Greg McGarvie’s big dream: Electric vehicles for Australia
Launching a fleet of light commercial electric vehicles for the Australian market is at the top of Greg McGarvie’s bucket list.
It’s a bigger dream than many of us have, but it’s one that’s been several years in the making.
Now, the ACE EV Group Managing Director and his team are set to launch Australia’s first fleet of commercial electric vehicles at the Electric Dreams Exhibition on July 2 and 3 in Brisbane.
After travelling along arduous roads of bureaucratic red tape, they now have only one big hurdle to cross — securing a permanent manufacturing site.
Securing a permanent manufacturing site the last hurdle
The search for a manufacturing site started five years ago when Greg approached the Queensland Government about the former Maryborough TAFE complex on Nagel Street.
“It has everything we need. It’s got primary and secondary optic fibre, which is good for our global head office,” Greg said.
“It also had a restaurant, which would be great for all the workers there; it has room to expand, and it’s out of town.
“The other great advantage is it’s got rail lines down one side, a main road down the other, and it’s near a substation if we ever needed the energy, from local solar farms.
“TAFE did automotive training there, so it’s a registered automotive workshop.
“All we wanted to do was use that workshop to assemble things. Our process of assembly is actually cleaner than when TAFE did its automotive training there with fossil fuel vehicles. Do we get any traction? No.”
“So we went to South Australia where I had a bureaucrat ask how he could help. He introduced us to potential business partners and helped clear the way to set up in South Australia, but in the end, resigned from the government.
“Nevertheless, we got some traction with a launch on Sunrise, but nothing more happened.
“The background advice I got was to go overseas, make it, prove it works over there, and then come back.”
“So, I reached out to the Queensland government, again, and they actually wrote requesting a proposal, by this time the directors had invested $6.4 mill in development and we assembled the first prototype vehicle at the MTAQ in Queensland in March 2019.
“Subsequently, through the advocacy and assistance of Senator Rex Patrick, we secured a federal government grant of $5 million.
“This grant was issued under Australia’s obligations to the Paris Agreement the project to establish EV manufacturing in Australia and to develop our Mobile Energy Management Device to offer grid security services.
“The renewed interest of the Queensland Government was marked in August 2021.
“In the proposal, ACE EV Group sought to lease the Maryborough site to assemble our first seven vehicles, but we haven’t been able to do that, with a legal quagmire created in the process.
“A simple lease became a high-level due diligence process, totally divorced from the requirements of setting up a temporary lease. Other parties were ready to join the project.
“Government insisted they would not deal with this proposal for a lease unless it was through a law firm negotiating directly with their legal representative.
“Time delays and process insisted on by government put at risk delivering on the federal government grant and timely provision of vehicles to a major client.
“This exercise, like a chapter of Yes Prime Minister, the lawyer at a cost well over $8000; building this project over five years, it has taken my house and Super to get to this point!
“At times, I feel a bit like Colonel Sanders.
“Now, at further expense, we have been forced to Brisbane to deliver the first vehicles on time.
“This should have been in my home region (Maryborough, Qld), with the start of jobs, training and advanced manufacturing. So now we’re contracting a workshop in Brisbane and getting everything done there.
“We are up against timelines now, however, plan to have our first light commercial EV ready for the Electric Dreams Expo, July 2 and 3, at the Brisbane EKKA.”
Greg McGarvie’s journey to launch EV fleet
The launch at the Electric Dreams Exhibition will be a key milestone in Greg’s life’s work and passion for the environment.
“ACE EV Group is really an environment-friendly manufacturer, producing transport that is clean, inexpensive and robust, able to charge off home solar,” he said.
“I have always enjoyed doing positive things for the environment, and been involved in environmental groups,” he said.
“I’m a marine biologist, having trained at James Cook University in the early 1970s.
“During lectures in oceanography and physical oceanography, I learned about some issues that we see happening now in our environment; changes in ecosystem diversity and the weather systems. It’s scary that what I was told all those years ago is actually happening.”
As well as setting up the Australian Marine Protection Association for the shipping industry in 2000, Greg also ran for Labor in the Federal seat of Dawson in 1990.
“Bob Hawke launched his campaign in Mackay the day he announced the election.”
After three recounts, and in hindsight, Greg was pleased he did not secure a seat in parliament but said it was a great learning experience.
“Setting up EV manufacturing in Australia is my last major project before retirement.”
Oceans vital for Earth
Greg said oceans were vital for the survival of humanity on Earth,
The biosphere managed by nature created conditions that allowed humans to flourish, but this growth success with fossil fuel pollution threatens the future of our grandchildren.
“Most don’t realize if you shrink the Earth down to the size of a basketball, we have just a mug full of water that provides only 70% of the earth’s oxygen.
“It’s our responsibility to look after that mug full of ocean.
“Our oceans provide the rainfall we need to grow things on land. They are the air conditioner creating our climate, so it’s comfortable for us to live here.
“Unfortunately, burning fossil fuel wastefully in vehicles creates pollution and elevated CO2 levels, raising acid levels in our oceans as the carbon dioxide is absorbed easily, creating carbonic acid as in soft drinks.
“The changes in acidity impact the biodiversity in the ocean. As many of us know, the Great Barrier Reef, which is an asset to Australia, is under threat through sea temperature rise, pollution and the absorption of CO2.
“There are other impacts as well, on reproductive lifecycles and ecosystem stress.
“We kill off the reef, we kill off jobs, tourism, fisheries and the Australian lifestyle; it’s costing us in so many ways. Another major issue for Australia is our national security of fossil fuel, currently directly linked to fossil fuel supplies. We’ve got just five days available on land, 16 days in ships at sea, none of them Australian flagged.
“Australia needs to give EVs priority and use the sun to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, the country will grind to a halt and suffer badly if fuel supplies are stopped, no war is needed to take Australia, just an interruption to fuel supplies and we are economy is paralyzed, EV uptake is a national security issue!
“The benefits of EVs are economic, environmental and productivity with new jobs and opportunities.
“This is my motivation for manufacturing EVs in Australia. We have all the ingredients here, including our grandchildren.
“The other one, of course, is that this unique manufacturing will actually work in Australia. We have the technology and the partnerships.”
“What’s critical to the venture is getting the government really active in supporting this initiative.
“We’re not a business that’s asking for more money; we’re asking for support and access to a facility, which has been a stranded government for over 10 years, costing us as taxpayers.
“Investors are talking with us, but they’re shy until they see real positive government traction. And getting that hasn’t been easy.”
Ultimately, Greg’s dream is to sit in the shade beside his V2 Transformer motorhome in the middle of Australia with solar panels out, collecting free energy from the sun, and charging batteries ready for his next outback adventure.
That day is close to becoming a reality!
For more information about ACE EV Group and how to contact them visit https://www.ace-ev.com.au/
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