JAC's back in electric form with BLK Auto

By: Rob McKay

Chinese bus-maker takes over distributor BCSA while adding trucks

JAC's back in electric form with BLK Auto
Peter Aldridge and Jason Pecotic


A new JAC Trucks tilt at the Australian market is to take place this year.

It is being led by former local JAC CEO Jason Pecotic, in a move that may yet indicate the state of the Chinese truck challenge and where commercial electric vehicle (EV) competition here might lead.

Pecotic tells ATN the intention is to have one test vehicle in the country to be test-driven by three online food distribution firms.

Confident they will be well received, he will then look to import 50 more.

"JAC have been in the production and testing of electric trucks in a few countries around the world," he says.

"They’ve developed a right-hand drive version of the truck.

"It’s currently going through ADR testing in China. I think the last test is next week."

This month, JAC delivered a fleet of N55EV models to Pepsi Brazil, thereby opening the first year of JAC’s overseas commercial EV push, and Pecotic confirms that the same vehicle is coming here.

The company says the N55EV range covers 5.5-7.5 tonnes, and the maximum engine power and torque reach 130kW and 1,200Nm.

It features independently developed vehicle control system similar to that of passenger car, and is equipped with airbags, 360-degree reversing camera and other safety configurations.

The 1,995mm wide cabin sports a multifunctional steering wheel and 8-inches touchscreen.

The vehicle is powered by a 96.7kWh lithium ion phosphate battery, and the full range can reach more than 200km.

Both fast charging – 90 minutes to 80 per cent of battery power and 100 per cent after two hours – and normal charging are available.

Load capacity is put at 2.5 tonne and acceleration is put at eight seconds from standstill to 50km/and maximum speed at 90km/h.

JAC Trucks’ first Australian truck market assault began in earnest about eight years ago with a 6.5 tonne J65 offering going to its first customer, armed with a 3.8 litre Cummins engine and a significant quoted price saving.

At the time, industry observers wondered if the move presaged part of a global Chinese truck challenge. But that thought proved premature as JAC struggled to make headway. And, despite an abortive effort to resuscitate the brand, it faltered few years later.


Read about JAC’s original Australia light trucks details, here

Reflecting on his earlier experience with the brand, Pecotic feels the rather basic vehicle that arrived in 2012 was probably "too agricultural" for the market, but he has since been keeping an eye on the company since.

"I’ve been following JAC for the past five years and watching this electric truck’s journey," he says.

"The last time I was in China was November 2019 with JAC. I trialled the truck myself and have been speaking to fleets in countries that have had the truck in service and I believe this is it. This is a truck that will do well here in Australia."

The move to return JAC to Australia is linked to bus-maker BLK’s entry into the country through the purchase of current distributor BCSA, which has for the past 14 years marketed its buses under the Bonluck name in Australia and New Zealand.

The new entity, called BLK Auto, will be headed by Pecotic as managing director and Peter Aldridge as chairman, and will take over many of the resources of BCSA with the imminent retirement of principal, Athol McKinnon and the decision by Rodd Hood to pursue his used bus sales business.

BLK’s move by to establish its own operation in Australia aims to enable the company to pivot to an electric and hydrogen fuel cell bus operation and to give it the resources and backing to put it on a footing for a zero emission future.

"The pivot to zero emission bus technology is an enormous opportunity and with the backing of BLK we will have the resources and expertise to take the brand to a new level in Australia," Pecotic says in that announcement. 

"BLK is already a key part of one of Australia’s first hydrogen fuel cell powered bus orders, providing President 2 glider chassis for the winning tender with Hyzon Motors for Fortescue’s initial 10 bus order, for its mining operations in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

"BLK Auto will also be distributing a new range of JAC battery EV trucks, the first of which are set to arrive in Australia within the next two months to start trials with a number of online home delivery retailers."

While BLK Auto will continue to be based in Queensland, it is now looking to appoint a Victorian sales representative along with a group general manager to oversee the sales and distribution throughout Australia and New Zealand.

JAC has been busy elsewhere in the world and not just in South America.

"Driven by policies such as infrastructure investment, consumer demand growth and overloading control, commercial vehicle segments maintained high growth trend, with cumulative sales of 298,000 units, up 15% YoY," official Chinese news organ Xinhua reports  this month.

"Among them, sales of light commercial vehicles increased steadily, up 11.1% YoY; while heavy commercial vehicles adhered to the differentiated competitive strategy of ‘key markets, key products and key customers’ and continued to seize market opportunities, with cumulative sales up nearly 50% YoY, and major product lines such as trucks, tractors and mixers achieving high-speed growth."


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