Plans to roll out Australia’s largest open network of ultra-rapid electric vehicle charging stations have kicked off in Victoria, with the unveiling of the first 350kW facility by Chargefox.
The station – located on Tarcombe Street in Euroa, in the state’s north-east – was officially launched on Thursday morning by the Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio, with representatives of several major car manufacturers in attendance.
It follows the announcement, earlier this month, of a $1 million Victorian government grant to go towards the Euroa ultra-rapid charging station, and another in Barnawartha North, near Wodonga.
And on Monday, Chargefox said it had gathered most of the rest of the $15 million it will need to build the nation-wide network, with $6 million funding from ARENA and an $8 million investment from the Australian Motoring Services, Wilson Transformers and CarSales founder Greg Roebuck.
Speaking at the launch, D’Ambrosio said her government would tip in another $2 million, to support charging stations in Melbourne, Ballarat, Horsham, Torquay and Traralgon.
As well as marking a significant turning point in Australia’s shift to electric vehicles, the launch of the Euroa station marks just the third time the 350kW EV charging technology has been installed anywhere in the world.
Backed by 150kW of solar PV (100kW on the station roof and 50kW on the ground) and a 273kW/410kWh ABB battery, the ultra-rapid chargers – also made by ABB – can give most current electric vehicle models 300km of charge in just half an hour.
In the case of a Porsche Taycan, which boasts a 900v battery, it can deliver 300km of charge in just 10 minutes.
It’s cutting edge technology, and backed by Chargefox’s software platform, the Melbourne-based company hopes the fast-charging network will bring Australia back up to speed on electric vehicles, when it has so far been slow out of the blocks.
Chargefox said on Thursday it had locked in partnerships with leading car manufacturers Audi, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz, that would see them commit to using the ultra-rapid charging network.
Evan Beaver, who leads the charging team at Chargefox – having previously worked at Tesla – says one of the company’s key goals has been to make the technology, and the use of it by consumers, as simple to use as possible.
And that’s no easy task. As The Driven’s Bryce Gaton has explained, despite the push for a common standard in charging technology, not all charging plugs were created equal, and not all EV manufacturers are on the same page.
Global efforts to rectify this have come up with the Combined Charging System (CCS) system: incorporating the Type 1 AC plug as CCS1 in 120V AC countries, and the Type 2 AC plug as CCS2 in 220 – 240V countries.
And this is the sort that the Chargefox network will use.
“The reason we can confidently build this network, is because we’ve been working with the car manufacturers, and this is what they want,” Beaver told The Driven in an interview on Wednesday.
“CCS is what everyone should be using.”
The bottom line for EV drivers is, Chargefox’s ultra-rapid stations can charge any EV on the market at the moment, except those that can’t DC charge, including some of the very early EVs and plug-in hybrids.
And they can do that very quickly. (Although, Beaver notes that this is contingent on the manufacturer, with the charge rate of EV batteries set in the factory.)
“The good thing about the chargers we’ve used, is we’ve got this variety of cars on the market – and they can charge all of them at the fastest rate possible.
“Most of the cars coming now are (charging) at about the same rate as Tesla,” says Beaver – about 20kWh per 100km.
“So 60kWh (half an hour) gives you about 300km of range. And that’s plenty.
“That means you drive for about two hours, stop for about half hour, drive for another two hours – and that’s really the safest way to drive long distances.”
Beaver said that out of interest, he had been comparing how long he and his family spent at a petrol station, during a fuel stop on a road-trip.
“I’ve never seen us get out in under 18 minutes. Fill the tank, two kids go inside and use the toilet…
“With an EV, you can just drive up, plug in, and do what you want for 10 minutes. It’s too easy.”
As for the cost of the charging, that’s a bit harder to nail down.
“More expensive than electricity at home, but a third to a quarter of the cost of petrol,” Beaver told The Driven.
“It’s complicated. There’ll be different types of users. Some might pay to have unlimited charging, or other bundles. But it will all be done through the Chargefox app.”
But Beaver is certain of one thing, and that is the solar and battery Chargefox has added to the Euroa charging station is helping to deliver the greenest and cheapest electricity for EV drivers.
“It’s incredibly good value solar,” he said. “I would put more there, but we haven’t got the room.
“Because we’ve got a battery, we will rarely export, so we can manage demand charges. It also means that almost all of the grid power will be ruled out.
“It varies seasonally, but from October to March there will be very little power from the grid.”
And if power does come from the grid, Beaver says Chargefox is “absolutely only buying green power.”