Call for better EV charging infrastructure in Australia

By Nichola Murphy
Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

Call for better EV charging infrastructure in Australia

Infrastructure Australia (IA) has identified the delivery of a national electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging network as a top priority, which may help address concerns about driving range and increase EV adoption.

Infrastructure Australia Chair Julieanne Alroe said the 2019 Priority List is the largest and most diverse list of investments to date, with 121 nationally significant proposals and a $58 billion project pipeline. It will help guide the next 15 years of Australian infrastructure investment, and it listed an EV fast-charging network as one of 29 High Priority Initiatives.

She stated it comes at a pivotal time for infrastructure decision-making in Australia, considering the pressure population growth is putting on infrastructure networks and the impact of new technology on the transport and energy market.

“Technological change is driving significant shifts in infrastructure demand. The advent of electric vehicles, along with automation, growth in the ‘sharing economy’ and technological connectivity, could bring the largest transformation the transport sector has seen since the shift from steam to diesel locomotives,” Alroe said. “The increase in electric vehicle uptake will forge links between the energy and transport network that did not previously exist, placing additional demands on the grid and pressure on consumer costs. The 2019 Priority List highlights the need for investment in the connectivity and reliability of our National Electricity Market (NEM) in the medium to long term, and optimisation in the near term.”

An inquiry by the Senate Select Committee on Electric Vehicles found that Australia is still lagging behind other countries due to “a relative absence of overarching policy direction from Australian Governments”. EVs will make up 70% of new vehicle sales and 30% of the vehicle fleet in Australia by 2040, but there are currently fewer than 800 charging stations, 70 of which are fast-charging. Concerns about driving range and the lack of recharging infrastructure are just some of the barriers to EV adoption, but the rollout of the fast-charging network will help address these fears.

Although a high-speed charging network has been developed in some states, particularly on the east coast, there is no national network and both IA and the committee agree more needs to be done to make sure EVs have a future in Australia.

The committee made 17 recommendations to accelerate EV uptake in Australia, including the development of a national strategy. “Addressing these risks and challenges will require effective national standards and regulation in regards to charging infrastructure and electricity grid integration, building and construction, public safety, consumer protection, processes for disposal and/or re-use of batteries, and skills training.”

The committee recommended that the Australian Government should partner with business to manage and facilitate the rollout of charging infrastructure. The report cited a survey by the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria which found 80% of respondents are influenced by the availability of public fast-charging (15 minutes to full charge) when considering buying an EV, and over half of respondents believe government should implement subsidies to reduce the cost of installing home charging, and provide public charging infrastructure. The committee also called on state and federal governments to amend the National Construction Code to make sure all new dwellings are ‘EV charger ready’.

To manage the demand of EVs on the electricity network, the committee recommended that the government work with electricity market agencies to develop a 10-year plan detailing priority network infrastructure upgrades. It also said it should develop a strategy for the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to access and direct distributed energy resources (DER) to charge or provide electricity to the grid. This ties in with two other initiatives outlined by IA regarding the NEM.

Alongside Standards Australia, the committee recommended the government should establish a series of national standards in relation to EVs, and amend the AS/NZS3000:2018 Electrical installations: Wiring Rules. The suggested amendment is: “Where a smart load management system is not implemented, assume all the electric vehicle chargers will be running at full capacity all the time. Where a smart load management system is implemented, assume electric vehicle charging load will be effectively limited by the parameters of this system.”

Overall, the EV landscape in Australia is stuck in a chicken-and-egg situation, in which increasing the number of charging stations can increase EV uptake, but without high enough numbers, there is less incentive to invest in the infrastructure to support them.

The Senate report suggested that if EVs made up 57% of new car sales in 2030, there would be an increase in real GDP of $2.9 billion, an increase in net employment of 13,400 jobs and an additional $3.2 billion investment in charging infrastructure. Commenting on the report, Electric Vehicle Council Chief Executive Behyad Jafari said: “We should seize this momentum and push forward. With a federal election looming, both major parties have the opportunity to embrace these recommendations as part of their platform.”

According to Alroe, increased EV adoption has both environmental and productivity benefits for Australia, but only if supported by strategic infrastructure investment. Jafari continued to put the onus on political parties to act on the information presented by IA and seize the opportunities of a mass transition to EVs, including reduced carbon emissions, pollution in cities and dependence on foreign oil.

“Infrastructure Australia is the objective authority on what the nation needs to start building. If their experts recognise a national fast-charging network as a high priority, then governments should heed the call,” Jafari said.

“As Infrastructure Australia correctly points out, the price of EVs is dropping and range is rising. But our leaders are pumping the brakes by not adequately supporting new charging infrastructure.

“A century ago, when the potential of the automobile was recognised, previous generations spent a fortune creating infrastructure to support it. The transition to EVs requires just a small fraction of that boldness and vision.

“With Infrastructure Australia’s imprimatur now in black and white, we need to just get on and make it happen.”

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