Australia may be the smallest continent out of the seven, but it is no exemption to the bounty of resources in the world. The land down under is rich with the minerals and elements necessary to produce batteries and electric cars.
In the ranking of raw material production, Australia ranks sixth for aluminum and copper, fifth for nickel and manganese, fourth for neodymium, third for cobalt, second for iron, and the first for lithium. However, graphite is not as abundant there so AUS did not make it even close to the top ten.
The numbers are quite promising. One would think that it would be as simple as mining the materials and then take them to the factory. But it does not work out that way, because the materials still need to be processed into their usable compound derivatives in order to be integrated into the vehicle. And for that, they will need to build processing plants.
In terms of the battery materials that are nickel, cobalt, and aluminum, these elements still need to process into a cathode. And one of the companies that specialize in such processes is Sumitomo in Japan. So there would still be a need to outsource one of the production processes, and this seems counterproductive.
Even though Australia is a strong supplier of lithium deposits in the form of spodumene, the rocks are still sent to China to be transformed into lithium hydroxide, the compound used for batteries.
However, a major breakthrough might happen in the next couple of years as Albemarle is putting up a lithium processing plant in Kemerton, Western Australia. Tianqi Lithium, a China-based lithium company, is also constructing a processing plant in Quintana that will convert 24,000 tons of lithium hydroxide. But operations have been put on hold due to financial problems.
A possibility looms on the horizon that Tesla could buy Tianqi if ever the China company decides to sell the project.
Another factor that cripples Australia’s capacity to fully let EVs in, is the government itself. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, is a huge coal fanatic and an EV hater. While he’s in office, Tesla has low chances of stepping on to Australia’s welcome mat, even if Tesla has solved a major power problem for Southern Australia.
The auto market of Australia does not also look that good. In the year 2019, only 1 million new cars were sold. The bestsellers are what’s usually called ‘pick-up trucks’ like the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. This could be an opportunity to introduce Cybertruck.
Australia could also possibly supply Tesla cars to nearby countries such as New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Tesla is not a very common car in Australia because of the price. Even Elon Musk says that the selling price for the Model 3 in the country is quite high. 79.5 thousand AUD is the starting price for the electric vehicle. The Model S costs about 150,000 AUD.
Bottomline, there are still many hurdles that are in the way of Tesla establishing their name in Australia. The country may be rich with raw materials but lack the capacity to process them. The government does not support the concept of electric vehicles. Prices are too high for Tesla cars that it’s almost considered a luxury asset rather than an essential investment towards sustainable and low-cost living.