Challenges and opportunities for Victoria’s battery manufacturing future

Victorian manufacturers see opportunities for growth in the state’s cell or battery pack manufacturing capacity, with little interest in early stage chemical refining or at the other end of the supply chain, end user applications. These are the preliminary results of a recent survey by storEnergy researchers to assess the feasibility of Victoria becoming a centre for battery manufacturing.

In the study, commissioned by the Victorian Government, a team led by Mr Meisam Hasanpoor and Ms Karolina Biernacka sent a short survey of 16 questions to 105 Victorian manufacturers. They analysed the 41 responses received and presented a preliminary report at the recent Victorian Battery Manufacturing Industry roundtable.

Forty per cent of respondents identified potential to participate in manufacturing battery cells or battery pack/systems assembly and see further opportunities for growth in this sector. Only a small percentage identified opportunities at either ends of the supply chain, in the refining to chemicals or recycling sectors. About 40 per cent identified portable electronics and electric vehicles as important target markets, while 27 per cent and 23 per cent of respondents targeted residential and utility markets, respectively.

To determine the requirements for companies to enter battery manufacturing, respondents were asked to identify the most important factors required from suppliers. Product quality, warranty and reliability were cited as the most important. Somewhat surprisingly, shipping time, cost and range of products offered were of least importance.

Respondents identified insufficient market demand as the highest barrier to them entering the battery manufacturing sector; perceived lack of skilled labour and access to capital were other issues identified.

Only 10% of respondents have an automated manufacturing line installed, which Mr Hasanpoor said is a huge gap in terms of efficiency, versatility and reliability of the manufacturing lines that needs to be addressed for these manufacturers to enter the battery manufacturing sector, and compete with manufacturers globally.

Most participants were interested in entering the cell and battery pack manufacturing part of the battery supply chain. The respondents identified many areas were skills could be translated to battery manufacturing, such as engineering, business and development of protocols/standards. These transferable skills will be an important catalyst for the job market in coming years.

A final report will be presented early in 2022.

The research team included Dr Danah Al Masri, Mr Dale Duncan, Dr Colin Kang, and Mr Jayanth Kumar Jaya.