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Three Aussie blokes building an EV empire

At the AEVA Expo in Canberra I had a quick chat with David Potter, Managing Director at EV Automotive, and learnt about the amazing journey he and the team had been on since deciding to become an importer of electric vans. We caught up again in Melbourne outside the Megatrans event and had a longer discussion.

Potter had a previous life as an importer of used cranes and other equipment back in the nineties after spending many years working for importers and distributors. After selling his stake in Australian Crane and Machinery in 2014, he partnered with some contacts from the transport industry with the idea of importing trucks from China.

The early trips in 2018 were looking at trucks for cherry pickers after having experience of making this equipment with a Korean company. He visited factories in Wuhan (before the pandemic) which didn’t work out so well, and then floated around China before entering into an agreement with Dongfeng Motor to import a small van and SUV into Australia.

In 2020 the deal fell through because Dongfeng decided not to build right-hand-drive versions for the Australian market. This steered Potter towards the Golden Dragon Bus Company that offered an electric bus, and had been selling vehicles in China, Pakistan and Thailand.

After conducting some further research and negotiating most of the arrangements over the phone because of the COVID pandemic, they found a willing partner and started the homologation process locally with the help of the Coleman brothers and the engineers from Tiger Spider. Potter was also happy to see a positive review by Sandy Munro on a Skywell electric vehicle once they had started the ball rolling.

After a false start and lots of detailed evaluations, which included local testing of two vehicles at QLD Raceway, ADR certification was achieved in November 2021 and the first batch of 12 vehicles arrived in February 2022.

One of the first customers was Tasfast Airfreight who specialise in shipping parcels from Melbourne to Tasmania. They purchased two Skywell vans and promote themselves as one of the first sustainable transport operators in the state.

The EV Automotive team is talking to a number of potential customers and there’s some interest from governments and other last mile delivery operators.

“Look, door’s open. And there’s a shaft of light,” says Potter.”It could either be a train coming through. Or it could be a ray of sunshine. But we’re pushing ahead. We’re not a multinational. We’re just we’re three Australian guys that had an idea to go and do something, and that’s what we’ve done.

“We’re trying to get the door open. We’re working step by step. We’re working on the same basis as Tesla by selling direct, it seems to have worked for them.”

Servicing and maintenance will be managed by the mycar network who have been a very good partner so far according to Potter. EV Automotive produced the local service and warranty booklets based on the information from China and worked with mycar to get their staff trained to service Skywell electric vehicles.

A small batch of 10 vehicles is being manufactured in August, and then depending on the sales and order book, another 50 will be built for delivery in 2023. The target is 500 vehicles a year within three years which be a combination of vans and buses which will get converted in Australia by local partners.