Could Australia become an EV powerhouse?

According to a new report released today, Australia is well placed to become a major electric vehicle producer, but the government needs to act quickly to help turn this into a reality.

The new report ‘Rebuilding Vehicle Manufacturing in Australia: Industrial Opportunities in an Electrified Future’ by the Australia Institute’s Carmichael Centre, focuses on the possibilities for the local EV manufacturing sector.

The research highlights that a unique set of advantages gives Australia a historic chance to become a sustainable global manufacturer of EVs.

“When it comes to creating an EV manufacturing sector, Australia enjoys advantages other nations would die for: rich reserves of lithium and rare earths, strong industrial infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce, powerful training capacity, abundant renewable energy options, and untapped consumer potential,” said the report’s lead author Dr Mark Dean.

“And contrary to popular belief, we wouldn’t be starting from scratch. Thanks to the resilience of our remaining automotive manufacturing supply chain, a surprising amount of auto manufacturing work – including components, specialty vehicles, and engineering – still exists here.”

But Dean says Australia’s advantages wouldn’t count for much without government support.

The report makes several recommendations including:

  • Establishing an EV Manufacturing Industry Commission
  • Using tax incentives to encourage firms involved in the extraction of key minerals – primarily lithium and rare earths – with local manufacturing capabilities, especially emerging Australian EV battery industries
  • Introducing a long-term strategy for vocational training, ensuring the establishment of skills to service major EV manufacturers looking to set up operations Australia
  • Offering major global manufacturers incentives (tax incentives, access to infrastructure, potential public capital participation, etc) to global manufacturers to set up – especially in Australian regions undergoing transition from carbon-intensive industries
  • Introducing local procurement laws for the rapid electrification of government vehicle fleets

“No nation builds a major industry without its government taking a proactive role. Our new research shows there’s no excuse for inaction, because there are a huge range of powerful levers our government could be pulling,” Dean said.

“If we capture the moment we’ll capture abundant benefits: creating tens of thousands of regional manufacturing jobs, reducing our dependence on raw resource extraction, reinforcing our accelerating transition toward non-polluting energy sources, and spurring innovation, research, and engineering activity in Australia. We just need our government to act.”

Sea Electric, which developed the first true range of all-new electric trucks, are manufactured at the company’s base in Melbourne, agreed with the report’s findings and recommendations.

SEA Electric president, Asia Pacific Region, Bill Gillespie said, “SEA Electric commends the work of Dr Dean and the Carmichael Centre in preparing this report, and the light it shines on the potential for the EV manufacturing space here in Australia.

“Being pioneers in the zero-emissions logistics sector, we understand the outstanding possibilities that are available, with the opportunity for Australia to be a leader in the field internationally.

“Since the closure of the Australian car manufacturing industry, there remains a sophisticated skills base locally, as evidenced in our local design and engineering team.

“The strong local uptake of electric cars in 2021 points to the possibilities, but in commercial vehicles, companies need to see a pathway from governments to be assured that they are investing in a sustainable emission technology for their fleets.”

Gillespie added, “With around 20,000 diesel light and medium-duty trucks currently sold annually, Australia’s net-zero emissions goal by 2050 will not be met unless all governments take action to support the purchase of electric trucks.”

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