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Is Australia ready for an electric ute? Chinese brand LDV says yes, and traditional diesel dual-cab makers like Toyota better hope they're wrong | Opinion

auto, autos, car, cars, toyota, is australia ready for an electric ute? chinese brand ldv says yes, and traditional diesel dual-cab makers like toyota better hope they're wrong | opinion
Is Australia ready for an electric ute?

Chinese manufacturer LDV is betting big on Australia’s first electric ute, with the brand to beat mainstream heavyweights like the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Volkswagen Amarok, Nissan Navara, Isuzu D-Max and Mitsubishi Triton to the party when the eT60 launches in just a couple of weeks.

But the big question is, of course, is Australia really ready to go all-electric in a vehicle segment still utterly dominated by diesel powertrains?

LDV says yes. And it’s putting its money, and its battery technology, where its mouth is. And while its electric dreams are only just beginning in Australia, they are way more established in China – LDV’s home market.

Fun fact: China’s auto industry is comparatively very young, and yet one in four vehicles sold anywhere in the world are made there. In September right here in Australia, Chinese-built cars were the third most common vehicle type sold in Australia last month, beating cars from Korea – like Hyundais and Kias – and Europe – like BMWs or Mercedes – as brands like MG, GWM and LDV boomed.

According to monthly sales data released by Australia’s peak automotive body, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), some 14,889 Chinese-built vehicles were sold in Australia last month, with the number of deliveries only bettered by Thailand (20,363) and Japan (23,880).

So they make a lot of cars, but the Chinese also specifically make a lot of EVs. This year more EVs will be sold in China than the rest of the world combined, while the country now accounts for more than half of all global EV sales.

An electric ute might be new to Australia, but it’s old news in China, and in the USA, where orders for trucks like the new GMC Hummer or the Ford F-150 Lightning are far outstripping demand, causing delays and price increases.

Australia isn’t China, and the eT60 won’t appeal to everyone – mostly because its user case is very different to a traditional diesel ute.

auto, autos, car, cars, toyota, is australia ready for an electric ute? chinese brand ldv says yes, and traditional diesel dual-cab makers like toyota better hope they're wrong | opinion
Demand of the Ford F-150 Lightning is outstripping supply in the US.

Powering eT60 is an 88.5kWh lithium-ion battery, which will enable a WLTP-certified driving range of 330km. Based on international specs, the electric ute should be able to tow 1.5 tonnes — not the 3.5-tonne expected of many utes – and it will deliver a payload capacity of around 750kg.

But the brand says consumer interest is coming from right across Australia, with the ute expected to be snapped up by those looking for more of a capable lifestyle vehicle, rather than an out-and-out workhorse.

“It’s no longer a question of whether Australia will move to electrify its transport industry, but when. The transition is locked in, and LDV is getting on with it,” says Dinesh Chinnappa, LDV Australia general manager.

“That LDV is an OEM with the backing of a significant automotive entity in SAIC means we are well-placed, well-resourced and agile enough to launch, develop and grow our commercial EV strategy alongside our existing ICE (internal combustion engine) models.”

So is the time really right in Australia for an electric ute? Time will tell. But with no moves from the majors on full electrification, LDV will have the market all to itself.

Just how big that market is remains to be seen.

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