Canberra’s electric vehicle champion

Karyn Starmer 2 April 2021 28
Rob Ogilvie

Rob Ogilvie in an electric car at Ion DNA. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

A burning question: how did a committed rally driver and petrol head become Canberra’s champion of electric vehicles?

In one word: excitement.

And based on his history, if Rob’s excited by the performance of electric vehicles, everyone will be.

These days, Rob Ogilvie is the president of the Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme and owner of Canberra’s leading electric vehicle dealer Ion DNA, but Rob’s past life is steeped in petrol engines.

He’s worked in motor vehicle repairs, tyre shops and, more recently, a family business fitting out Jucy Rentals backpacker campervans. As a youth, he roared around Mount Panorama.

Rob is a Canberra local, growing up around the Belconnen area. His father taught automotive at CIT for many years so, as Rob explains, cars are in his blood and have always been part of his life.

While working various jobs in the motor vehicle industry, Rob’s weekends also revolved around cars. He was a highly competitive driver in the Australian Rally Championships and the Australian Production Championships, “one skill I certainly have in life is being able to drive”.

Rob Olgivie

Ion DNA founder Rob Ogilvie was also a competitive motorsport driver. Photo: Supplied.

In 2014 Rob joined the Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme (RAWS), the peak body for automotive dealers who import and supply used specialist or enthusiast vehicles to the market in Australia. He became president in 2017. It soon became apparent to Rob that the future for cars was in electric vehicles – EVs as those in the industry call them.

Rob has been active, advocating for many in the RAWS industry to move to environmentally friendly vehicle importation and working with the Federal Government to allow that sector to grow.

“The government was very clear, telling me that we need to push our members towards emission-friendly vehicles. I knew the market would change, but it wasn’t until I was on a trip up in Cape York that I decided to put my efforts into the future and sell electric vehicles in Canberra.

“Someone had to lead the way, so I decided to step up,” Rob said.

Rob opened Ion DNA in Fyshwick in 2018, with their formal opening just before the Canberra hailstorm, fires and COVID-19 hit. But despite the less than ideal market conditions to start a new business, Rob geared up to deliver what he sees as a missing link in EV sales in the Capital region – information and choice.


READ MORE: Turning a new Leaf in the push to electric cars


“The ACT Government is supporting EVs, offering a range of incentives, but when it comes to buying a vehicle, most people’s knowledge of the market is limited to high-end Tesla models and think all EVs are expensive, but the industry has matured way past that point,” he says.

Ion DNA sells a range of new and second hand EVs and Rob is on hand using his deep knowledge of the industry to help customers make the right purchase for their needs.

“While EVs are essentially pretty simple machines, they really are plug and play, we can help with explaining the differences across brands, technical details and service requirements,” Rob says.

One of the joys of EV ownership, apart from not having to buy petrol anymore, is that with very few moving parts, they don’t need much servicing.

Rob says he knows of an EV owner who actually forgot to have their car serviced for nearly four years and only brought it in to check to see if it was still OK. It was.

Rob Ogilvie Ion DNA

Rob Ogilvie, owner of Ion DNA. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Rob suggests purchasing a second-hand vehicle with a battery with low-hour use instead of waiting for those who are holding back purchasing an EV thinking that battery technology will go out of date.

“That way you can enjoy driving the car for a few years and then either replace the battery or upgrade to a newer vehicle,” Rod says.

“The health of an EV battery is similar to the engine condition in a petrol vehicle. If you buy a good second-hand car from a reputable dealer you will not lose much in depreciation.”

Ion DNA has access to a wide range of EVs, including Honda, VW Golf, Audi, Mini, Kia, Nissan and even Porsche. They also stock and sell electric scooters and e-bikes.

The million-dollar question remains, does Rob enjoy driving an EV as much as a car with a combustion engine? He gives an emphatic yes.

“They are just as intoxicating. Most people get behind the wheel and start saying ‘wow’ as soon as they put their foot on the pedal. An EV will raise the pulse for sure; the acceleration is amazing.”

For more information on electric cars and scooters, visit Ion DNA.


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28 Responses to Canberra’s electric vehicle champion
Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:25 am 13 Apr 21

How are EV’s heated in the winter and cooled in the summer?

    JS9 JS9 11:23 am 13 Apr 21

    Like any other vehicle perhaps CR…. by using the built in climate control system.

    Dinosaur thinking dominates for some still it seems….

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:05 pm 13 Apr 21

    Does it run off an auxiliary petrol motor then because any heat pump would quickly flatten a battery.

    And don’t try and patronise me with big words like “climate control system”

Christopher Davey Christopher Davey 6:55 pm 08 Apr 21

Need to change the shape of them so we can drive over them when they run out of charge on the Parkways during peak time

    Francisco Shi Francisco Shi 7:24 am 13 Apr 21

    You will have to catch us first especially in peak traffic where EVs use next to no battery and ICE cars sit there burning fuel. So far haven't run out of charge and haven't been cutoff by any ICE car at the lights. I always keep an eye out for them on the rear view mirror.

