Labor leader Bill Shorten at the Actewagl Electric Car Charging Station in Canberra. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Labor leader Bill Shorten at the Actewagl Electric Car Charging Station in Canberra. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

As part of its national electric vehicle policy, Labor is promising to invest millions of dollars in re-igniting  Australia’s car manufacturing industry, with a focus on electric vehicles.

$A57 million fund is being pledged by Labor to create more jobs for Australians via “blue collar opportunities” while also addressing the pressing issue of carbon emissions and climate change.

Some $A30 million of the multi-million dollar plan would be used towards creating research and development opportunities to further develop Australia’s fledgling electric vehicle industry, with an eye to creating jobs in electric vehicle manufacture and design.

Another $A25 million will go towards grants for businesses and enterprises geared towards component research and manufacture.

The remaining $A2 million will go towards establishing an electric car battery making facility in Geelong in collaboration with Deakin University using sodium-ion technology, which it has been reported may be superior, safer and cheaper to produce than the lithium-ion batteries currently used in EVs.

The $57 million package would also be integrated with already established investment mandates under the $1 billion Advanced Manufacturing Future Fund and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

Labor in March announced plans to introduce a national electric vehicle strategy which includes a target of a 50% share of electric vehicles for all new car sales by 2030, and for government fleets by 2025.

The federal Opposition has copped some flack from the incumbent Coalition government, who have criticised Labor for not being transparent on costs for a national electric vehicle strategy, and has been using some frankly bizarre arguments against the EV policy, including the “end of the weekend.”

“Our perspective is we’re trying to get as much of Australia into manufacturing involvement…we still have supply chain companies in Australia that were part of the car manufacturing industry,” a spokesperson for Labor’s shadow minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Kim Carr told The Driven.

Australia already has a number of footholds in the global EV industry, including SEA Electric’s truck manufacturing facility in the La Trobe Valley, Victoria, as well as Brisbane-based Tritium which has global customers and deals for their world-class DC fast charging systems.

Key components for the all-electric Nissan Leaf are already manufactured in Melbourne, while EV startup ACE-EV has plans to assemble battery electric light commercial vehicles such as cargo vans and utes. UK steel billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has also announced plans to create an EV manufacturing plant in Australia.

The Labor electric vehicle policy will build on this; in an email obtained by The Driven this morning the full strategy includes the following:

  • Help companies create design and manufacturing jobs in electric and hydrogen automotive plants. 
  • Appoint a Supplier Advocate to be the coordinator and face of the overall transition plan and promote our capabilities and attract investment.
  • Provide $30 million for an Advanced Engineering and Electric Mobility Research and Development initiative to increase Australia’s role in globally focussed research and development; and integrate that with local manufacturing and skill development opportunities.
  • Provide $25 million in grant funding for research, commercialisation and enterprise capability development in vehicle electrification for the local components industry, and research sector.
  • Labor will establish a tripartite Electric Vehicle Innovation Council for EV which brings industry, unions, government and researchers together to develop a national EV innovation roadmap and will map the broader EV supply chain –and identify priority investments and actions.
  • Maximise industry development return on Commonwealth and state and territory government spending to give preference for suppliers developing design, R&D, EV and related capabilities in Australia.
  • Ensure national access and safety concerns about EV charging in homes and commercial buildings are incorporated in Australian standards and in future revisions to the National Construction Code.

Of the plan to ignite a cutting-edge battery R&D facility in Geelong, Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander said it would complement a $30 million Renewable Energy Microgrid project already planned for the University’s Waurn Ponds Campus.

“The emerging technology of sodium for use in batteries has the potential to offer safer and lower-cost battery technology for the kind of large-scale storage that will be required by the electric vehicle industry and for commercial and residential use into the future,” said Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander in a note by email.

“This includes for the commercial vehicle industry, which could help to revolutionise the environmental impact of heavy vehicles.

“It has never been more important for governments to support universities like Deakin to help drive the renewable energy revolution,” she said.

In addition to jump-starting a battery and electric car industry in Australia, Labor plans to establish a $A1 billion Hydrogen Plan to produce hydrogen as a fuel for domestic and overseas markets.

When Labor announced its national electric vehicle strategy in March it was met with approval by auto and energy industry stakeholders, while the Coalition ridiculed Labor for its stance on electric vehicles via a grossly inaccurate fake news campaign, despite having no detailed plan itself.

Some quarters however have said that a 50% target is not strong enough, with the National Road and Motorist’s Assocation and the Australian Greens saying a total ban on petrol and diesel new car sales by 2030 is needed if Australia is to meet its commitments to reducing transport-related emissions.

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