.. I wonder if it's possible for us "Normal" people to help with this sort of thing ... 5 million Aussies .. one dollar a head through say .. PayPal or some other sort of donation system. I'd possibly even put in more than a dollar. Later on the company could give a little back some way possibly as a discount on a share purchase .. What do you think?
"PERMO-DRIVE is the sort of company that Kevin Rudd would like to believe is Australia's future - not only is it a manufacturer, it has developed innovative technology to slash fuel consumption."
"Its hybrid drive system for trucks promises to deliver fuel savings of up to 25 per cent, many times greater than the efficiency offered by the Toyota Camry the federal Government is backing with a $35 million cash grant.
From its base in Ballina, on the NSW north coast, the company secured the interest of the US army, which has subjected the technology to years of rigorous testing.
The company is ready to roll out 20 demonstrator models, and Australia's biggest trucking companies are keen to try them.
But all that promise now appears to be in doubt.
Permo-Drive chairman Colin Henson has written to the company's 1900 shareholders, telling them the company must be put into liquidation - and the Rudd Government's first budget was blamed.
The company was counting on a $5 million grant from the small business development program Commercial Ready, which was axed in the budget.
The company's executives were furious. "It seems very unfair of the federal Government to take away that opportunity from an Aussie company like Permo-Drive, yet, at the same time, announce a $35million fuel-saving hybrid subsidy to Toyota, a wealthy multinational company," Mr Henson wrote.
He told The Australian yesterday that while Toyota president Katuaki Watanabe had appeared nonplussed when asked what his company would do with the $35million federal grant, announced this month and immediately matched by a similar offer from the Victorian Government, Permo-Drive knew exactly what it would do with the $5million.
"That is the betterment of a technology that has been developed and proven in Australia," Mr Henson said.
He said a British venture capital company was prepared to put in $7.5million on condition that the business was successful in its application for the CR grant.
"A number of our potential investors were attracted by the fact that the company had the opportunity to claim under the Commercial Ready grants," Mr Henson said. "When they were scrapped, those investors evaporated."
Permo-Drive's technology is based on a hydraulic brake, which stores the energy released when a truck is slowing down by compressing gas in cylinders.
The truck then uses the power from the release of the gas when it is accelerating. It is ideal for rubbish trucks, postal vans and commercial delivery vans, which stop frequently.
Chief engineer Chris Marshall said the system was much lighter and cheaper than battery-based hybrid systems.
Permo-Drive was preparing its application for a Commercial Ready grant when the $700mil-lion-a-year program was axed in the budget. The program fell victim to the Government's razor gang after criticism from the Productivity Commission that it gave taxpayer funds to companies that would have gotten their technology to market anyway.
In its past 10 months, the program helped 125 small businesses get new products into production, ranging from a new design for orchestral harps to a mining drill.
Grants followed an appraisal by Ausindustry, provided there was matching funding from private sources. The Productivity Commission suggested the program would be improved if it were based on loans, not grants.
Coalition industry spokesman Eric Abetz said yesterday that while the Commercial Ready scheme could have been improved, it filled an important gap in small business funding.
"I would like to suggest to (Industry Minister) Kim Carr that he support Permo-Drive, but if he did that, he would be confronted with hundreds of similar requests from all around Australia," Senator Abetz said. "I have been inundated with tales of woe and concern from small businesses."
Senator Carr said the decision to chop the scheme had not been taken lightly.
"Anyone who says the budget wasn't tough needs only look to decisions like this," he said. "These disciplined savings measures will help to put downward pressure on inflation because we understand that inflation is real and it hurts working families."
He said almost three-quarters of the savings from the scheme had been earmarked for the Government's clean energy plan."