Credit: Bridie Schmidt
Credit: Bridie Schmidt

Sydney-based network operator Ausgrid says it is looking for feedback from electric vehicle owners about their charging habits as it prepares for what it expects to be a rapid uptake of the technology in Australia.

Ausgrid, which operates the network in Sydney and the Central Coast, expects the Australian electric and plug in hybrid vehicle market to reach 615,000 a year by 2030 – which would represent more than 50 per cent of new car sales – and almost 2 million by 2040 (suggesting near market saturation).

That represents a massive shift away from fossil fuel engines and the current model for fuel distribution, but it also represents a significant challenge for grid operators where, when and for how long consumers will want to charge their EVs.

Its survey, which forms part of Ausgrid’s collaboration with Charge Together – an ARENA-backed initiative led by Australian EV fleet platform startup Evenergi – asks existing EV drivers how they currently charge and use their electric vehicles.

“Electric vehicles can bring enormous benefits to customers through lower transport bills, quieter streets and a cleaner environment,” said chief customer officer Rob Amphlett Lewis in a note by email.

“We’re seeking feedback from EV owners to help us better understand how they currently use and charge their vehicles, so we can plan and ensure the network can support their needs in the future.”

Electric vehicles can be charged at home in a matter of hours via a normal household socket or via a specially installed AC “wall charger”, while DC fast chargers such as those being rolled out by network providers such as Chargefox and Evie Networks can be used when out and about to get a quick boost of driving range in 15-45 minutes.

However, both can add considerable demand on local grids, a fact that electricity providers believe can be managed properly given the right information and tools.

This may involve offering customers incentives to charge at particular times such as benefiting from lower prices during demand troughs, or using smart meters to reduce charging rates during times of peak demands.

Some electricity providers have already introduced schemes designed to discourage charging during peak demand times, such as a discount for charging at night by energy newcomer Powershop.

Ausgrid believes that a detailed understanding of how electric vehicle owners choose to use and charge their EVs is crucial to providing a solution that will may assist in smoothing the grid.

The use of smart meters or other tools to manage EV charging times may form part of this solution but first, the right incentives need to be in place to garner customer participation.

“EVs present an incredible opportunity as we shape the future of energy and it is one we must get right, which is why we need help from customers to plan for their needs,” says Amplett Lewis.

You can find out more about the survey here.

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