensive background in engineering and we’re drawing all those skills together to develop some of these projects.” Mr Bettini said Varley expected to hand-build the EVR450 in strictly limited numbers, but would let customer interest dictate production volumes.

He said the EVR450, the development of which was fully funded by Varley, could also be destined for export markets, but would not divulge further details until the car’s official launch early next year.

Varley Electric Vehicles is a Brisbane-based division of the 125-year-old Varley Group, a privately owned Australian company that produces low-volume electric and specialist vehicles.

Based in the Hunter Valley (NSW), Varley was established in 1895 and now employs 616 staff – including more than 200 engineers – in eight locations including Jakarta, Brisbane, Melbourne, Ballarat, Tomago, Carrington and Eraring.

It says its innovative culture and advanced skill base allows it to compete with global companies for business in a variety of fields, including military aerospace, defence product development, specialised vehicles, new technologies and electric vehicles.

One of Varley’s high-profile contracts is the supply of a range of specialist transport modules for Mercedes-Benz G-class vehicles supplied to the Australian Defence Force as part of the $350 million ‘Project Overlander’ deal between the ADF and Mercedes-Benz for up to 30 years.

Varley also produces a range of specialised vehicles for civilian use, including ambulances, police vehicles, fire trucks, resort vehicles and cargo carriers, as well as marine, rail and plant maintenance products.

However, Varley’s next high-profile project will be an all-electric bus, commissioned by Brisbane City Council, that can be fully charged in just 10 minutes.

Mr Bettini said the electric bus project has been in development for some time and will be public knowledge very soon.

“We received a grant from the state government for this late last year and we’re working with multi-national companies to develop an instant-charge bus capable of being charged in around 10 minutes,” he said.

“We’re drawing on all of our skills to develop this and it’s quite a challenge, but we believe we’ll be successful and will offer something very unique to the market.

“Varley’s core business moving forward will be in the larger vehicle market. The car market is very exciting, but it is a very tough market and we’re very skilled with the larger vehicle market.

“Heavy vehicles is a space we’re investing heavily in. We know China has put their hand up for a million electric buses by 2020, so there’ll be a race on to develop those.

“But, because of the nature of EVs, in my opinion it creates a level playing field. For companies like Mercedes, the whole driveline is their domain, but when you go electric it’s a level playing field for smaller manufacturers.” Mr Bettini said Varley Electric Vehicles was also working on a number of smaller-scale projects, including the development of a zero-emissions people-mover for the Indigenous Land Corporation that will transport tourists to Mossman Gorge in Far North Queensland.

He said electric vehicles would bring a number of key advantages for manufacturers and consumers alike, including simpler chassis designs, more radical body shapes and fewer moving components, which will reduce development costs and increase vehicle longevity.

“In the future we’ll see a wider range of more practical vehicles that are cheaper to run and maintain, and hopefully when we get the batteries under control they’ll also be cheaper to purchase.

“As far as Varley’s concerned, we’re very much investing in EVs and see a great future for them.

“We are flexible in handling projects and demonstrated that by very rapidly putting together a bus project, then a car project and other industrial projects, and I’m sure that we’ll have many other EV projects on our agenda soon.

“We are also keen to assist other smaller companies. Being a small, family-owned business, we can make decisions fairly quickly.

“We see a very exciting opportunity in the EV space and we are making investments to be a leader in that space.” However, Mr Bettini conceded the imminent arrival of the EV age in Australia – led by Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV and, next year, the Nissan Leaf, Holden Volt and Renault Fluence ZE – was not all good news.

“What about the sound and smell? Electric doesn’t provide much of that, so maybe we’ll have to use some speakers to generate some sound – maybe you can put your own sound to it.

“It’s a good problem to have – at least we’re being environmentally responsible.

“But I don’t know if there’s going to be an aftermarket for EVs. What can you do? There are no turbochargers, no chips, no exhausts, no headers, no filters.

“Aftermarket is a billion-dollar industry, but when we’ve all got EVs off the shelf there won’t be much of an aftermarket.”

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