Charlie Pyle Charlie Pyle 1:03 am 08 Apr 21

city people should use electric trains and buses

Adam Jovanovic Adam Jovanovic 11:42 am 07 Apr 21

There's pictures.of Edison standing next to an electric old Ford model around 1908 I think and the first electric car was made around the 1890s. I can understand fuel for planes etc.. But cars could've been electric only for the last 100 years if big oil company's didn't bribe lollies and kill people back in the day

Frank Formby Frank Formby 11:46 pm 06 Apr 21

I bought a 30kW Leaf as the cheaper (but not the cheapest) option, not from Ion DNA, as I live in Tas. I hope it will still have an adequate battery after 5 years. By then I expect EVs will have a similar upfront cost to petrol vehicles. The 30kW model is limited for longer drives, for example Sydney to Melbourne could involve an overnight stay, but we do 90% of our driving in it. Though the car is 5 years old, it feels as modern as our 2020 Subaru XV, though not quite as practical or comfortable. For our purposes, we would need an EV with a range above 350km. But they cost $70K plus, so we have two cars for a bit less but end up buying $1000 in petrol per year. The Leaf charges overnight from 30% to 80% using a normal power point. Overall, I am surprised at how good it is.

torana68 torana68 5:48 pm 06 Apr 21

Cheaper to run, no worrys about petrol prices, very little (if any) maintenance costs. Petrol cars are on a rapid decline, most manufactures already have a date from which they wont be making them (2030 ish). In ten years selling your dinosaur powered car may become difficult so why not go try one of these now?

    JS9 JS9 8:36 am 13 Apr 21

    Lol…. you do realise network charges are only one component of electricity prices (i.e. a 36 per cent increase in network charges isn’t going to equate to a 36 per cent increase in bills)..

    Even with a 36% price increase overall, EVs would still be comfortably cheaper to run.

    jwinston jwinston 3:37 pm 07 Apr 21

    I’m looking forward to seeing how e-vehicles go during the holiday periods when everyone owns one. Families queuing for miles waiting for a power source after driving only 150kms or so. Taking days to get to your destination instead of hours. Yeah the benefits of e-vehicles are astonishing.

    It won’t bother me though as I’ll still have my reliable diesel motor vehicle that will run on old chip oil if the need arises.

    JS9 JS9 8:37 am 13 Apr 21

    Only first gen vehicles need recharging after 150km. Most newer vehicles have double that in range. They are genuinely only a couple of years off being a point where range will not be an issue for the overwhelming majority of drivers.

    The issue of sufficient power sources is an important one however.

    jwinston jwinston 10:17 am 13 Apr 21

    To end this ridiculous debate I put forward a race around Australia between a heavily laden diesel “dinosaur” towing a caravan versus an e-vehicle towing nothing.

    The only caveat is that both vehicles have to stop and fill their tank or battery when reaches 25% and go again when their respective vehicles reach 100%.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:09 pm 13 Apr 21
Shawn Mulgrue Shawn Mulgrue 6:11 pm 05 Apr 21

A very knowledgeable man

Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 5:44 pm 05 Apr 21

I hope by the time I need to replace my current car that I'll be able to buy a secondhand EV. Or a new one if I get a pay rise soon...

TimboinOz TimboinOz 5:05 pm 05 Apr 21

That’s all very well. But for us a retired couple with a 2015 2.5L Subrau Forester. and it has with just 76,6xx km on the clock. …..

Buying an EV just isn’t on our radar. ? The ‘maths of finance’ for one.

We are members of a bush-walking group, and need those AWD SUV features,

An AWD.EV.SUV with good ground clearance, … if they exist would be unaffordable.

Seriously? People will buy EVs when they become affordable in the long-term, aka Maths of Finance.

Do ANY of your writers understand my point?!

If not get some new writers.

    Graham Franklin-Browne Graham Franklin-Browne 5:33 pm 05 Apr 21

    Seems like an unnecessary level of aggression toward this publication. Fact is, affordable EVs are here, and affordable electric 4wd drives are not far off. If you are a pensioner and want to drive electric, I would advise, with federal elections not too far off, to make sure that you vote for a party that has a sensible EV policy (and that is not the current mob).

    torana68 torana68 5:57 pm 06 Apr 21

    you need a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle), not un-afordable, 1.7L per hundred on Petrol your Scubi is no where near that and no cam belt every 100K (at around $1000) Look further than initial purchase price and maybe ask Ikon Dna to look for a second hand from Japan.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:47 pm 07 Apr 21

    It will have need two new batteries by the time 100K comes around.

    torana68 torana68 8:24 pm 07 Apr 21

    guaranteed for 160000 ks Capital Retro, should last a lot longer,

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:57 pm 07 Apr 21

    If that is true it’s the first time ever that batteries have been delisted as consumable items.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:53 am 09 Apr 21

    I concede you are correct but an owner would need to consult a lawyer and accountant to understand the terms and conditions of the warranty.

    Apparently a lot of these batteries have failed (see forums) and they only give about a 50km range (they are in a hybrid, of course).

    I couldn’t find a firm price for a replacement transit but it would appear that it is least $10K.

    Felix the Cat Felix the Cat 5:09 pm 09 Apr 21

    What’s a replacement engine for a petrol/diesel car cost….?
    Since we are tslking about Subarus in this thread here’s an example – GENUINE SUBARU SHORT ENGINE
    $22,823.34
    https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/GENUINE-SUBARU-SHORT-ENGINE/114175017792?hash=item1a955c8340:g:EvoAAOSwXYxeisAU

    Of course this price doesn’t include labour (or cyclinder heads!) to remove old motor and fit new motor.

    So EV batteries aren’t expensive for parts in comparison to an ICE vehicle.

    Sure, you can get cheaper second-hand engines from the wreckers from cars that have been smashed and written off. Same as you will be in the future (maybe now if you search hard) you will be able to buy parts including batteries from wrecked EVs.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 7:50 pm 09 Apr 21

    You are comparing chalk with cheese.

    Batteries are not engines and it is likely a battery in an EV will have to be replaced at 150,000km or 10 years. Cars with an ICE will go twice the distance and last twice the years on the original engine.

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