Hopes are rising, including from Tesla chair Robyn Denholm, that Australia can revive automotive manufacturing by producing electric vehicles. Here Peter Roberts visits one company that is advancing plans to electrify – Ausev.
From the outside the factory looks much like any other along the main road through Brendale in Brisbane’s outer northern suburbs.
But what is going on inside SCD Remanufactured Vehicles plant might just represent the right strategy for Australia to break the automotive manufacturing drought.
Rather than hoping for a major vehicle manufacturer to come into Australia to invest in electric vehicle manufacturing, Brisbane businessman Eddie Kocwa is taking matters into his own hands with a step by step approach to full manufacturing based on what he has learned in his remanufacturing business.
Kocwa told @AuManufacturing: “We want to electrify, but the focus to date has been around electric cars.
“We see an opportunity in electric trucks which are already very popular in the Australian market – it looks like being a very long time before supplies of EV trucks get here.”
Kocwa, the managing director of the BossCap group, runs a profitable business in SCD where 50 people convert 1,000 large US-sourced trucks a year from the Ram and Ford stables to right hand drive format.
This involves locally engineering and manufacturing complete dashboards and components such as steering linkages and wiper assemblies, before staff spend 45 hours per vehicle converting the trucks to RHD.
Kocwa has been steadily building up his capabilities as he plans first to remanufacture imported EV trucks to RHD, then build complete bodies for his own Ausev brand vehicles on imported EV chassis. Ultimately he wants to fully manufacture in Australia.
“We are going to transition into EV manufacturing gradually – we have the experience to do it.”
Kocwa took @AuManufacturing on a tour of a brace of BossCap offices and facilities that will form the basis for his future ambitions.
Central is SCD – a large facility (pictured, below) which is packed with imported trucks and componentry manufactured by local suppliers awaiting installation.
On a nearby street is component prototyping business Advanced Manufacturing Queensland, which designs new prototype components and structures, printing them out on plastic and metal 3D printers.
In the adjoining building is BossCap’s distribution business, Ausmv which has facilities in mainland capitals, other than Adelaide, which prepare new vehicles for delivery to customers.
Selling online and direct delivery to customers is a key to BossCap’s strategy – it won’t establish a cumbersome franchise selling network which profits through servicing and parts.
What the company is committed to offering is an end-to-end solution to buyers including servicing, charging and fleet management.
Said Kocwa: “With us as the manufacturer, we make our money on the first sale.”
BossCap is now taking its first steps in building EV remanufacturing on its – considerable for a small business – base.
The next model to be remanufactured is the Ford F 150 which is available – and selling strongly – in the United States in EV form.
While the imported vehicle could just as easily be an EV, BossCap’s Ausmv has also signed a distribution deal with US manufacturer Atlis Motor Vehicles to buy 19,000 XT Atlis electric pickups (main picture) through to 2025.
The process to be followed with Atlis is illustrated by BossCap’s plans for importing 100 Zeus EV cab chassis vehicles (pictured, below) from the US.
In a stepped process Kocwa aims to repeat his remanufacturing to RHD process on the first five vehicles, with the remaining 95 including progressively more Australian made components.
“We are going to learn the process of building the vehicle (over time).
“It will give us the time to sort out problems, then we will put them into production.”
Once the company can build its own bodies on imported EV chassis, it will have the potential for an Ausev designed and engineered product to offer the marketplace.
BossCap knows it needs to expand if it is to partially manufacture Zeus and Atlis EV’s, and plans a new production centre, possibly at Maryborough in regional Queensland.
Atlis is a contender to supply fully electric vehicle platforms to BossCap as the basis for future Ausev vehicles.
But this is for the future and Kocwa is aware that he has done well so far by walking before he can run.
Asked if full local manufacturing was among his ultimate aims Kocwa said: “We have a great organisation already, we know how to distribute a vehicle, we know how to remanufacture a vehicle.
“We started with zero 10 years ago…so anything is possible.
“You have got to start with something, if you don’t do anything you are just going to be importing all your life.”
Pictures: BossCap/Zeus Electric Chassis
Peter Roberts travelled to Brisbane as a guest of BossCap.