Most of us have had a go at upcycling. Whether it’s restoring an old chair with a new lick of paint or transforming a chest of drawers, when we bring old unwanted pieces back to life, we reduce the amount of new stuff we buy. But what if we told you it was possible to upcycle a car?
And not only is it possible, but Jaunt is making it a reality.
Australia has some of the most beautiful and expansive vistas on the planet and it’s a country built for Four Wheeled Drive (4WD) all-terrain vehicles. But most of these vehicles aren’t environmentally friendly, and the switch to electric vehicles has been slow. It seems a bit backwards to be exploring the beautiful outdoors, but causing it harm at the same time.
Jaunt co-founder Dave Budge knew he could be doing more, with a pang of guilt hitting him when he drove a diesel-guzzling 4WD across Australia in search of its natural beauty. Now, Jaunt plans to kickstart Australia’s love for EVs by converting classic 4WDs into fleets of rental vehicles across Australia, allowing tourists to traverse the Outback without causing unnecessary damage.
So, realising that Australia’s love affair with 4WDs was unlikely to end soon, Dave worked out that converting iconic old vehicles to electric was not only realistic, but also a viable business idea. In a country littered with classic Land Rovers and Jeeps – sat in sheds and barns, picking up dust – it was an obvious step to take.
Thanks to Jaunt, classic Land Rovers are now packed with batteries, giving you plenty of driving time on each charge. The romance of the open road awaits.
“Australia has the slowest uptake of EVs (electric vehicles) in the world, and by far the worst transport emissions per KM per capita in the world,” says Dave. “But when you think about it, the reason people aren’t buying EVs is because there aren’t any they want to buy!”
It also wants to convert 4WDs for private owners too, adding some good rugged ‘authenticity’ to the Australian EV market.
“The conversion of classic 4WDs into EVs was at a point where – from a technological and engineering point of view – it’d been figured out. And luckily Tesla had made EVs cool, so you didn’t need to justify that EVs could work and weren’t some weird niche thing,” he says.
Budge – alongside co-founder Marteen Burger – turned Jaunt from dream to reality, raising over AUS$18,000 on Indiegogo as they sold over 100 days’ worth of rentals to a curious Australian public.
The campaign served as a press release, letting the wider community – beyond the self-confessed classic Land Rover geeks – know what Jaunt is about. And that EVs can be cool and still quintessentially, iconically Australian.
But it’s not just about building a successful car company. Although Jaunt is converting old rust-buckets into cars of the future, it’s also connecting with local communities, using local engineers to perform conversions, and encouraging councils to install charge points.
“We’re trying to upcycle as much steel and aluminium and vehicles as we can, getting them back on the road, while encouraging as many Australians as possible to convert to EV,” says Dave. “In theory, you could get a load of venture capital money, build a factory, and start pumping out vehicles. But we were really keen to have the social benefit integrated into our business model, that wasn’t just about giving a percentage of profits to a landcare organisation or environmental cause.
“So we thought, instead of growing as a single factory, can we grow the business via a conversion kit and a set of guidelines and instructions? That allows various communities to take this idea on.
“This was driven by the idea that, at its core, we want Jaunt to be about belonging. It’s wanky brand stuff in a way, but it’s important to what we do; can we create transport that feels like it belongs?”
Dave explains that “We don’t want to build these for people who love car history. It’s more to say ‘this car you’re driving worked a farm you just drove past, or helped build a nearby dam, and it was converted by the local community – with the profits and proceeds going back into that community’.”
Building a car dynasty from the chassis up is a long process, but Jaunt is getting wheels on the ground imminently. It aims to re-build a car a month heading into 2021 and beyond, and spreading beyond Australia with the development of its conversion kit.
So if you have an old Land Rover in your shed full of cobwebs and grit, then keep an eye on Jaunt’s developments. Because that old rust-bucket could soon be an icon of clean driving.