The introduction of Australia’s first fast-charge EV network, funded with $15 million from ARENA and Australia’s car clubs to name a few, and to be implemented by Melbourne’s Chargefox, is great news.
It is both a positive and encouraging step towards addressing one of the key barriers to the broader uptake of electric vehicles in Australia, and for consumers gets to the root of so-called range anxiety.
But Australia is still stuck far behind the US and many other parts of the world when it comes to establishing a functioning EV ecosystem — in particular EV charging infrastructure.
Up until now, Queensland has lead the way in getting an public EV charging network up and running in the Queensland Electric Superhighway, that drivers can use to travel the long distance up the state’s coast, from Coolangatta to Cairns, and to Toowoomba.
The new interstate network will connect other major cities of Australia, in effect extending Queensland’s network of CHAdeMO and CCS2 DC plugs from Brisbane to Adelaide via Sydney, the ACT and Melbourne (with a separate line included for Perth and its surrounds).
It will add 21 new locations to the network of ultra-fast public charging sites already available in Australia (not including Tesla’s 22 proprietary supercharger locations and numerous destination charger locations) — overlaid by The Driven onto Plugshare’s EV charging map (filtered to show the industry recommended CHAdeMO and CCS/SAE plugs).
It’s a goal kicked for what has been a passionate project for the founders of Chargefox and its parent company JET Charge.
“Chargefox is committed to sustainable mobility. Our network of ultra-rapid charging stations will play a significant part in improving the infrastructure of this country and remove one of the major barriers that limits the adoption of EVs,” CEO Marty Andrews said in a statement yesterday.
Tesla are also adding to their own proprietary EV charging network, having recently updated the Australian site to “reflect timelines and build-outs”, according to Tesla Australia’s spokesperson.
Its newest supercharger was opened on Tuesday in Canberra, and it has 17 new supercharger stations in the pipeline, with approximate dates for launch shown for each station.
The pioneering EV maker has also just hit a milestone 600 destination chargers installed across Australia and New Zealand.
But all this still leaves Australia a long way off the thousands of public network chargers located across the United States that will soon be available to US drivers thanks to an interoperability agreement signed between VW’s Electrify America, EV Connect, Greenlots and SemaConnect.
Granted, Australia is a wide and brown land with considerably less population — and traffic — outside of the big cities and away from the coasts, but living in remote areas should not preclude Aussies from easy access to fast chargers.
Yes, the owner of an electric vehicle can charge at home — but what about when traveling out on the open road? What about when a situation arises that needs charging — stat — to get to the nearest major hospital, or police station, or simply to meet essential needs such as filling a medical script?
While we have notable examples of EV drivers traversing Australia’s long distances — such as Wiebe Wakker of Dutch Plug Me In fame, and Aussie solo septuagenarian Sylvia Wilson — such trips are characterised by extensive planning, and accommodating locals, to ensure chargers are reached and mishap is not met.
Electrify America itself has committed to 300 highway sites across the US, with 40 already available or coming soon, as well as 650 ‘community-based sites’, as shown in a map from its website.
Along with the chargers from EV Connect, SemaConnect and Greenlots, this will mean 12,500 publicly accessible, non-proprietary charging stations available to North American EV drivers by June 30, 2019.
The funding from ARENA, Australian Motoring Services, Wilson Transformers and CarSales’ Greg Roebuck is great news for Australians — but it’s just the start.
With a slew of lower-priced electric cars about to hit the Australian auto market over the next 12 months, one thing is certain: our EV charging network will have to keep up or risk further holding back Aussies from making a difference to carbon emissions in one of the biggest areas they can personally affect — on the roads.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.