In the early 1970s, a group of Australian businessmen decided to launch the world’s first electric car.
It was a bold move at the time, as there was little interest in the technology.
What they failed to realise is that in a world where people are still largely stuck on the horse-drawn car, electric cars would eventually replace the petrol-powered vehicles that dominated the roads.
The company, called Power, was founded by three Australian entrepreneurs who had previously worked for General Motors, but now called themselves the “Electric Car Society”.
Their idea was to get the Australian government to provide funding for research and development to produce a battery that could be transported and used anywhere in the world.
It took the US$10m that was raised from the US Government’s National Endowment for the Arts to launch Power in 1977.
“It’s not a particularly exciting story, but there were two things about the project that were unique to it, firstly that the company didn’t have a financial stake in it, and secondly that the government wasn’t interested in funding anything that they thought might be useful,” Mr Streatham said.
Power sold the company to American investor Carl Icahn in the early 1980s.
In 1988, Mr Icahn became a major investor in Power.
At the time of the purchase, Mr Strelow said the company was doing about $30 million a year.
Its current value is estimated to be between $500 million and $1 billion, and its growth over the last decade has been impressive, with the company having achieved record annual sales in the past 10 years.
Mr Streatam said he had been watching Power closely as the company grew.
“[The US Government] had not done much to promote electric vehicles in Australia, so I thought it was a great opportunity to see if I could get a few of their engineers to go to Australia to work with them,” he said.
“They were very impressed with the idea, and they made a good first impression on the government.”
I had a lot of confidence in the government, but I was surprised that they didn’t want to go back to the US and get the money.
“The government was actually interested in a battery with a very large battery capacity.”
In the end, the American Government made the investment.
But it took the company another 18 years to get Power back on the roads in Australia.
When Power’s battery finally arrived in Perth, in May 2017, the company’s chief executive, Tim Giese, announced that the first 100 electric vehicles would be rolled out on the city’s roads this month.
On Thursday, Power’s first car was ready to roll out, a Range Rover Evoque, with an estimated capacity of 120 kilowatt-hours.
Icahn, now the chairman of SolarCity, has been named as the first CEO of Power.
He said the move to Perth was the culmination of a 10-year journey to build a company that could help the world move away from fossil fuels.
A former coal miner, Mr Gieses first came to Australia at the age of 15, and spent five years working for an oil company in Western Australia before settling in Perth in 2000.
He went on to work as a consultant for a number of companies including Shell and Chevron, before returning to the coal industry.
“It was a time when we had an opportunity to change the world, and the world had an interest in our energy and our technology,” he told the ABC’s Breakfast program on Friday.
“That was the time that we thought, ‘OK, if we can make that happen here, it can be done anywhere’.”
Power is now owned by SolarCity but it has ambitions of making its own batteries, and has ambitions to produce batteries that can be used for electricity generation in the future.
And, Mr Chatterjee said the technology could soon be used in the automotive industry.