AN AUSTRALIAN-DESIGNED electric car, to be built in China, plans to take on the world with a price under $10,000, an iPad-like dash capable of downloading apps and the promise of never needing liquid fuel.
The Noddy-like EDay hatch, set to debut at July's Melbourne motor show, will arrive next year as 100 lease vehicles, before going on sale in 2012 from $9990 (plus on-road costs). This undercuts petrol-powered competitors by thousands of dollars and is about 14 per cent of the price of the only mass-produced electric car on sale today, Mitsubishi's i-MiEV.
The car, able to travel up to 160 kilometres between charges, has a top speed of just 80km/h and weighs 450 kilograms. It will be the slowest and lightest new car on the market - and the cheapest, something sure to cement its appeal in a segment where shaving a few hundred dollars can boost sales.
The top-secret project is being run by EDay Life, a small Australian company run by former Holden director of innovation and advanced engineering Laurie Sparke and car dealer Robert Lane.
They have formed a team of 20 engineers and are finalising plans to sell the cars in countries as diverse as Malaysia, Hong Kong, Britain and France.
''What we're bringing … is Australian innovative technology,'' Mr Sparke said of the ambitious start-up project. ''We are going to develop the new generation of electric car.''
While the prospect of a start-up taking on the established car makers may seem overly ambitious, Mr Sparke said the size, flexibility and clean-sheet approach had advantages.
Just as fledgling brand Tesla had prompted others to take notice - Toyota has since signed an agreement with the Californian electric car specialist - Mr Sparke predicted a rise of next-generation vehicle makers driven from the IT industry, pointing to the Dell computers business model of lean manufacturing.
He said the new approach allowed engineering flexibility, while Australian ingenuity - often leveraged by US giants Ford and General Motors - and EDay's minuscule size gave it an advantage over established players.
The EDay will also get a touchscreen display to control major functions and the ability to download apps that could include everything from basic vehicle data to vehicle-to-home communications. With production set for a Shanghai plant, with initial capacity of 50,000, EDay plans to sell the cars around the world.