The Australian Tesla killer that never was
What do you get when you cross an electric motor with a Hyundai Getz?
The Blade Electric Vehicle concept was born in Castlemaine way back in 2008 and is the very first electric vehicle to be registered here in Victoria.
Only a couple of hundred of these vehicles were built by EV visionary Ross Blade and, being such an EV unicorn 12 years ago, were snapped up by local and New Zealand enthusiasts - but only those who could afford the eye-watering (then) price of $48,000.
The attraction of converting a Getz is clear; it's a light and relatively inexpensive vehicle that is easy to drive and pretty robust. Batteries took up minimal space in the rear of the car and a retrofitted electric motor in the front.
Even more impressively, Blade gained some measure of support from Hyundai themselves who agreed to honour the warranty on parts that came standard with the ICE version of the vehicle.
The Blade Electron offered a range of 100kms and 90Nm of torque, with a lithium ion phosphate powered electric motor; not eyebrow raising these days, but not bad for such an early generation EV; or what we're calling The Australian EV1.
Could this have been Australia's big EV moment?
In an interview with carsales.com.au in 2008, Mr Blade obviously had big plans for his start-up, citing distribution of 200 vehicles a year to New Zealand and stating:
"Strategically, there are a few directions we could go in. We could, for example, become the supplier of a kit that is used for the millions of Getz around the world; we could become a retrofitter; we could be a source of IP, because we've developed and registered a range of IP -- so there are a number of ways in which our business could unfold in the future."
In the same piece, his comments around battery technology are also an interesting look at how far we've come (or not) since then:
"When you look at what the major car manufacturers are doing -- take GM for example -- they're looking at two chemistries: lithium-manganese and lithium-ion phosphate. Nissan is looking at lithium-manganese. The major car manufacturers are looking at these more recent alternate forms of lithium batteries. The reason is: they have longer life, they're more temperature-stable -- and they don't blow up."
The Blade Electric Vehicle company received a $100,000 injection of cash from the (then) federal Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, now leader of the opposition, Anthony Albanese, in 2010. The Electron also met all Australian design and safety standards at the time and the future seemed bright for this early EV start up.
But despite this bright start, the Blade Electric Vehicle company - along with the 54 EVs they converted - seems to have sunk without a trace.
How to service a Blade Electron EV
Most of our team hadn't seen one in the wild...until recently.
This low kilometre, neat-as-a-pin car came to our workshop for EV servicing and has been a prime topic of nerdy-EV conversation for the past week.
We shot a little video of this unicorn EV in action, and our mechanic Julian had this to say:
"The Electron came to us with a couple of issues, the first that it wouldn’t stop you from driving off with the charging cable connected so we retrofitted the car with a smart electric charge controller and a module to stop you driving off while charging.
We also performed a battery balance and general check over. This Blade only has 24,000kms on the clock so everything is nice, it’s been put together really well."
Check out the video below and we're really keen to know if you own a Blade Electron or have driven one.