Australia is looking to rebuild its car-making capacity using its abundance of key minerals to encourage major electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers to set up operations Downunder.
The federal government last year released its Future Fuels Strategy, identifying opportunities for the country’s reserves of the minerals, rare earths and base metals needed for EV and battery technologies.
Now a new report, Rebuilding Vehicle Manufacturing in Australia: Industrial Opportunities in an Electrified Future, found Australia was uniquely blessed with advantages to attract and retain EV manufacturing. But it warned that it needed major government support.
“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 Dr Mark Dean, the report’s lead author.
“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.”
The report recommended setting up an EV Manufacturing Industry Commission and a long-term strategy for vocational training to ensure EV manufacturers eyeing an Australian plant had a ready-made skilled workforce.
It said the industry would be boosted by offering major EV manufacturers tax incentives to set up – especially in Australian regions undergoing a transition from carbon-intensive industries. It also recommended tax breaks for mining companies involved in the extraction of key minerals.
Australia is the world’s biggest producer of lithium and accounts for an estimated 30 per cent of known resources. Most of its lithium, however, is exported as spodumene concentrate, rather than refined battery-ready material.
The plan said capturing opportunities in the EV and battery energy storage supply chain could create 34,700 jobs in Australia by 2030, while global demand for batteries has been forecast to increase tenfold to reach $A151 billion by the same year.
The president of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, Andrew Dettmer, said a worker-led industrial transformation of the economy with electric vehicle manufacturing at its core would result in an advanced economy founded on economic, social and environmental justice.
“If the government introduces the right industrial strategy to attract and retain EV manufacturing we can rebuild our national car-making capacity,” he said.