Australia may still be dragging its heels in the uptake of electric vehicles compared to other developed countries around the world, but a high penetration of electric vehicle fast-chargers shows a country that is readying itself for a clean, green nation of drivers.
The number of DC fast-chargers – which can add from 60-400 kilometres of range to an electric car every 15 minutes – in Australia has almost doubled in the past 12 months from 46 sites a year ago to 71 as of July 2019 (figures do not include Tesla Superchargers).
With less than 3,000 electric vehicles registered in Australia, this equates to around one fast charger per 30 electric vehicles on the road, a penetration that is comparable to other developed countries like China or Germany.
“Things are definitely moving,” says Nathan Dunlop, head of market strategy for Tritium, a world leading DC fast charger manufacturer based in Brisbane, Australia, tells The Driven.
“At those 71 sites there are actually 89 fast chargers – while most of them have one [charging point], some have a few more and now there’s some larger sites which as have 4 or 6.
“Out of those 89, 10 are high-powered [350kW] chargers,” says Dunlop. “And of those 89, 78% are Tritium chargers, we are very proud to service the local markets.”
Broken down by state, the number of fast-chargers are:
While the figures are not as numerous as in the USA – both world leaders in EV penetration – the ratio of fast chargers to electric vehicles shows Australia is in fact well ahead of the pack, as can be seen against this chart from ICCT paper “Lessons Learned on Early Electric Vehicle Fast-Charging Deployments“, Dunlop explains.
“We’re doing really well in infrastructure compared to selling electric cars,” he says.
“There’s not a lag of infrastructure – we’re right there with the top ratios in Europe.”
It’s true that for now, regions on Australia’s eastern seaboard are currently better serviced than across the northern and western stretches of Australia, Dunlop adds.
But these are on the increase, with an average of one more charging location being installed every fortnight, says Dunlop.
Stakeholders are working on installing and managing networks, such as the NRMA which is installing an EV charging network throughout regional NSW areas, allowing “snow to sea” trips, or Chargefox, who on Tuesday announced it will take over management of the QESH effectively extending its own Adelaide to Brisbane network being rolled out all the way up to Cairns.
“There’s really good coverage when there’s dedicated network put in – such as the Queensland Electric Super Highway (QESH), which are about 200 km apart enabling people to drive the whole way from Coolangatta to Cairns and see all the brilliant things Queensland has to offer,” he says.
Increased use of these charging networks will serve to normalise the paradigm shift required to transition to EVs, from filling up at a service station to topping up at a charging plug.
“Lots of people are starting to see the charges and trust the technology,” says Dunlop. “It’s social proof – you see your mate driving an EV, see the chargers and that starts reinforcing that eventually that will be the norm.”
The message that Australian electric car infrastructure compares favourably when held up against the number of electric vehicles that are on the road, is that despite Australia being a global laggard in EV uptake, as a nation we are in a position to accommodate the increasing number of EVs likely to hit Australian roads over the next few years.
While the recently re-elected federal government has taken a tardy and near-sighted position on EV policy (not least illustrated by a pathetically “ludicrous” fake news campaign against EVs prior to May’s election)
This is despite recommendations from Senator Tim Storer following January’s EV senate committee, and in stark contrast to a recent survey from the RACV indicating that an overwhelming 70% of respondents want government action and financial incentives to accelerate electric vehicle uptake.
As Dunlop points out, there are numerous stakeholders – from car dealers to registry agencies, local government to energy providers – that need to transition in Australia, as the global car market shifts towards electrification.
“There’s a huge convergence of industries that needs to take place, that need to come together and see what the future looks like,” says Dunlop.
Meanwhile, a new deal announced on Wednesday has been inked between California-based company EV Connect to provide software to support the rollout of an ultra-rapid charging network by Brisbane-based Evie Networks, that it says will make travel between Australia’s major cities for electric vehicle drivers even easier.
Note: A previous version of this article stated the number of fast-chargers in Australia had over doubled.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.