British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has approached the South Australian government with plans to transform former Holden factories into an electric car manufacturing hub.
The Advertiser has reported the GFG Alliance boss has been in contact with General Motors Holden to buy assets from the Elizabeth factory, which closed its doors at the end of last year.
SA energy minister and treasurer Tom Koutsantonis has asked GM Holden to support Mr Gupta’s plans, according to a letter obtained by the newspaper.
The letter confirms GFG Alliance intends to develop the site as an electric vehicle manufacturing base and states the company has lodged a bid to buy certain assets from the site before a public auction opened last Friday.
“We are incredibly excited and supportive of the GFG Alliance’s bid and subsequent plans to ensure the continuation of our very proud history of automotive excellence and innovation in South Australia,” Mr Koutsantonis wrote in the letter.
“We believe that the GFG Alliance’s plans would put South Australia at the forefront of the inevitable transition of the Australian market to electric vehicles and ask that all due consideration be given to their bid and the potentially significant benefits to the automotive industry and broader community in South Australia.”
Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has also thrown his support behind an electric vehicle revolution, telling a radio station this week that he and the Prime Minister had met Mr Gupta.
“He has some exciting plans for South Australia, and if he wants to invest in creating more jobs then of course we would always welcome that,” Mr Frydenberg told ABC Radio National.
The minister has come under fire by his colleagues for promoting electric cars in Australia, with a heavy reliance on coal-fired power potentially putting the Paris emissions targets at risk.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly and Nationals MPs Andrew Broad and John Williams said they would raise the matter in the Coalition partyroom, arguing there should be no further support given to the sector.
A report for the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development in 2016 found the high reliance on coal-fired power in Victoria, NSW and Queensland meant electric vehicles charged on the grid in those states “have a higher CO2 output than those emitted from the tailpipes of comparative petrol cars”.
Mr Frydenberg rejected the findings and said the government would continue to support the “exciting” industry.
He said there are several micro-sized EVs with a smaller carbon footprint than internal combustion vehicles.
“When taking into account the current average emissions of the national electricity grid, the Nissan Leaf and the Renault Zoe already produce less emissions per kilometre travelled when compared to an equivalent size vehicle,” he told The Australian.
“The emissions profile of EVs will decline as the grid becomes less emissions-intensive in the years ahead.”
Last year, Macquarie Leasing and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) joined forces to accelerate the use of electric vehicles in Australia through a new $100 million asset finance program.