Australia shows the way forward for EVs in nations with vast distances

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From pv magazine Australia.

In a land of long distances such as Australia, the perennial problem of range anxiety has hindered the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs). Dodging trams in a Tesla in inner-city Melbourne is one thing – a 10-hour drive up the coast or into the bush to visit family is quite another. For that reason, the Australian Renewable Energy Association (ARENA) has made EV charging infrastructure a priority in its recent funding rounds.

The agency’s latest move was to give domestic charging network company Evie Networks (AU)$15 million (Rs72.5 crore) in federal funding to help the rollout of a charging network on Australia’s highways.

Evie Networks – largely funded by coal baron Trevor St Baker’s St Baker Energy Innovation Fund – is working alongside U.S. software company EV Connect on an ultra-fast highway charging network that could deliver a substantial improvement in the affordability and popularity of EVs.

The ARENA funding tops up the $50.2 million allocated to the first phase of an intercity highway network of 350 kW ultra-fast chargers planned along the National Land Transport Network – a map of nationally important road and rail links determined by the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities.

Connecting Adelaide and Cairns

The initial plan entails 42 renewables-powered EV charging sites at roadside service centers connecting Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane, without destination charging in Far North Queensland, Tasmania and Perth.

With construction of the first sites – north of Brisbane – due to begin yesterday, Evie was confident 23 sites will be operational in a year’s time and the Department of Infrastructure said the network would mean EV owners tired of shiraz and churches in Adelaide can drive all the way to Cairns without fret to enjoy rum, sunshine and the company of Queenslanders.

ARENA chief executive Darren Miller said Evie Networks’ chargers would further contribute to the uptake of EVs in Australia. “Evie’s fast charging stations across the country will help to increase the supply and adoption of electric vehicles by building the charging infrastructure in key areas along major roads,” he said. “Reducing range anxiety will encourage EV uptake by giving motorists confidence they can get where they want to go – even on long road trips.”

Each of the planned 42 sites will be able to recharge two cars simultaneously using chargers manufactured by Tritium. The devices, which can provide 100km of range in 15 minutes, are suitable for all EVs – including Tesla models with the use of an adaptor.

There ain’t no time to mess around

“We have estimated that Australia needs around 350 sites to cover all the highways that make up Australia’s National Land Transportation Network,” said Evie Networks CEO Chris Mills. “While many consumers will charge at home, they will also need plenty of fast chargers in towns, suburbs and cities. There are currently around 6,500 petrol stations. This is just the beginning of the infrastructure build out.”

ARENA shares Mills’ prediction about the size of the eventual EV network in Australia which is why the agency committed another $6 million to the country’s only public ultra-rapid EV charging network – operated by Chargefox – last year. Chargefox is working on another 21 highway charging sites.

Last year ARENA and national green bank the Clean Energy Finance Corporation published a report predicting the uptake of EVs would increase significantly in the next decade as price parity with petrol cars was achieved and surpassed. However, without a large charging network EV deployment has been handicapped.

Maybe ARENA looked to former Easybeats frontman Stevie Wright for inspiration and decided to holler: “Evie, Evie, Evie let your hair hang down.”

By Blake Matich