There is clearly a change in the wind when one of the first initiatives of a resurrected fuel brand – Ampol – is to sign up as a key partner in a new network of ultra-fast electric vehicle charging sites.
On Friday, the newly renamed Ampol ( a brand buried for the past 25 years since a merger with Caltex), and Evie Networks will open the first of a series of 350kW ultra-fast EV chargers at its Avenel site, half way between Melbourne and Albury.
It’s a significant move because it is the first major embrace of EV technology by a leading petrol brand in Australia.
The near 90-year old Ampol brand was recently revived and became the official corporate name of Caltex Australia. The rebranding of the retail sites from Caltex to Ampol will occur over the next 12 months, and six of them will also feature ultra fast EV chargers.
Following Avenel, Taree in NSW – several hours north of Sydney – will be opened by the end of June. Dandenong east of Melbourne and Seven Hills in outer north-western Sydney will follow in the third quarter of 2020.
By years’ end, Evie Networks and Ampol will open a fifth site at Werribee between Melbourne and Geelong in Victoria, with a sixth site to be opened at Macksville just south of Coffs Harbour in early 2021. More are likely to follow.
(Just to be clear, Evie Networks has opened another ultra-fast EV charger at a Caltex-branded site in Tarcutta, but this is owned by Tasco, not the Caltex/Ampol company).
“This is a good opportunity for us to move towards understanding the technology,” says Alan Stuart-Grant, executive GM for Ampol strategy and corporate development.
“We are committed to meeting the needs of our customers now and into the future and clearly the pace is shifting – we will continue to adapt as consumer’s requirements change.
“The great thing about partnering with Evie Networks is they are building largest electric car charging network in Australia. We can learn from what they’re doing here – it’s mutually beneficial.”
Stuart-Grant says while he believes it will take time for the uptake of EVs to reach critical mass, he believes trust in the Ampol brand will continue with the shift to electric because of the electric car chargers visible at their sites.
Chris Mills, CEO of Evie Networks, tells The Driven that three factors were important in choosing Ampol – the ability to feel safe when charging at any time of the day, easy access to the site no matter in both directions, and adequate amenities at the site.
Mills also believes that by locating ultra-fast chargers at Caltex sites more drivers will be inclined to consider making the switch to electric.
“We’ve got to overcome that fear factor, the concern that EV tech may not take off,” Mills says. “To see these chargers appearing in service centres continues to reinforce that this will be maintsream and people should start to consider an EV as their next car purchase.”
Insights that will be garnered from the first phase roll out of Caltex (and eventually Ampol)-branded ultra-fast chargers also include understanding what EV drivers want and expect in the time – between 15 and 30 minutes for some vehicles – they will spend at a site while their EV recharges.
Mills says the roll out will also determine if the research done in US showing a boost in convenience store sales plays out in Australia.
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.