Good Car Co has been selected for a challenge to take part in a new battery innovation project to kickstart a localised lithium-ion battery manufacturing industry in Australia. At the same time the company aims to address electric vehicle availability and equity when it comes to access to EVs, and reuse.
The Supercharge Australia Innovation Challenge has been powered by startup accelerator EnergyLab and its US-based partner New Energy Nexus. Backed by the Boundless Earth fund, it has seen startups contend for selection by experts from CSIRO, Boundless, New Energy Nexus and EnergyLab to secure support to develop Australia’s fledgling battery industry.
But beyond this initiative by this innovation group lies the bigger opportunity ahead of us with the electrification of our transport (and everything else).
Australia has a real opportunity to be a renewable energy superpower, as Electrify Everything’s Saul Griffiths lays out in his book The Big Switch.
However, it is also uniquely positioned to be a major lithium-ion battery innovator.
Australia has amazing potential to make electric vehicle batteries. It holds abundant reserves of critical battery minerals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite. All of these are crucial components in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles and other technology.
Australia currently brings in billions by exporting raw materials for electric car batteries.
The latest federal government resources and energy figures predict lithium exports will bring Australia $16 billion in the 2022-2023 financial year.
But the EV battery market is far greater than this - some reports put it at $US400 billion by 2030. Meanwhile, China makes 75% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries using 96% of Australia’s lithium exports.
The Supercharge Australia initiative aims to create more value out of Australia’s natural resources, and keep economic value within the country instead of shipping it out.
Good Car Co and a number of startups have applied to be part of the program, which would see them build networks with mentors, advisors, peers and investors to accelerate the development of a secure and robust domestic supply chain for lithium-based batteries.
Many already know the Good Car Co for importing electric vehicles in bulk to secure more affordable prices for drivers looking to buy an EV.
But this is just a small part of the vision that Anthony Broese van Groenou and co-founder Anton Vikstrom have for the company.
Currently, EVs account for just 7% of Australia’s electric vehicle sales. The Australian arms of carmakers other than electric only brands like Tesla, Polestar and BYD have struggled to secure inventory in large numbers, leaving drivers clambering for tranches that sell out within minutes.
“We are a very small market, with a limited allocation of EVs, and yet we just need to do everything we possibly can,” says Broese van Groenou. “Instead of just digging and shipping, we have got to start making the most of our resources. So our solution is we import a bunch of EVs in volume.”
Bringing pre-loved early model EVs to market along with the supply of new can help Australia’s transport sector transition faster, and enable access to EVs for the broader population. It also nurtures a vibrant clean energy and transport industry and boosts all-important cleantech jobs.
Good Car Co can offer new electric vehicles through novated leasing, but sees secondhand EV imports as a critical piece of the Australian clean transport mix.
Kickstarting a mass-volume EV manufacturing industry in Australia is a massive undertaking.
However, the Australian auto market is ripe for mass conversion. In conjunction with Good Car Co, new entrants Roev and Fellten are already making plans to convert utes and create module conversion kits. Good Car Co wants to leverage these skills, to level up existing EVs on the market.
This would help address an affordability and equity gap in Australia’s EV market and get more use from valuable resources.
The idea is to upgrade early-model EVs to make them an affordable AND attractive proposition for those wanting to go electric.
“A key part of it is being able to upcycle older EVs so that we're able to look at closing that loop and giving additional driving range with the batteries,” Broese van Groenou explains.
To do this it will work with key partners to share knowledge, manufacturing facilities and funding to access tier one components.
The Good Car Co approach would also look at giving EVs better functionality and user experience. This could include new upholstery, adding V2G (vehicle-to-grid) or V2H (vehicle-to-home) two-way charging functionality, or new software.
“We can add high levels of safety, advanced driver-assistance systems, or more importantly, the whole integration interoperability with the grid. So putting in a bit more smarts, and simple things like doing remote unlocking with your phone,” says Broese van Groenou.
The timeliness is doubly so now with Australia’s Motor Vehicle Information Scheme (MVIS) now in effect. This means carmakers must give open access to information needed to diagnose, repair and service vehicles.
Absolutely. The cost to do this varies depending on the source of the replacement pack.
Good Car Co has also undertaken a proof of concept in levelling up the range of older electric vehicles. This is done by replacing older battery packs with newer ones that have more capacity.
In 2020 Good Car Co partnered with French Car Care in Tasmania to swap a battery in an early model Nissan Leaf. The whole process took just 2.5 hours, and the original 24kWh battery was replaced with a 40kWh battery. This took the driving range from 90-110 kms up to the 40 kWh range of around 200-230 kms and gave the car a new lease of life.
Take a glimpse of the future and watch the swap out below
NOTE: battery exchanges are High Voltage work and must be done by trained and qualified professionals. This is not a DIY piece of work :)
Good Car Co also wants to create a comprehensive closed loop EV ecosystem. It can do this by working with mining, manufacturing, electric vehicle charging conversion and battery recycling partners.
“It's that whole circular economy thing … taking the old batteries and deploying them as stationary storage, buying us that time another 10 to 15 years of usable life out of those batteries until we have that scale,” says Broese van Groenou.
“We can start recycling batteries as well. You know, en masse and not having all the costs of shipping and whatnot,” he says.
Supercharge Australia will announce the successful applicants for its battery innovation project on March 30, 2023.