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in Krankheiten und Verletzungen 10.06.2019 05:56
von goldengooseits | 13 Beiträge

Aust to lose home-grown car technology after Budget program axing

The Federal Government is fending off accusations of hypocrisy over its Budget night axing of a small business development Golden Goose Sneakers grant program.

The Commercial Ready program was closed down, even though hundreds of companies were still in the queue for help.

One company from northern New South Wales has said it intended to apply for $5 million to help it develop a hybrid drive system for trucks. Its chairman says that without the funding, the company will have to be wound up.

And now the Federal Opposition is accusing the Government of getting its priorities wrong, when it has axed this program while giving Toyota a $35 million grant.

With fuel prices soaring and increasing concern about the effect of greenhouse gases on the planet, the Federal Government has paid plenty of attention to the pursuit of new ways to power cars and trucks.

It is a direction the Ballina-based company Permo-Drive has been following for nearly a decade. The hybrid drive system it has developed for trucks is just about ready to hit the market.

Chris Marshall is the company's chief engineer.

"It's brought together a bunch of mature components which are already out in the industry - being hydraulics systems, and assembled in such a fashion that it's provided a method by which you can capture the normally wasted braking energy and then put that captured energy back in drive line," he said.

"When the vehicle accelerates ... when you go to accelerate off from a set of stopped lights, rather than the engine providing 100 per cent of the power, it might only provide 80 or maybe even 70 per cent of the power and that is where you get your fuel savings.

"In an urban, 7.5 tonne vehicle, the savings will be in the order of 20 to 30 per cent. Now on another perspective, that relates to approximately a 50 cents per litre saving."

But like many new businesses, keeping money flowing has been a big challenge, so the company turned to a Federal Government program of so-called Commercial Ready grants, just months before the program was axed in the Federal Budget.

When the Commercial Ready grant was axed, of course the venture capitalists came back and said "Oh, now we're going to reassess what we were going to invest", ie, the $7.5 million. So all of a sudden it put everything back in jeopardy again," said Mr Marshall.

The directors of Permo-Drive are now preparing to wind-up the company, which might see the technology leave Australia.

"It's very disappointing of course that the money hasn't gone into an Australian invention and industry to further develop Australia's foothold in the automotive world," Mr Marshall said.

Just over a week ago, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the Japanese car maker Toyota would be the first recipient of funding from the Government's Green Car Innovation Fund.

It is a fund set up to help bolster the development of new green technology.

Instead, $35 million has been handed to Toyota to manufacture existing technology in Australia. At the time of the announcement, Toyota's president Katsuaki Watanabe said he did not know how the company would use the money.

"We are not sure in what way we would like to use that amount," he said.

Federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson says the decisions smack of hypocrisy.

"What he was more concerned about was getting a $35 million photo opportunity with Toyota, who didn't ask for $35 million of Australian tax payers' money," he said.

"We still don't know how Toyota is going to use it and I think Mr Rudd, if he is serious about Australia's environment, he's now got to look at the Permo-Drive company.

"He needs to talk directly to the people that run the company and restore the $5 million investment.

At the time the program was cut, there were more than 200 companies with applications pending.

Greg Beaver is the director a venture capital fund which supports early-stage innovation companies. He was also a seed investor in Permo-Drive and still holds shares in the company.

"The hardest thing with any technology or innovation is getting it through the various https://www.goldengooseshoesit.com/ barriers to market and the first one is raising the capital, particularly with something that is capital intensive like this," he said.

"It's so hard to attract that early stage investment. And all these companies typically start off with what we call the three F's: friends, family and fools, but jump in early and invest in support on the idea. The next round of funding is usually the harder step forward."

Minister for Innovation Senator Kim Carr says the axing of the program was a casualty of the so-called war on inflation, but a new streamlined set of grant programs will follow a review of the National Innovation System.

And Senator Carr says if Permo-Drive still wants assistance, it should explore the new Climate Ready program of Government assistance.

Based on a story by Ashley Hall for The World Today.

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