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The group behind a proposed $3 billion North Queensland lithium-ion battery factory aims to set up a battery pack assembly plant in Townsville as a forerunner to that operation.

Magnis Energy Technologies chairman Frank Poullas said the assembly plant was likely to employ about 100 people and would be housed in an existing building.

But the plan is dependent on drumming up enough interest from buyers.

“It’s all relying on those offtakes but if, for instance, we were able to secure a big contract – and we’re working on a couple – so if we were able to secure it tomorrow, we could have the assembly plant up and running within 12 months,” Mr Poullas said.

Magnis Energy Technologies owns one third of the Imperium3 Townsville venture proposing a 18 GWh lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing facility in the city’s Lansdown industrial precinct.

The group aims to start construction on that project next year, while an Imperium3 New York consortium is also working to bring a 1.8GWh plant online in the United States.

Mr Poullas said the consortium initially would be looking at sending cells from the New York plant to be assembled into battery packs in Townsville with software and casing to suit the needs of offtake partners.

“We want to make these batteries locally. We think it’s a great opportunity, especially for the community in Townsville which has had its struggles in recent times, where you could have an industry that’s here for the future and has huge demand both now and growing in its backyard,” he said.

“It’s clean and renewable energy and we can create those jobs, but we need those offtakes.”

Mr Poullas said the group was working with government and private enterprise to lock in deals.

He said Imperium3 Townsville was looking for support from Australian industry for the lithium-ion cell production as well and believed its product would be competitive with Chinese manufacturers.

The planned 18 GWh lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing facility would be the largest such plant in Australia, with no larger projects in the pipeline, Mr Poullas said.

He believed it would be a significant enabler for further manufacturing in the region.

“Once we’ve got it up and running we’ll have a whole bunch of supply chain partners, so groups who are providing certain parts for the lithium-ion batteries we’ll be producing, who will be co-locating with us in Townsville,” he said.

“But then let’s take it a step further and forward. If we would have, as an example, an EV supplier, one of these car manufacturers, what stops them? The major import is the battery.

“You would think logically if they were looking at producing cars in Australia, why wouldn’t you do it in Townsville seeing that you already have the batteries being made in the area?”

Battery firm seeks offtake support to charge up plans