The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has announced it will provide $15 million in funding to Evie Networks to help roll-out the planned $50 million network of ultra-fast electric vehicle charges along Australia’s highways.

The funding will support the first phase of the $50.2 million program, which will provide 42 charging sites featuring 350kW ultra fast charger, which can add 400kms of range within 15 minutes.

They will be installed between Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane, as well as “destination charging” in Far North Queensland, Tasmania and Perth.

The first phase will see 23 sites built within the next 12 months. Construction will start at the first site north of Brisbane.

The sites will feature chargers made by Brisbane-based Tritium, which like Evie Networks is backed by investors that include Trevor St Baker, an entrepreneur mostly known for his promotion of coal fired generation.

St Baker is also part owner of the Vales Point power station and the founder of ERM Power, which is to be sold to Shell after the oil giant starts its shift into “electrification” of energy, including transport.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the new network would help to increase the supply and adoption of electric vehicles by building the charging infrastructure in key areas along major roads.

“Reducing range anxiety will encourage EV uptake by giving motorists confidence they can get where they want to go – even on long road trips,” he said.

Last year, ARENA also committed $6 million for to Chargefox’s ultra fast charging network which will include 21 charging sites from Adelaide to Brisbane, around Perth and in Tasmania.

Evie Networks’ CEO Chris Mills says Australia will need around 350 such sites to cover all the highways that make up Australia’s National Land Transportation Network.

“While many consumers will charge at home, they will also need plenty of fast chargers in towns, suburbs and cities. There are currently around 6,500 petrol stations. This is just the beginning of the infrastructure build out.”

In the UK, the uptake of EVs is much greater than Australia, the number of charging stations has now overtaken the number of petrol stations.

The Australia EV market is starting to show signs of life, with new models such as the Hyundai Kona and Ioniq, the new Nissan Leaf, and the nearly arrived Tesla Model 3 offering more options, albeit still at a price of $50,000 and more.

Still, more models are on their way, car companies are spending billions in research and development and the cost of EVs is expected to match that of their fossil fuel equivalents within a few years.

ARENA and CEFC last year suggested EVs would reach price parity with petrol cars by the early to mid 2020s when looking at the upfront cost, and sooner than this on a total cost of ownership basis.

A lack of fast charging infrastructure was identified as a barrier to the uptake of EVs.

“EVs could play a huge role in the future, allowing renewables to power our cars. This could reduce fossil fuel consumption from transport and reduce the cost of car ownership,” Miller said.

ARENA, Tritium, Chargefox and Evie Networks are all presenting at the EV Transition Conference co-hosted by The Driven and RenewEconomy and which starts in Sydney today.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a 350kW can charge 100kn in 15 minutes, but should have stated 400km in 15 minutes.

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