Electric car batteries could fuel a $17 billion boost

Australia could add more than 61,000 jobs and almost $17 billion to its bottom line if it made more electric car and solar storage batteries in the country, a report has revealed.

The Charging Ahead study, released by the Future Battery Industries Co-operative Research Centre on Wednesday, revealed demand for lithium-ion batteries had soared over the past 18 months, exceeding initial forecasts by 64 per cent.

But the report also warned other countries had recognised skyrocketing demand.

Science and Industry Minister Ed Husic said Australian firms would need to work quickly to ensure a window of opportunity did not ‚Äúclose on us‚ÄĚ.

The study, prepared by Accenture, found demand for batteries around the world would ‚Äúincrease by 18 times‚ÄĚ between 2020 and 2030, outperforming previous estimates of a tenfold jump.

Electric vehicles were the ‚Äúkey driver‚ÄĚ behind the growing demand, it found, as well as battery storage for solar energy.

The Charging Ahead report found Australia could add $16.9 billion in gross value by 2030 if it capitalised on the battery market, as well as 61,400 direct jobs and $55.2 billion in gross domestic product.

Announcing the study‚Äôs findings at the National Press Club, Mr Husic said Australia was in a unique position to take a leading role in the battery industry and needed to take an ambitious approach and avoid ‚Äúloser talk‚ÄĚ that had previously seen Australian innovations made overseas.

‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a window of opportunity to become a key player in battery manufacturing and the battery value chain, and then export that on to the world stage,‚ÄĚ he said.

‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt let that window close on us. We are recognised as possessing some of the greatest stores of critical minerals and rare earths on the planet, and that‚Äôs why I‚Äôve said if we mine it here, we should make it here.‚ÄĚ

China is currently the global leader in battery production but Australia has the world‚Äôs second largest supply of lithium ‚Äď a critical battery component.

Mr Husic said Australia had held preliminary discussions about battery resources and research with nearby nations, as well as the United States government as part of its Inflation Reduction Act. The law includes electric vehicle subsidies and battery manufacturing targets.

‚ÄúOur friends in the US know that they can‚Äôt do it all,‚ÄĚ he said.

‚ÄúThey want to work with people on this and hence the discussions that we had.‚ÄĚ

Report author and Accenture sustainability services managing director Shaun Chau said estimates for Australia’s potential income from the battery industry had more than doubled since 2021, although global competition was ramping up.

‚ÄúThe battery industry has taken off. We are seeing huge interest in battery technologies as part of the energy transition,‚ÄĚ he said.

‚ÄúThe opportunity for Australia to grow its role in the battery supply chain is large. However, other nations have also woken up to the prospect.‚ÄĚ

The Charging Ahead report recommended the federal government introduce policies to support local battery production, forge regional partnerships and create a specialist battery institute to support research, training and manufacturing facilities.

Future Battery Industries chief executive Shannon O‚ÄôRourke said governments, technology and mining firms should act quickly to ‚Äúleverage our battery industry‚Äôs competitive advantage‚ÄĚ.

‚ÄúThe time to act is now,‚ÄĚ Mr O‚ÄôRourke said.

Australia had more than 83,000 electric vehicles on its roads by the end of 2022, according to the Electric Vehicle Council, with more than 100,000 expected this year.

Worldwide, more than 10 million electric cars were sold in 2022, an increase of 60 per cent, according to the International Energy Agency.

 

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)

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