An electric Toyota LandCruiser has become a reality years earlier than expected in Australia – but don't expect to pick one up in a dealership any time soon.
GB Auto – based in Orange, New South Wales – has signed a deal worth USD$250 million (AUD$327 million), for the exclusive distribution of Toyota LandCruiser and HiLux electric vehicle conversions in Australia.
The major deal finalised this week shows there is growing appetite in Australia for electric power as an alternative to diesel in heavy-duty, off-road applications and gruelling conditions.
The powertrain for the conversion comes from Dutch company Tembo 4X4, who supplies electric conversion kits for the popular Toyota four-wheel-drives.
The deal will see up to 2000 Toyota utes converted in Australia for usage in mining and other industries, over a four-to-seven year period.
Some basic maths points to each electric-converted vehicle costing approximately AUD$163,500 each.
Deliveries are planned to begin from around the middle of 2021, pending any delays caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are excited to partner with VivoPower as its Tembo electric vehicles are ideally suited to the needs of our customers in the mining sector,” said Graeme Bensley, CEO and Founder of GB Auto in a statement.
“We are already witnessing strong demand for these vehicles, and this agreement bolsters our ability to play a prominent role in the overall drive to improve the sustainability of our economy.”
This follows on from BHP’s recent announcement of an electric vehicle trial, which also uses the venerable LandCruiser 79 Series as a base vehicle.
Tembo, which is Swahili speak for Elephant, was acquired by publicly-listed VivoPower in October 2020.
The conversion kits coming to Australia use a 72kWh battery system, which powers a 110kW/250Nm electric motor.
This runs through a bespoke gearbox for the electric conversion, which is then mated to Toyota’s original transfer case and four-wheel-drive system. And befitting their usage in hot, dusty, muddy and wet conditions, the conversion carries an IP67 rating against water, dust and corrosion.
Although the conversion comes from overseas, GB Auto is tasked with designing and building the wiring – up to the standards required – for usage in the conversion.
Because the new electric motor and gearbox are both much smaller than the 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 and five-speed transmission, the conversion uses a virtually empty under-bonnet area to store most of the batteries. More battery capacity is found where the fuel tank used to reside, with other elements of the electric powertrain living behind and under the cab.
Kevin Chin, CEO of VivoPower, believes there is a big potential for electric vehicles in Australian industries, home to so many underground and open-cut mining operations.
“GB Auto is an excellent partner, given its established reputation and fantastic customer base that includes some of the world’s leading mining houses.
“We are of the view that this will be a very successful commercial partnership that has the potential to benefit a broad range of industries.”
Beyond this initial conversion program, GB Auto has also secured first dibs on any future conversion projects and programmes that will come to Australia.
The future could include a wider range of electric-converted vehicles for sale to industry and public alike, and even bespoke heavy-duty and commercial electric vehicles built on their own platform.