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AFMA demonstrates vehicle safety, EVs at 2019 event

Top billing: Kia’s all-electric e-Niro small SUV might not be on sale until early next year, but an example was available for test drives at the 2019 Australasian Fleet Conference and Exhibition.

Vehicle safety, EVs continue to headline AFMA’s annual conference, exhibition

27 May 2019

VEHICLE safety and electric vehicles were at the forefront of the annual Australasian Fleet Conference and Exhibition in Melbourne last week, dominating the agenda and given added emphasis with a demonstration day held at the Sandown Raceway in Springvale.


Speaking to GoAuto at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, where the conference was held across May 23-24 after the demonstration day opened the event on May 22, Australasian Fleet Management Association (AFMA) executive director Mace Hartley said EVs had become a “hot topic” in the fleet sector.


“I think EVs and alternative fuels are in the forefront of everyone’s minds,” he said. “We just gone through an election, and whilst Labor went heavily one way and Liberals were a bit more conservative, it’s still a hot topic.


“Most of the state-based councils or state governments have said, ‘We’ve got targets’, whether it be 2020 or 2025, and the only way they’re going to get there is by electric vehicles or low-emissions vehicles.


“Today, 70 per cent of the carbon that Australia produces comes from vehicles, so that’s why (the issue) will always be here.”


Mr Hartley said most of the event’s attendees, “fleet managers that have been in the business for 20, 30 years”, had never driven an EV.


“Low-emissions vehicles are important … but the holy grail really is EVs for commercial vehicles,” he said.


Three such vehicles were available to drive at the demonstration day, including Renault’s Kangoo ZE small van and Melbourne-based company SEA Electric’s E4V mid-size van.


Other EVs on offer to test included event sponsor Kia Motors Australia’s e-Niro small SUV that is set to lob at the 2020 Australian Open tennis tournament in January, as well as Nissan’s Leaf, Hyundai’s Ioniq EV and Kona Electric, Jaguar’s I-Pace and Renault’s Zoe, among others.


Interestingly, delegates were also able to drive two fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) – Toyota’s Mirai and Hyundai’s Nexo – while several hybrids helped make up the rest of the field of 17 vehicles.


Vehicle safety was an equally important element of the demonstration day, with three Ford Ranger utes (unladen and fully laden stock examples, and a third fully laden but fitted with upgraded suspension) used to show the impact of weight on braking and handling.


Mr Hartley said the demonstration day “was really about education because we all talk about” vehicle safety but rarely – if ever – test it out in the real world, with 72 fleet managers participating, then later “raving about it”.


“The cars are fit for purpose straight out of the showroom, but the moment you start bolting all this stuff on, that changes the characteristics of the car,” he said.


“It’s still within its GVM (gross vehicle mass), but it handles differently, (and) when you’ve got a car fully laden, it takes twice as long to stop.


“The reason you might consider upgrading some different bits and pieces is to protect the car – because they’re not designed to run at 100 per cent GVM 100 per cent of the time.


“And the other aspect, then, is just the extra safety, to allow vehicles to stop as you would expect them to when they’re unladen.”


Four different exercises (corner braking, dynamic lane changes, emergency braking and slalom course) were used to demonstrate the point about GVM.


Using Toyota’s soon-to-be-released HiAce van and Hyundai’s Kona and Santa Fe SUVs, anti-lock braking system (ABS) and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) activities also formed part of the demonstration day.


However, Mr Hartley said he “was a little disappointed” in the demonstration day’s overall attendance, with about 100 people in total, 20 of whom just came to drive the EVs.


“We’ll explore (doing it again),” he said. “For those who have done it, you won’t see them again next year, so then maybe you think about how you split it up and do something a little different.


“So we’ll take the pulse of those who attended, and we’ll keep negotiating, we’ll keep talking and try and find something else.”


In total, Mr Hartley said there were “over 400” attendees at this year’s conference and exhibition, although he could not say yet exactly how much of a year-on-year improvement that represented.


“Numbers are up slightly (on 2018), which is good,” he said. “Last year was up 17 per cent.”


Mr Hartley added that there were also “over 40” speakers on day two and three this year, which is just down on 2018’s 50-plus effort due to “a bit of movement”.

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