The developers of Australia’s first nationally coordinated electric vehicle fast charging network have had a name change and a major funding boost, transforming them from Fast Cities into Evie Networks, and adding another $28 million to the cause of driving EV uptake.

The newly rebadged Evie Networks said on Wednesday that major shareholder St Baker Energy Innovation Fund – the investment vehicle of Rich Lister and coal baron Trevor St Baker, who is also chair of Evie – had committed a further $28 million to the company’s kitty.

This follows a $7 million investment from St Baker’s Energy Innovation Fund made in July last year, which allowed work to begin on the first phase of the plan – a nationwide roll-out of 42 ultra-fast electric vehicle chargers.

Evie Networks said this initial rollout, which is focused on highway coverage to link Australia’s major capital cities, was well progressed, with the first site on track to be operational by mid-2019.

The company said the ultra-fast chargers would give EV drivers a refuelling experience similar in duration to that of a conventional internal combustion engine car.

“An extensive, accessible charging network is an essential ingredient in the sustained uptake of electric vehicles,” Evie Networks CEO Chris Miller said in a statement on Wednesday.

“This network will give confidence to the auto manufacturers to import electric vehicle models to Australia, and with greater model availability comes more affordable vehicles.

“While Australia waits for strong policy, the private sector is leading the way,” he said.

Mills noted that the new investment coincided with the recent release of an Infrastructure Australia report pinpointing the lack of infrastructure as a major barrier to the electrification of Australia’s transportation system.

“Our initial network of 42 ultra-fast electric vehicle chargers, which is the largest highway rollout planned in Australia to date, will open the door to long distance travel for electric vehicles by making charging more accessible,” he said.

“Increasing the number of chargers around Australia will make lower-cost models more available and practical, and this is the key to encouraging people to make the switch.”

St Baker, who is currently seeking federal government funding to extend the life of a coal power plant owned by another of his companies, said the EV industry had the potential to boost the Australian economy, enhance public health, and offer benefits to both consumers and businesses.

“A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the EV council has found the electrification of transport has potential to add $3 billion to GDP, create over 13,000 jobs and reduce emissions by 18 million tonnes,” he Baker said.

“This future cannot be achieved without dedicated investment in education and infrastructure to advance our nation’s capabilities and spark forward-thinking change.”

As we reported here last year, the entity previously known as Fast Cities Australia was first conceived almost four years ago, off the back of seed funding of $0.5 million, also from St Baker’s Energy Innovation Fund.

It has since been gathering enough working capital to begin work in earnest on the $100 million infrastructure project, which both Mills and Fast Cities co-founder Paul Fox passionately believe will be critical to driving Australian EV uptake.

The first step of the plan is to have the first 16 sites – which will span between Brisbane and Melbourne – installed by the end of 2019, with the balance of the 42 to be completed by the end of 2021.

Mills said in July the initially rollout amount of 42 was settled on based on the theory that it would put the fast charging sites within around 150km of each other.

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