Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (second from right) has announced a deal with electric car maker SEA Electric. (ABC News: Stephanie Anderson)
About 500 jobs are set to be created in the Latrobe Valley, with the Victorian Government announcing a deal to bring the manufacturing of electric vehicles to the region.
The Australian-owned SEA Electric will set up the factory in Morwell, in the state’s east, with the first vehicle expected to roll off the production line in about a year.
The company aims to eventually assemble up to 5,000 per year at the site.
As well as meeting the country’s growing demand for electric cars, the deal is expected to create hundreds of jobs.
“Our announcement today, the partnership with SEA Electric, is all about making sure the Latrobe Valley is the national capital for electric vehicles,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.
“We said we would stand with the Latrobe Valley, we’d back the Latrobe Valley, that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
SEA Electric executive chairman Tony Fairweather said the company was close to choosing an exact site for the factory, and planned to start training up local workers at its Dandenong plant as soon as possible.
“We’re also well advanced with starting the recruitment process for Latrobe Valley residents that are willing to … start working with SEA Electric immediately in our Dandenong facility with the ability to transition back into the Latrobe Valley facility once it’s ready,” he said.
While the announcement is not an election promise, it is likely to be a vote winner in the marginal seat of Morwell, where jobs are a key concern.
The seat is a low-socio-economic area and the closure of the Hazelwood power station last year hit the area hard.
Government support for the deal has come from the $266 million Latrobe Valley Support Package, though Mr Andrews refused to detail how much the Government had provided.
Other car manufacturers have taken government support, only to close down local production.
Mr Andrews would not say what conditions were attached to the Government’s commitment.
Infrastructure to help drive electric car demand
The announcement comes as Australia’s first ultra-rapid Chargefox charging station opened at Euroa, in north-east Victoria, this month.
It charges electric cars around 15 times faster than other charging stations currently on the market.
Another ultra-rapid station will soon open at Barnawartha North, near Wodonga, and more are flagged for Melbourne, Ballarat, Horsham, Torquay and Traralgon, with 22 stations expected all up.
The chargers are capable of power output of at least 150kW and up to 350kW, fully charging an electric vehicle in under 15 minutes, with power sourced from 100 per cent renewable energy.
The charge will allow electric vehicles to travel for about 400 kilometres before needing to be recharged.
“The charging stations we’re installing are much, much more powerful than those installed in Australia today,” Chargefox CEO Marty Andrews said.
“There’s probably about 20 to 30 of these chargers worldwide, on only a handful of sites, so this is really world-leading technology that’s being installed right here in Australia.”
The company said it would continue to add more sites over time to create a network around Australia to make travel more accessible to electric vehicle owners.
“There’s not that many electric cars in Australia right now, probably a little over 10,000,” he said.
“But all of the forecasts show those numbers growing very dramatically to the point where we have millions in about a decade.”
The Victorian Government has committed $2 million to getting the stations installed, in line with its legislated target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
“Uptake of electric vehicles will help us reduce emissions and to tackle climate change”, Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment & Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said.
“More Victorians will be driving electric vehicles in the future, that’s why we’re building the infrastructure to be ready to meet this demand.”
Build it and they will come
Australian Motoring Services said the barriers to people driving electric cars — the cost of purchasing a vehicle and the difficulty accessing charging stations — were likely to come down.
“Last year we saw probably less than 3,000 EVs [electric vehicles] sold,” CEO Michael Reed said.
“With the number of manufacturers soon to roll out their EVs, it’s going to be a very different situation.”
He said fast-charging stations were a positive start.
“If you build it, they will come,” he said.
“As production cost comes down and the prices become more affordable, we’re going to see a much larger intake and sale of EVs.”