Two new documents released by the Queensland Government highlight the role Vaulta is set to play in Queensland’s battery strategy, and the importance of designing for the circular economy.
The Battery Industry Opportunities for Queensland discussion paper examines the opportunities for Queensland to become a leader in Australia’s battery industry.
The paper identifies Vaulta – the Brisbane-based company using advanced composite materials and smart, streamlined design to make recyclable, high-performance batteries – as a business that has a key role to play in Queensland’s battery value chain.
The Queensland Government has also released a Draft Queensland E-Products Action Plan, which lays out a plan to maximise waste reduction and sustainability outcomes for e-products, including batteries.
The Draft Action plan highlights the role that design has to play in making products suitable for the circular economy.
Vaulta founder and director Dominic Spooner says the release of these two documents is great news for the local battery industry.
“These documents prove the penny is dropping,” he says.
“They demonstrate the Queensland Government understands the opportunity that batteries represent for the economy – and the responsibility that comes with that.”
Maximising the battery industry opportunities for Queensland
The Battery Industry Opportunities for Queensland discussion paper highlights key opportunities and competitive advantages for Queensland’s battery industry, to inform the development of the Queensland Battery Industry Strategy.
The paper, which was commissioned by the Queensland Government, Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning and prepared by Accenture, identifies potential markets and the size of future demand that Queensland’s battery industry could target by 2030.
The paper lists Vaulta – which has developed a world-first no-weld battery case design that makes it possible to reuse and recycle battery cells – amongst a select group of Queensland companies with diverse integration, service and maintenance capabilities. The paper notes these capabilities will be required to satisfy customer demand for batteries in mobility and stationary storage applications.
“The integration, service and maintenance category is the space where the rubber hits the road,” Vaulta’s Dominic Spooner says.
“Every stage of the value chain is important, but ultimately it’s this category that turns these materials into energy products that people are actually going to buy. If we can’t do that, if we don’t have that successful uptake, then there is no battery industry.”
The paper puts forward two broad pathways for Queensland to pursue in developing a battery industry:
a) A local and specialised industry that could contribute $0.6 billion in gross value added (GVA)
b) A leading Australian industry that could contribute $1.3 billion in GVA
The paper notes that development of a leading Australian industry in Queensland would need to be underpinned by ambitious private sector investment and supply chain growth, with integrated research and development programs to support advanced materials manufacture, cell prototyping, pilot scale production, certification and testing.
“There’s no reason why we can’t develop a leading Australian industry in Queensland,” Dominic says.
“It’ll require collaboration between companies that might otherwise be considered competitors, but the size of the opportunity makes that possible – there’s plenty of pie to go around, so there’s space for a lot of people in this industry. We should go where the opportunity is.”
The Battery Industry Opportunities for Queensland discussion paper can be viewed here. The Queensland Battery Industry Strategy, which will incorporate feedback on the discussion paper, is currently being drafted. The Strategy is expected to be released midway through 2023.
Taking action on e-waste
At the same time the Queensland Government is preparing to unveil a strategy for Queensland’s battery industry, it’s also delivering a plan to manage waste from e-products, which includes batteries.
Australia is the fourth highest generator of e-waste per capita in the world. In Queensland, solar PV and battery storage equipment make up 50 per cent (by weight) of the e-products currently entering the state each year.
Lithium-ion batteries are, by far, the most commonly used for storing electricity. Originally used in smaller devices like smart phones, tablets and laptops, their superior energy-to-weight performance has made them the most popular option for electric car batteries and stationary batteries, but at the moment, only about two per cent of Australia’s lithium-ion batteries are recycled, while the other 98 per cent end up in landfill.
The first item in the draft Queensland E-Products Action Plan 2023-2033, prepared by the Queensland Government’s Office of Circular Economy and Department of Environment and Science, highlights the need for waste to be designed out of e-products.
The draft Action Plan notes that design is central to achieving the objectives of a circular economy, in which material loops are closed and products are reused and regenerated.
“Designing out wasteful procedures is the entire reason why Vaulta exists,” Dominic says.
“Vaulta’s no-weld design preserves the structural integrity of battery cells, so they can be reused, recycled and reconfigured as needed, rather than being dumped.
“When the battery has finished its first life, in the first application it was designed for, then the battery can be disassembled, the cells can come out of the case, and they can go onto a secondary application that demands less power.
“That same case can then be re-used with newer battery cells for the same application. Even if a newer, better and faster battery cell has come along in the meantime, it can go in the same case, because it’s easy to reconfigure.”
Dominic says the draft Action Plan validates the approach Vaulta has taken to designing battery cases.
“Seeing the Action Plan align with the very reason we started the business is a great indicator that we’re on the right track,” he says. “We knew the recyclability of batteries would become an important issue. We haven’t deviated from our strategy, and we’re now seeing this approach endorsed by legislation.
“We don’t have to change what we do in response to this legislation – we’re staying the course, we’re continuing to grow our team and expand our capacity, and it appears the industry is catching up.”
The draft Action Plan encourages governments at all levels to actively support and grow demand for circular e-products through their procurement strategies.
“The draft Action Plan is just further proof that the things we’ve been talking about all along matter,” Dominic says. “Not just for environmental reasons, but for economic reasons. You can’t just buy something with no intention or knowledge about what to do with it at the end of its lifespan – you need to take a circular approach, and that’s what we’re doing at Vaulta.”
The draft Action Plan can be viewed here. The Department of Environment and Science will be taking feedback on the draft until Monday 17 April 2023 at firstname.lastname@example.org.