Electric car importer set to reveal city runabout ahead of 2012 launch
ELECTRIC car importer EDay Life hopes to transform traditional car ownership with the launch next year of its E15 city runabout, which will be displayed from Friday at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne.
The Melbourne-based company will offer two-year leases from 2012 that will include the car, the batteries and potentially a home energy management system.
EDay Life is also planning to retail the car without the usual dealer network, using perhaps just one or two outlets in capital cities while relying greatly on the Internet – an unusual move considering the company’s managing director and one of its founding partners is former Melbourne car dealer Robert Lane.
The E15 will feature a radical type of dashboard that takes the touch screen idea to a new level. The dashboard will be a tablet computer adapted for use in an electric car, but retaining all the features of a regular tablet computer.
“The tablet may be the first thing you get when you buy a car. It could be the key,” said Mr Lane.
“Once you have engaged with tablet technology, the variables become enormous. Our innovation team is developing new applications right now.”
Mr Lane said EDay directors – among them former GM Holden director Laurie Sparke – were leaning towards offering the E15 under an all-inclusive lease plan including the car, batteries and home charging station.
After two years, drivers would be able to swap the car for a new one under a renewed lease.
The returned car would then be refurbished, fitted with more efficient motors and batteries if necessary and re-leased.
Mr Lane said EDay had not yet settled on pricing or lease payments as the official launch will not happen until late next year or 2013, although a brand launch is being held tomorrow night (Tuesday June 28) in Melbourne.
He said the car swap plan fits with EDay Life’s ethos of minimising the environmental burden caused by the transport sector.
“The returned car will be refurbished and then leased out at a lower rate,” Mr Lane said.
“Refurbishment after two years will include things like fresh tyres, fresh paint if required, freshen up the interior (and) replace the batteries if required.”
Recycling used cars in this way with more efficient batteries or motors as the technology advances, rather than scrapping them, would create a big saving in CO2 emissions when the energy embedded in a new car is taken into account, he said.
Mr Lane stressed EDay would be guided by the market and was not going to insist people lease the car if they wanted to buy one outright. He said another option would be to sell the car and lease the lithium-ion batteries.
“The preferred option is to rent the whole thing, including the home energy management, because we want the vehicle back in two years to refurbish and put it out again,” he said.
“We think the technology is moving that fast, two years will be fine and that will work well for us.”
The home energy management option will only be available to people who already have photovoltaic cells on their roof, so E15 drivers will have a vehicle that generates no carbon dioxide emissions as it will not use coal-fired electricity.
EDay would install a battery pack – ultimately made from batteries recycled out of refurbished cars – at the owner’s house to collect the electricity generated on the roof and use that to recharge the vehicle when it is plugged in.
Mr Lane said EDay wanted to do more than just import cheap Chinese electric cars and has been working on incorporating some unique design features, as well as ensuring they have a high crash rating.
Dr Sparke has been overseeing the safety and other engineering aspects with the Chinese manufacturer, which has not been identified.
EDay wants to use local parts suppliers and has been working with interiors company Futuris and with the CSIRO, which will enable the incorporation of supercapacitors to enhance the lithium-ion batteries.
EDay had originally planned to market the E15 on the Internet and then install a dealership when there was a sufficient concentration of vehicles in one area, but is now considering having a few dealerships, mainly in capital cities.
“We’ll have our own dealerships and we will also do a lot of it online. We have some strategies for that which don’t involve having boxes all over Australia,” he said.
Mr Lane said dealerships will be important when EDay adds a larger second model – a five-door hatchback that would be available with electric motors or an internal combustion engine using either petrol or LPG.
“We could do diesel, but it doesn’t fit with the EDay ethos,” he said.
Mr Lane said EDay wanted to offer all three versions – known as the E25 (electric), P25 (petrol) or L25 (LPG) – at the same price, giving buyers the choice of powertrain without financial considerations clouding the decision.
There may be a wrinkle in the form of a battery lease for the electric version, but Mr Lane is confident the lease cost and cheap electricity would be covered by the petrol savings.