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The electric van that can double as an affordable camper for grey nomads

Peter Benardos, the general manager of EV Automotive, is loquacious and a great advocate for electric vehicles. He has been interested in innovation and its ability to disrupt, which he says is similar to the mobile phone’s evolution. He says that EVs are here to stay. After thirty years in the car industry, Peter has a wealth of information.

Although the technology in the automotive sector was evolving, it was hitting a plateau, with mainstream manufacturers showing very little interest in Electric Vehicles.

When Peter saw the opportunity to join EV Automotive, a company wanting to bring new EVs to the Australian market, he jumped. “All the mainstream manufacturers at the time were dragging their heals.

“I knew EV’s were going to be the next big thing. EV-A’s aspirations to bring a range of commercial Electric Vehicles to market presented a rare opportunity. To be part of a grassroots business that promises to become a disruptor to the automotive industry and really shake up the status quo,” Peter said.

Peter has always had an eye for emerging technologies. He has seen so many options turn into standard features – air-conditioning, power steering, power windows, Airbags, to name a few. He has watched as these disruptions turned into the norm.

He is an enthusiastic exponent of electric vehicles, particularly electric vans. We get a lot of boxes of wine delivered, so we know the costs constraints for the last mile delivery contractors.

These contractors will love the new EV-A’s EC 11 electric van with its range of 220 – 300 km, and they don’t have to unload the van standing the fumes. The buying process is easy too – it is an online process.

“Initial sales volumes of the EC11 we know will be small. But, as there is no 100% electric competitor in this 4.5t GVM segment, it is both exhilarating and frightening at the same time. Knowing that our product will be the benchmark to which others will be compared to”.

An EC11 E-CARGO van will set you back around $90,000. It compares in size to a High Roof Mercedes van at $76,000.

So roughly, in two years, a delivery company would make back the $14,000 difference in cost savings on diesel and maintenance. In City driving, a comparative van will use 14 litres of diesel per 100 km at the cost of $21; charging the EC 11 will cost $6 per 100 km.

The EC 11 is made by Skywell, a subsidiary of Nanjing Golden Dragon Bus Company. They make light commercial vehicles, buses and have a sedan (ET 5) headed for Europe next year. Peter was involved in the design process of the EC11 and suggested several design changes that make the EC 11 easier to work with.

The driver has a Live Stream Rear Vision Camera for improved visibility and safety. A checker plate floor means things don’t move around, and pallets, when placed over the rear axle, provide optimal cargo weight distribution. I got to sit in the driver’s seat and was amazed at how comfortable it was.

Scott Morrison will be pleased – the EC 11 can tow 1250 kg, braked.

Fifteen EC 11’s have already sold (mainly to couriers), a ship is booked, and they should be in the customer’s hands by the end of the year. They are travelling in good company as there will be lots of Teslas on board also.

The EC 11 can be kitted out as a campervan, and Peter has had many inquiries through the website.

We were doing this interview because I had seen the campervan concept at the Cleveland AEVA EV experience day and had been very impressed, especially after my experience driving to Winton – the roads were packed with grey nomads and their diesel-powered rigs. Fitting out the electrical EC 11 would cost the same as fitting out any other van to make it a campervan.

One customer did the following analysis: He is buying an EC11 to use as a tourist bus for wine tours in the Barossa. The total round trip for the day is the same as the stated range of the EC 11. Peter was concerned, but not the driver. He had done his homework and found that each of the wineries he stopped at had vehicular charging.

He discovered that if he plugged in every time he stopped for his customers to have a tipple, he would get back to base with a 40% charge remaining in his battery.

The last word belongs to Peter; he describes his road baby as “Pleasant off the mark, with good road manners, even if you tried to drive it like you stole it.”

David Waterworth is a researcher and writer, a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He owns 50 shares of Tesla.