Australia used to make cars, but that came to an end last year ago when Holden, the Australian division of General Motors, shuttered its assembly plant in South Australia. (The last Pontiac GTO was a rebadged Holden.) Now all cars sold Down Under are imported from other countries.
Several manufacturers have warned recently that the country is in danger of falling far behind the rest of the world when it comes to manufacturing electric cars. The head of BMW Australia said as much earlier this year and now Jaguar has joined in. “As one of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers, Jaguar Land Rover is calling on Australian government to provide a unified and clear road ahead for the industry to follow,” the company said in a statement in May.
Matthew Wiesner, head of JLR Australia, said the shift to EVs will happen with or without government backing, but would be much smoother and more beneficial to Australia’s economy if the right policies are set in place, according to RenewEconomy. “This is about safeguarding Australia’s future. Electric vehicles are here to stay and there’s an opportunity to build a burgeoning Australian industry (around them). (The shift to EVs) can create jobs and opportunities in sectors like advanced manufacturing, technology and even mining, where there will be increased demand for minerals needed for EV batteries.
“If we let the rest of the world race ahead, we risk becoming reliant on overseas services and products by the time we catch up. We need clear and cohesive leadership now to ensure we don’t miss out. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes made with the energy sector, where Government inaction and regulatory indecision stalled progress and ultimately cost Australians through higher prices,” Weisner said.
Jaguar recently commissioned a survey of Australian drivers, the results of which were revealed in May. It found that 68% of the people who participated in the survey believed Australia was “more than 10 times” behind the rest of the world in EV adoption. 79% want more government support for electric vehicles, including financial incentives for those who buy EVs.
85% of Australians said they think EVs could be a positive economic opportunity for Australia, while another 70% believe the world is in the middle of a transportation transformation that only occurs one every 100 years. Less than half of those surveyed felt their government has a clear vision for the electric car future. “Australians are ready for electric vehicles, and the industry is too. Now we need the federal government to do their bit and present their framework,” Wiesner said.
Australian senator Tim Storer has led an effort to create a senate committee to address the issue of electric cars in Australia. “Bloomberg predicts that EVs will make up more than 50% of all new car sales globally by 2040 and will be as cheap to buy as petrol and diesel cars on average by 2024,” Storer said in a statement to the press. “Australia is uniquely placed to take a leading role in this transformation. We have all the natural and human resources needed to build EVs from scratch.”
The committee will seek input from all stakeholders, including including the Electric Vehicle Council, major car manufacturers, current and prospective Australian based EV start-ups, lithium and cobalt miners and refiners, energy companies, state, territory and local governments, and environmental and health groups. “As the world’s leading lithium exporter, Australia is in the box seat to develop EV supply and value chain industries,” Storer said.
Australia has had a rather quixotic approach to renewable energy and electric cars, with senior members of government at both the state and federal level vigorously opposing both. Many in Australia seem fascinated with the nation’s coal reserves, which are enormous. They seem unable to grasp that coal represents a death sentence for the Earth and everything on it, including dingoes and wallabies.
But nothing succeeds like success. Renewable energy and battery storage are transforming the Australian power market. Perhaps electric cars could lead the way for the country to once again becoming a major vehicle manufacturing nation.