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Aussie safety firm ready for EV revolution

Crashing in: APV conducts crash testing relating to worldwide standards and is an official test house for ANCAP, just as Applus IDIADA is for Euro NCAP in Spain, where it put the new Nissan Leaf EV through its paces.

Opportunities beckon for APV as electric vehicles and autonomous tech take hold

27 Aug 2019

THE managing director of independent transport engineering firm and crash safety centre Australian Performance Vehicles (APV), Harry Hickling, expects emerging trends such as electrification and automation to provide significant opportunity for the company.


In an interview with GoAuto, Mr Hickling said the specialist Melbourne-based supplier was well-positioned to capitalise as new players enter the market with electric vehicles requiring product development and/or compliance testing to meet Australian Design Rules (ADRs) in this market.


APV’s test centre is internationally accredited and supports car and truck OEMs, their suppliers, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and non-automotive industries such as aerospace and defence.


“I see that we’re going to go through a major technology change in Australia with the uptake of EVs and autonomous vehicles,” he said.


“It’s the inevitable. And we’re going to see that happen very rapidly over the next five years.


“That generates significant opportunity for us in terms of car companies bringing vehicles into Australia and needing ADR compliancy, so our labs will be set up to support them.”


Mr Hickling said the company was in discussion with local start-up ACE EV, which is hoping to begin production of a full-electric compact van in Adelaide next year – and will need to have the required crash tests performed before receiving the green light to be sold in Australia.


As reported, ACE also received a rebuke from ANCAP chief executive James Goodwin last week over comments made about its vehicle’s safety credentials, which are yet to be tested under the international NCAP regime.


But ACE stands as an example of smaller OEMs looking to capitalise on the fast-growing EV sector with models that could need local homologation through a specialist provider such as APV.


Mr Hickling also pointed to APV’s work in disabled transportation with the Norden Group as well as Walkinshaw Automotive’s Ram and Chevrolet pick-up truck remanufacturing operation in Melbourne, where new restraints specific to the Australian-spec vehicle were engineered before crash testing was undertaken to pass the relevant ADRs.


“There is a significant transportation industry in Australia and there always will be because you end up having vehicles coming into Australia requiring some level of modification, for whatever the market demand is, and fitment of wheelchairs and restraint systems in the back of the vans is a typical example of that,” he said.


“Then (consider) the specialist low-volume vehicle manufacturers – which is where Walkinshaw fits in one regard, but they’ve grown into a very significant Australian manufacturer now with Silverado, Ram, Camaro – all of that was possible and underpinned because APV could do the ADR testing for them.


“And then we’ll see the same thing with the EV market.”


Mr Hickling also said APV has “an extensive relationship” with car companies across Asia, “so there’s still a very big opportunity for us in terms of providing testing services associated with OEM vehicle development work”.


“We’re probably one of the very few labs (in the world) – and certainly the only lab in the southern hemisphere – which is doing testing work supporting vehicle development and vehicle safety for the car companies,” he said.


Mr Hickling also said APV’s test centre was perhaps the only one of its kind in the world that can support side impact testing with both left-hand-drive and right-hand-drive vehicles, “so that allows us to do testing for both the Australian market and the overseas markets to the latest standards”.


With autonomous vehicles, the head of APV’s engineering and testing services division, Carl Liersch, said the global certification regimes were still underdeveloped at this stage.


“As a result, what we’re trying to do at the moment is stay abreast of those developments so that we can find the appropriate ways to link in with other players and the OEMs around the world to provide that world-class testing regime,” he said.


“So that’s a work in progress; there’s no easy answers there at the moment.”


Mr Hickling added: “There’s also autonomous vehicles and systems within the defence environment as well, for example, so it’s not just going to be related purely to the major OEMs in automotive.”


He also said that APV will look to work with ANCAP and other companies in terms of testing and validation of autonomous vehicles and the technology behind them.


“It also means that we can also support companies internationally in terms of how well they would fit within the Australian market in their level of maturity and what the opportunities are,” Mr Hickling said.

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