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EV charge firm Tritium expands factory six-fold

Taking charge: Queensland minister Mark Bailey (right) cuts the ribbon to officially open Tritium’s expanded facility in Brisbane, with CEO David Finn (left) and chairman Trevor St Baker.

Brisbane plant expansion to act as ‘learning facility’ as Tritium heads offshore

General News logo5 Oct 2017

By IAN PORTER

AUSTRALIAN electric vehicle charging point manufacturer Tritium has expanded its Queensland factory’s production capacity more than six times over but is already examining where to locate new facilities overseas in coming years to service the burgeoning EV market.

The capacity of the Tritium’s Murarrie plant has been expanded from 800 to 6000 chargers a year, with staff numbers increasing from 45 in 2016 to more than 80 today.

However, Tritium chief executive David Finn told GoAuto this week that the Brisbane plant will act as a learning facility in coming years, allowing the company to develop more efficient production techniques and how best to manufacture the new products under design.

“Really, this is a learning line,” he said. “I know it seems like the numbers are getting big, but the market is very large as we start to reach a tipping point over the next few years. In three or four years I expect this to be seen more as existing purely for learning purposes.

“As we bring new products to the marketplace, and even with existing products, we continuously improve manufacturing techniques and innovate on the manufacturing front as well, not just product design front. It’s a living lab in some respects.”

Dr Finn said it was important to the have production facility next to the company’s research and development engineering department, which he said had been growing “fairly rapidly”.

Tritium already has a factory in Los Angeles to meet the requirements of the ‘Buy America Act’, which stipulates that mass-transit procurements of more than $US100,000 ($A128,000) that are part-funded by federal grants must consider US-made products.

Its future facilities will be located offshore in countries like China and India and in the European Union, where electric vehicles are heavily subsidised and sales are growing rapidly.

“Europe is obvious and there is a lot going on in China and India, so we wouldn’t rule out those sites as well,” Dr Finn said.

“We can do 100 per cent manufacturing offshore if we wish but there are suppliers in Australia that do go to the LA plant, for instance.

“We’re building our international supply chains. We have 70 different suppliers. When we say it is manufacturing, it really is incoming quality assurance, assembly work, outgoing QC (quality control) work, making sure the product is up to the standard it needs to be.”

One of the largest customers for the LA plant is the Proterra electric bus company, which uses Tritium chargers at its depots.

“The idea with those chargers is in their application – it’s a slow charge at the depot, overnight,” Dr Finn said. “It’s a very slimline footprint. The depot space is important to them in terms of real estate in the depot. They have to stuff in as many buses as they can (so) the slimline solution is very important.”

The LA plant can currently make 240 chargers a year, but that capacity could quickly be doubled, Dr Finn said.

Tritium is preparing to open an office in Amsterdam before the end of this year, which may be a precursor to a new factory.

Electric vehicles are receiving more support from governments in Europe, including Norway, where EVs are exempt from one-off government charges, including the 25 per cent value-added tax.

While EV sales are growing rapidly in China, buoyed by government incentives, Dr Finn said it was not easy to read the market.

“There is growth in China (but) it’s a little bit spluttering to some extent,” he said. “It is centrally controlled and the rate at which it is coming on is controlled by the central government.

“It is a challenging place, to be honest, but I think that will change very quickly when it does change.

“Incentives have been there for a fair while and it is surprising that it is not further ahead. It is, on paper, the leading market in the world in terms of the total number of EVs, but you don’t feel it in the same way when you hit the streets in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, you don’t feel the same intensity of EVs as you do when you go to Norway or California, where you see them everywhere.”“It’s definitely a growth market, but so is India after its announcement of 2030 – trying to get all new vehicles being electric. There is a lot happening everywhere all at once in this (EV) market.”

Attending the Murarrie factory opening this week, Queensland treasurer and minister for trade and investment Curtis Pitt said Tritium was fast becoming a world leader in the EV industry.

“The technology used in Tritium’s Veefil electric vehicle charger was designed and built in Brisbane and is now being supplied in over 20 countries all around the world,” he said.

 “The Palaszczuk government invested in this homegrown company last year through a $2.5 million grant under our Advance Queensland Business Development Fund.”

The company will provide fast chargers for the Queensland Electric Super Highway (ESH) announced last month by state minister for main roads, road safety and ports (and minister for energy, biofuels and water supply) Mark Bailey, who was also at the Tritium factory opening this week.

Mr Bailey said the ESH, which was implemented to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles, would use “green” electricity.

“The energy supplied in the Tritium fast-charging stations will be green energy purchased through green energy credits or offsets,” he said.

“The Queensland government is committed to a renewable energy future and it is companies like Tritium that are helping us transition to a low emissions future.”

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