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EVs: Mark from Queanbeyan brings ‘EVan’ to local life

This is the first of a series of short pieces profiling local business folk and drivers of electric vehicles who are promoting or adopting sustainable electric transport solutions in our region.

Meet ‘EVan’.

NO, NOT THE GUY in the red shirt, that’s Mark Hemmingsen, the Managing Director of Electric Vehicles Canberra, a company based in East Queanbeyan specialising in electric vehicle solutions for the home, business and recreation.

EVan, christened by Mark, is the rather imposing white vehicle in the background — a 1993 GMC factory-built electric van.

ABOVE: Mark Hemmingsen and “EVan”
Picture: Graham Franklin-Browne

These large vans were one of General Motor’s early and tentative forays into deploying electric vehicles to the US market. Originally envisioned as urban delivery vehicles they had a respectable range despite their old-school lead-acid batteries. They also had great carrying capacity and, considering their standard braking and heavy weight, a modest top speed of 90 kph was probably more than fast enough in the dense urban environments they were designed for.

GM’s story regarding the development of electric vehicles has been puzzling to say the least. Over the past couple of decades, the mega manufacturer has had an on-again-off-again love/hate relationship with the electric vehicle sector of the automobile industry. It has frequently dipped its oily toes into the market to test demand, then pulled out in existential fright when it looked like people were beginning to like the idea of electric transport.

Remember the story of “Who Killed the Electric Car”?  It is a sad and sinister tale of fossil industry skulduggery and infanticide, ending in the demise of General Motor’s cute and cuddly EV1, a very competent and inoffensive electric vehicle which people leased and loved, but were never allowed to own.

If you have not seen it before it is well worth a look www.imdb.com/title/tt0489037/plotsummary. Just remember to look away if the sight of good cars being crushed upsets you.

Some years before this dark chapter in GM’s story, young EVan the van began his life in one of GM’s US factories and was shipped (minus motor and gearbox) to a company in Canada for the installation of his electronic ‘gubbins’, including motor, batteries and controller. He was then shipped back to the US and marketed as a commercial electric vehicle, and during the late 1980s and early 1990s there were over 500 of his sparky brothers and sisters zipping around the US before GM predictably ceased production. Eventually EVan somehow made it to Australia.

Having fitted him out with 72 kWh of modern Lithium batteries and electronics Mark plans to put EVan back onto the road with his company’s branding, using his own business to demonstrate to the local community that an electric trade vehicle such as EVan can be a practical and economic solution for short urban runs.

His company, Electric Vehicles Canberra, specialises in providing quality affordable electric vehicles, advice and assistance with converting fossil vehicles to electric power, and installing and maintaining electric vehicle charging infrastructure and associated renewable technologies.

Mark is passionate about EV’s and the associated technology that enables drivers to drive and charge in an environmentally responsible way without removing the joy of driving.

He also installs charging equipment in commercial, public, apartment and home parking spaces and can allow for budgets requiring minimal charging right up to multiple carpark managed charging systems. His latest charging station installation was for ACT MLA Shane Rattenbury who has recently purchased a new MG ZS EV.

Above: MLA Shane Rattenbury and Mark Hemmingsen, Director of Electric Vehicles Canberra. Picture: Mark Hemmingsen

So, despite Australia’s national leaders continuing to sleep, snort, and swat at the buzz of change, there are glimmers of hope in the local EV scene. There are notably more charging stations around here and many more EVs on the road right now, and more coming in 2021/22. State and local governments (most notably the ACT) are beginning to act with incentives, fleet purchases, and infrastructure, but a lot of prodding is still required at federal level before we get favourable national policy measures.
It is time for our leaders to stop drinking the fossil-fuel Kool-Aid and create policy settings which will encourage the makers of affordable, capable, and amazing EVs to turn their eyes toward Australia and accelerate the uptake of clean transport.

In the meantime, Mark and EVan will be helping to convince folks around here that EVs just make good sense. You will see them around, give them a wave and a thumbs up!

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