On the edge of a carpark in Gippsland’s La Trobe Valley, a row of electric car chargers await the spark of life that will allow them to power the transition to clean transport in the very heart of Victoria’s brown coal region.
The site, which is being built at the Gippsland Heritage Park in Moe, is one of several ultra-rapid charging sites currently being installed by EV charging network service provider Chargefox, and it is very close to going online.
The facility will provide charging spots for up to four electric vehicles at a time, allowing drivers to foray eastward from Melbourne to visit the region’s many tourism attractions or simply escape the city buzz for the weekend.
Along with other sites such as Ballina in NSW’s Far North Coast and Cooma at the base of the NSW snowfields, the site will soon form part of a much needed electric car charging network stretching the length of Australia’s eastern seaboard and regional areas.
They will become an increasingly necessary part of roadside infrastructure also, as the national fleet of electric vehicles in Australia gradually increases thanks to the arrival of more affordable electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Ioniq which both start at under $50,000, and the Model 3 which is rapidly reshaping the Australian EV market.
The construction of sites such as these however is not always straightforward and although sites may appear ready to roll, the lack of launch dates being given by network providers has some EV drivers frustrated.
Speaking with The Driven, Chargefox head of charging Evan Beaver says the complexity in paperwork, upgrading electricity network voltage and other factors, including leases, means it is not easy to give a set date.
“People love dates and they want certainty, but the downside is people don’t like it when you miss dates,” he says.
“What I’ve learned though is that people love the infrastructure, and they just want to know when it’s ready.”
Even after securing a site and a lease, there are still many variables which can differ from site to site, some of it depending on local network needs.
Beaver gives the example of Ballina, which will be the first site in Australia that runs on a “dynamic” connection.
What that means is our connection agreement with Essential Energy is dynamic in that we change maximum demand in real time with the network, so we can turn the chargers down if we need to when the transformer needs it,” Beaver says.
In Moe, where the site has required a new high voltage connection, the question of when it will go online is one of paperwork.
“The connection process with a new high voltage is so complicated, it varies with connection and varies by state,” he says.
Chargefox’s Port Macquarie site – which is not even yet under construction – will have taken two years from start to finish once complete because the shopping centre where it will be based has some of its own housekeeping to do first.
With Sydney’s first ultra-rapid charging site now online, Chargefox now has two more sites under construction in addition to the six it announced in October, with Goulburn in NSW and Kieth in South Australia underway.
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.