The nineteenth electric vehicle fast charging site in what will be a 40-strong network across key highway routes in NSW was opened Thursday morning at Byron Bay’s The Farm on the far north coast of NSW.
Situated on a very conspicuous site beside the main road into Byron Bay and only a minute off the Pacific Highway, the two fast-chargers have been installed by road motoring association NRMA.
Officially opened by NRMA’s executive GM of motoring, Nell Payne, and owners of Byron Bay attraction The Farm, Emma and Tom Lane, the chargers will not only make The Farm a convenient rest stop for electric vehicle drivers but also serve to bring awareness to those passing on their way to Australia’s most easterly town.
The two 50kW Tritium Veefil-RT chargers sporting one CHAdeMO and one CCS2 plug each (able to charge all but a few electric vehicles available in Australia) will be able to service one vehicle each at a time.
For the time being, all electric vehicle drivers will be able to top up their EVs within 30 minutes (this of course depends on the top charging rate of your EV).
Part of the NRMA charging network that once finished will have fast-chargers approximately 150 kilometres apart, Payne tells The Driven that: “It’s free for NRMA members and others at the moment because we’re trying to encourage people to use electric vehicles.”
“Obviously at some point we need to look at the economics but at the moment we’re really trying to drive people to get electric cars and get out and about.”
According to Payne, the NRMA is focussed on making sure that the auto industry is ready for the shift to electric vehicles, which is already well underway overseas but has been met with a fair amount of umbrage from certain quarters in Australia, not least by the Coalition government in the lead up to May’s federal election.
With no local manufacturing industry and a real dearth of fuel emissions regulation, Australia is at risk of becoming the final resting ground for old internal combustion engine (ICE) technology from global carmakers, says Payne.
“We really want to make certain that we support the growth of electric vehicles because we think that as more manufacturers are focussing all of their R&D on electric vehicles … we need to make sure Australia is ready for EVs, we don’t want to be a dumping ground for ICE vehicles,” she says.
Asked about the concerns of the auto servicing industry who fear that the introduction of electric vehicles may affect their workload and therefore income, Payne says that, “while there’s less maintenance with EVs in terms of what can and cannot go wrong, we think this is an evolutionary change.”
“As people get EVs they’re still going to get flat tyres, they still have windscreens, there’s plenty of things to keep people in that industry viable … and it’s about training everybody early so that they’re ready to meet the challenge.”
The next fast-charger site to open – and where the NRMA’s Hyundai Kona Electric will travel to next (it must the most travelled Kona Electric in Australia, Payne laughs) is in NSW’s south coastal town, Bega.
This will mark the halfway point for the NRMA charging network, which has been designed to cover 95% of trips throughout NSW.
After that will be Jugiong just 40km from Gundagai and then Holbrook just north-east of Albury, says Payne – both on the route between Sydney and Melbourne.
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.