Technology // October 2023 Electric Adventures
Bendigo-born Dave Budge combined his love for the Australian bush and desire to protect the environment with his passion for classic Land Rovers to create Jaunt – transforming iconic vintage cars into electric vehicles.

Jaunt is an Australian start up that adds modern technology to classic Land Rovers to turn them into electric vehicles [EVs]. And it all started with a… well, jaunt. Co-founder Dave Budge and his partner were heading out on a long-distance camping trip into outback New South Wales in his beloved 2015 Land Rover, when he realised the hypocrisy of burning 300 litres of diesel to get there. “I started to wish I had an electric four-wheel drive so I could enjoy this beautiful, pristine environment in a more sustainable way”, he says. “And when I looked at the numbers, I realised other Australians might too.”

With one of the lowest adoption rates of EVs in the world and sports utility vehicles (SUVs) accounting for more than half of Australia’s vehicle sales, Budge quickly realised that his personal problem was also a societal one. “The electric vehicles on the market at the time were hatchbacks or luxury sedans, not great for going off-road” says Bendigo-born Budge. “We weren’t making EVs in the kinds of cars Australians buy. 90 percent of this country is remote and harsh; if we want Australia to catch up with the rest of the world, we need to build an EV that can cross a river, drive through mud or tow a boat.”

As a designer who has spent most of his career working with emerging technologies, Budge not only understands technology but also how to humanise it. “The barrier to wider adoption is usually in the user experience. I’m good at designing and packaging technology in a way that makes the most sense. It’s about simplifying the complex.”

And that’s exactly what Jaunt does. Founded in 2018 with his business partner Marteen Burger, Jaunt is a technology system that converts iconic four-wheel drives into electric vehicles. The technology and design enables classic cars to be retro-fitted with batteries to become an electric vehicle that can be used every day. “We build what most people imagine an older classic car is like,” he says. “Not just making the wheels spin with an electric motor but doing it in a way that is packaged and designed in the most simple, beautiful way possible.”

Together with a team of specialist engineers from Victoria’s renowned ex-automotive industry (Toyota, Ford and Holden all had Australian headquarters here), Jaunt manufactures and converts, so customers can buy one straight from the workshop or bring in their own model. “We’re seeing families, farmers, all different kinds of people. There’s a real desire for vehicles that have this nostalgia but also this capability and utility that’s currently missing from most of the electric vehicles on the market, and definitely the ones on the market in Australia.”

Currently focusing on three models: the Porsche 911, Land Rover Defender and the classic Mini, restoring and electrifying a Land Rover costs around $125,000, (comparable to the cost of a new one), with a similar cost for the Porsche. Converting the Mini costs about $70,000. “Many motorists didn’t know that conversion into an electric vehicle was an option and just assumed they would need to buy a new electric vehicle if they wanted to join the club”, says Budge. “Conversion of cars alone is not going to save the planet, but doing so does save about 90 percent of the carbon emitted by building a new vehicle, which makes it a very real alternative.”

There are currently four Jaunts on the road in Australia, and 30 orders on a waiting list, and thanks to a recent partnership with British-based Fellten (previously Zero EV, one of the biggest electric vehicle conversion companies in the world), Jaunt is on track to start supplying conversion systems to workshops around the world. Using kits supplied by Budge and his team, mechanics and enthusiasts will have the technology, tools and training to be part of the growing global demand for electrification.

“Our goal all along was to make cars that belong”, says Budge. “Cars that feel appropriate in the landscape and right for the moment. We’ve consciously harnessed that into our engineering approach to create vehicles that look great and have the range and performance to go anywhere.” Let the electric adventures begin.

101 Collins Street has six Orbis Viaris EV chargers on Level 5 carpark. 

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