Australian-made EVs could jumpstart local industry, says Tesla chair

Australia’s vast deposits of lithium, along with its skilled workforce, mean the country is well-placed to revive local manufacturing to take advantage of global demand for Australian-made EVs and batteries, says Tesla chair Robyn Denholm.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Denholm said that Australia needs to embrace lithium refining and revive local manufacturing, rather than just shipp raw materials overseas to support the EV boom. 

Global EV sales doubled in the last year, led by China and Europe, and this is expected to accelerate as governments around the world tighten emission standards.

As the world weans itself off fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy, lithium offers Australia the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the clean energy revolution with Australian-made EVs. Local labour costs and Australia’s distance from some export markets would not necessarily make it too costly to manufacture cars and batteries locally, Denholm said.

Tesla produces vehicles in California, which is an expensive place to manufacture goods, yet it still ships them all around the world.

“To me, the fact that we don’t currently have a car manufacturing industry in Australia is actually not a bad thing because we have the skills, and we can retool and get people into advanced manufacturing,” Denholm said.

“Moving up the value chain is important for job creation but it’s also important in terms of the economics that can be yielded with that. And that’s why, from my perspective, the time to act on that is now.”

Denholm also urged the Australian government to follow the example of New Zealand and mandate fuel efficiency standards to drive the uptake of EVs, as well as increase efforts to extend the nation’s vehicle charging infrastructure to meet the coming demand.

“No country has more to gain from the world moving to electric vehicles than Australia,” Denholm said, “we can be a renewable energy superpower.”

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