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Four suppliers win $6.2m in green car grants

Body work: Industry minister Kim Carr (left) talks to a Holden worker at the company’s Elizabeth assembly plant recently after announcing $39.8m in green-car funding for ‘light-weighting’ the next Commodore.

Fresh GCIF funding set to boost local parts sector – and Holden’s 2014 VF Commodore

General News logo15 Jul 2011

FOUR new federal grants to Australian automotive suppliers totalling $6.2 million were awarded this week as the Gillard government continues to approve projects under its now-defunct Green Car Innovation Fund.

Federal innovation and industry minister Kim Carr, who in recent days has detailed a range of industry support initiatives in the wake of the government’s carbon tax announcement, said the four new GCIF projects – awarded to Toyoda Gosei Australia, Hirotec, Composite Materials Engineering (CME) and CFusion – would all bring “new technologies, skills and job creation to Australian manufacturing”.

“The components being developed to retool our automotive industry will help cars that are friendlier on the environment and the pocket,” Senator Carr said.

“In this case, we expect the four projects will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 133,000 tonnes and significantly reduce fuel consumption.”

Winning the lion’s share of the latest funding, which generally requires three corporate dollars for every one taxpayer dollar, South Australian-based Toyoda Gosei has received $2,367,616 to assist it introduce and refine technologies for manufacturing lighter automotive components.

These will specifically focus on body sealing products, safety system products (primarily airbag modules) and plastic interior trim products.

As a key supplier to Holden, Toyoda Gosei’s funding is likely to feed into the ‘light-weighting’ program underway for the next-generation VF Commodore due in 2014 – for which Holden recently received a further $39.8 million under the GCIF.

Holden is also the principal client of SA-based Hirotec, which will likewise use the $1,666,559 it has been granted under the GCIF to produce lighter automotive components including aluminium bonnets and bootlids – components specifically referred to in the recent Commodore announcement.

Official government documents list the Hirotec funding as assisting the company “introduce and refine technologies for manufacturing lighter automotive components”.

As with other programs, the upshot is to reduce weight and achieve corresponding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Victorian-based CME has won funding of $797,399 to develop a high-strength, lightweight sandwich panel for use in the load floor of Australian-made vehicles.

This panel, which can also be used in building industry applications, is claimed to “significantly reduce the weight of the load floor whilst meeting all of the performance requirements for this component”.

According to its description in the AusIndustry funding document, the panel will utilise a honeycomb cardboard core and will not distort, soften or weaken in temperatures ranging from -30C to 140C.

Victoria’s CFusion has received $1,393,130 to commercialise its single-piece carbon-fibre steering wheel.

The steering wheel is claimed to be a world-first and has been developed over the past five years in collaboration with the Deakin University in Geelong, which last year opened a new Victorian government-supported ‘proof of concept’ facility.

The work of Geelong brothers Matt and Jake Dingle, the carbon-fibre tiller is approximately half the weight of aluminium wheels and is claimed to provide “significant fuel savings and superior strength properties relative to conventional metal wheels”.

It is being pitched primarily to sportscar manufacturers and, through its light weight, is also claimed to improve safety by decreasing braking distances and enhance performance by allowing faster acceleration and better grip.

Despite the billion-dollar GCIF being axed in January to help pay for Queensland flood recovery, the federal government is honouring its commitment to process applications received at that time.

The latest projects are not expected to be the last to qualify for GCIF funding, with Senator Carr revealing to GoAuto at the time of Holden’s light-weighting announcement in May that the government had committed a further $500 million before applications closed.

With the latest grants included, that could potentially leave more than $130 million still to be allocated.

Earlier this week, Senator Carr called for comment on the administrative arrangements with the government’s new R&D Tax Credit, a replacement for the current R&D Tax Concession that aims to give small and medium-sized businesses more assistance to “create the new jobs, skills and technologies they need to thrive in a competitive and low-carbon economy”.

He also visited a pilot bio-fuel plant in Mackay, Queensland, which has received $5 million in federal funding to develop – with the help of Queensland University of Technology scientists – fuel made from sugarcane waste, highlighting that “access to cost-effective renewable energies such as bio-fuel would help the transport industry thrive in a clean energy future”.

Senator Carr said the Mackay Renewable Biocommodities Pilot Plant, as it is known, also stood to benefit from the government’s carbon tax scheme “as more funding is made available to support private investment in renewable energy, low emissions technology and energy efficiency measures”.

The minister said the new Australian Renewable Energy Agency will administer $3.2 billion in existing government grants for R&D into renewable energy technologies and initiatives to bring them to market.

On Thursday, Senator Carr told a group of industry leaders who chair his various advisory committees that the government’s carbon tax scheme would ultimately benefit Australian manufacturers, including those in the car industry.

“Manufacturers will respond to the carbon price by improving their production and resource efficiency and by innovating to develop low-carbon products and technologies to maintain competitiveness in a changing global environment,” he said.

“Simply doing nothing is not an option.

“By seizing the opportunities and seizing the advantages offered under the ‘Clean Energy Future’ programs, Australian businesses will be able to lead the world in developing technologies for a cleaner, greener future.”

The senator said that apart from programs focused on steel manufacturing and the food and foundry sectors, manufacturing would receive transitional adjustment assistance totalling $800 million over seven years under the ‘Clean Technology Investment Program’.

He also said an additional $200 million five-year ‘Clean Technology Innovation Program’ will support research, development and commercialisation of clean technology products, processes and services “to support innovation in industry”.

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