Australia could become 'superpower' in electric cars
Australia could play a major role in the world's transition to electric transport, manufacturing vehicles in the country and becoming a "global superpower" in the batteries that run them, a transport forum has heard.
But new start-ups, standards, government policies and innovation centres were urgently needed to ensure Australia did not miss lucrative opportunities, experts at the Electric Transport Industry Transformation Forum warned.
The forum, held at the Queensland University of Technology on Friday, comes just weeks after Australia registered record electric vehicle sales and as the federal government was expected to release a national policy on the technology.
The transport event, attended by industry success stories such as Tritium and Roev, heard Australian firms had unique advantages in the electric vehicle industry, particularly in battery manufacturing.
QUT National Battery Testing Centre project lead Dr Josh Watts said Australia's substantial mineral resources, including lithium and cobalt needed to make batteries, gave it a natural advantage.
But he said Australia needed to capitalise on this opportunity by processing more of the elements onshore.
"We absolutely could be a global superpower in this space, especially because we've got the raw materials needed to do that," Dr Watts said.
"We've got a growing ecosystem of manufacturers but we really need to start adding to our own raw materials and moving from that to processing. That's where there really is a lot of demand."
Electric Vehicle Council policy head Jake Whitehead said Australia also had the potential to revive local vehicle manufacturing.
Australian firms were already making electric trucks and buses, he said, but local firms could also turn the 20,000 to 30,000 caravans made in the country each year into electric vehicles.
"There's a great opportunity to electrify (caravans), use them as batteries on wheels and, in addition to that, when you're towing them because they're electrified... you can extend the driving range of the vehicle that's towing them," Mr Whitehead said.
"The key message here is that we have the ability to do this. We need the policy and the drive particularly from government but supported by industry and universities to capture that opportunity."
In addition to policy changes, Dr Michael Kane from Queensland's RAC motoring organisation said companies needed to work more closely with universities which were making electric vehicle technology breakthroughs but did not have the funds to create products.
"We need innovation hubs and we need industry and universities to work together," he said.
"Australia has one of the worst records in terms of translating research and development into commercial outcomes. We're great thinkers but we're not great deliverers.
"We can do it, we've done it in the past, and if we don't do it this time it's a massive missed opportunity."
The federal government is expected to launch a National Electric Vehicle Strategy in the coming weeks after receiving more than 500 submissions on the policy in October.
Australia had more than 83,000 electric vehicles on roads in February, with that figure expected to reach more than 100,000 later this year.