December 19, 2019: Robert Gell, an internationally respected expert on battery testing, electric vehicle charging and an early EV pioneer, died on December 10 at a private hospital in Adelaide, Australia after a brief illness. He was just 73 years old.
Gell’s career in energy storage started in 1989 at GNB, a lead acid battery manufacturer later acquired by Exide Technologies. During this time he worked for the then leading Australian roadside assistance battery installers, Marshall Batteries.
He was then shifted to the research and development arm of GNB, developing batteries to gain a longer lifespan in extreme temperatures. In the process he became an expert on lead battery additives with a formidable understanding of the causes of how and why batteries fail.
In his next position he became national manager for commercial sales and worked there until about 2003, when he went to manage motoring organization Club Assist Australia. Here he took care of its global training and battery roll-out programs for the USA and Europe markets at the time.
“After a very brief 10-week retirement trial in 2011, he needed to do something,” says his son Phil Gell, also co-founder of Gelco Services, a battery testing and validation firm that the two set up.
“Over the years in Gelco he pioneered the installation of the first 3 DC electric vehicle fast chargers in Australia in 2011, then grew Gelco to cover automotive battery services before moving into storage, mobile power solutions and e-bike batteries.”
From his early contacts with electric vehicles in the late 2000s, Gell was one of the first knowledgeable enthusiasts of lithium ion batteries, although he still saw a future for advanced lead batteries and followed the development of EFB and AGM batteries.
In March 2018, Digatron Power Electronics, the international testing firm, and Gelco Services formalized an existing working relationship, giving Gelco an exclusive technical sales and service representation for Digatron in Australia and New Zealand.
Kevin Campbell, CEO of Digatron Power Electronics, said: “Our condolences go out to the Gell family and the team at Gelco Services, with the sad passing of Bob.
“Bob and Digatron had a long standing partnership through his company that both sold and serviced our equipment in Australia. Bob will be sadly missed as a partner and as a friend. He was a true gentleman and a scholar.”
Similar tributes have been made by his colleagues, friends, family and customers.
“He was a man of tradition and innovation. He lived a life of love, fun, devotion and caring and is respected and remembered by all who knew him,” said a family statement.
“He will be sadly missed by many around the world who called on his many talents and wealth of knowledge,” said a colleague. “It was humbling to see how many lives he touched, the respect he received as a professional businessperson, and of course a true gentleman … Bob you will be missed.”
His son, Phil, who heads up Gelco, says his father had taken a step back from the business in the past couple of years to focus on the good things in life.
A funeral service was held on December 17.
He is survived by his wife Christine and his three sons Sean, Philip and Timothy and grandchildren Nicholas and Caitlyn.