The team at Melbourne-based firm Tomcar is at the forefront of a new era in Australian vehicle manufacturing. With the first electric car to be fully produced in Australia, Tomcar is dreaming big – and succeeding.
Designed and built in Australia, full scale production of the Tomcar LV1 gets going in November at a manufacturing facility in Oakleigh South, with customer deliveries slated for February.
Tomcar teamed with innovative technology developers Energetique and local manufacturer MtM. The prototype Tomcar LV1 has undergone two years of intense development, with trials of its electric powertrain currently underway in the harshest environments throughout Australia.
“We have very big dreams and ambitions in regard to the car,” says Tomcar Australia’s co-founder and CEO, David Brim.
“It’s never been done what we’re trying to do in the electrical car space. We are offering a much-needed product and replacement vehicle. We are a very compelling product.”
The car, which is being trialed at undisclosed blue-chip mining firms in Australia, is initially intended for the underground hard rock-mining industry, with a consumer version release planned in the near future.
It will retail at around $75,000. The car’s battery is intended to last a six-hour shift and can then be recharged overnight, or via a DC charging facility which will recharge in just half an hour.
“It’s a very robust electrical vehicle using world’s best practice. It is designed to live in a very harsh environment. We have spent a lot of time and effort developing really substantially tough componentry,” says Brim.
With over 60% Australian-made componentry, the Tomcar LV1 meets Australia’s demanding mine safety standards, providing an off the shelf mobility solution.
Tomcar has been manufacturing its non-electric models for just over two years and has sold around 200 vehicles so far.
“We have been taking our time, making sure the manufacturing process is down pat and the quality of the vehicle is 100%,” says Brim, adding that a Tomcar is now made every four days.
Tomcar already offers three diesel petrol engine models, servicing customers in defence, agriculture and emergency services. The cars start from around $28,000, and some have been sold to recreational buyers, but that is not the target market.
“We’ve always focused more on our industrial clients. That’s part of our brand strategy, differentiating ourselves from the plethora of toys in the market.”
Tomcar sells to five of the top ten pastoral companies is in Australia, including Paraway Pastoral and Webster, and plans to dominate in that sector. Mr Brim says the vehicle sold to special services is “the exact same product we sell to a farmer on a sheep station – except no guns.”
One of Tomcar’s selling points is its very low centre of gravity, matching that of a Porsche. This was achieved by lifting the drive train up into the vehicle so the Tomcar is completely flat underneath with 40 cm clearance, similar to “two motorbikes stuck together.”
“That combination is unheard-of in the industry, so the performance and safety of the car is unrivalled,” says Brim.
He says Tomcar is “very ruthless” with its supply chain, and one of the keys to success in Australia is to utilise personnel time correctly.
“Yes, wages are expensive here, but you get some of the world’s best engineers and employees. We should lead the world in mining, agriculture, tourism, renewable energy, renewable resources – things we are good at. These are the industries where there is possible growth,” says Mr Brim, who is an advocate of “re-shoring” manufacturing back to Australia.
The demise of traditional large-volume car manufacturing will also bring positives, with the potential to shake Australia out of its complacency and a too laidback attitude that is hampering change and expansion.
“Closing of the car factories is ultimately a good thing for Australian industry because it forces people to diversify and innovate. Where you have challenge, you have growth.
“It is a shame some people are assuming we can only build a service economy. You need manufacturing as a core pillar. It’s incredible what we make here in Australia. We need to focus on manufacturing high-quality components, and we need to focus on making things here that nobody else can make,” Mr Brim says.