An Aussie startup is planning an electric SUV that’s more capable off-road than a Jeep

The Australian automotive industry has gradually collapsed over the past couple of years. Ford, General Motors’ Holden division, and Toyota — the country’s big three — have confirmed plans to end local production by 2018. This leaves Australia with a vast pool of knowledge and an established supplier base that start-up companies like Red Automotive Technologies are poised to take advantage of.

Founder by an experienced engineer named Paul van de Loo, Red Automotive Technologies aims to launch a rugged electric SUV built locally. The model is still at the embryonic stage of development, and bringing it to the market is easier said than done because it will ride on a modular platform designed from a blank sheet of paper.

Early technical specifications call for an off-roader powered by an electric drivetrain made up of a potent battery pack, four in-wheel motors, and a new two-speed transmission. The yet-unnamed model will boast an electric driving range of over 120 miles, and buyers who need to drive further will be able to order a gasoline- or diesel-burning range extender that will bump the total range up to more than 745 miles. The truck will theoretically be capable of reaching 62 mph from a stop in under four seconds and go on to a top speed of 155 mph. Alternatively it’ll be able to tow nearly 8,000 pounds when properly equipped and leave “the gnarliest Jeep or Land Cruiser way behind” when the pavement ends.

The styling hasn’t been finalized yet, and the production model won’t necessarily look like the truck depicted in the early design sketches (pictured above). Van de Loo affirms Red Automotive Technologies’ off-roader will be completely different than electric crossovers like the recently introduced Tesla Model X because it’s being designed with a focus on off-road prowess.

“Let us face it: there is no other country in the world that is going to build an off-road vehicle better than we can, because we use them more than anyone else. We understand what it is all about; we know that if you stop in the middle of the desert you are probably going to stay there forever,” explained the engineer in an interview with Australian website Motoring.

Of course, the SUV still has several hurdles to clear before it makes the transition from the drawing board to the production line. Notably, starting a car company from scratch takes an immense amount of cash — just ask Elon Musk. Van de Loo predicts funding will come from the private sector until the car maker is able to hold an initial public offering. A specific time frame for when that will happen hasn’t been provided.

If everything goes according to plan, Red Automotive Technologies’ first model will go on sale with a base price of $85,000 in Australia (a sum that converts to a little over $60,000 in the U.S.). The truck will launch Down Under, but the Aussie startup hopes to branch out into foreign markets such as the United States, Europe, and the Middle East in about a decade.

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