Australia is boosting shift to commercial EV fleets

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From pv magazine Australia.

It is no surprise the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is looking to boost the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). According to the government’s 2018 emissions projections, transport will continue to be one of Australia’s biggest emitters, particularly road transport. EVs are the obvious solution but uptake is hampered by hindrances such as expense and a lack of charging infrastructure – and related range anxiety.  

The tide may be changing, however. EVs are falling in price and gaining in utility, manufacturers are engaging in ‘unprecedented’ collaboration to work toward economies of scalecharging networks are being laid, energy retailers are incentivizing EV uptake and sought-after models such as Tesla’s Model 3 have finally arrived on Australian shores. The EV revolution is beginning to appear as inevitable as the storming of the Bastille, though less noisy.  

Last year, ARENA and national green investment bank the Clean Energy Finance Corporation published a report predicting the EV uptake would rise significantly over the next decade as electric cars reach price parity with petrol options by the early to mid-2020s. To that end, ARENA has recognized the key to an energy transition in road transport is commercial fleet vehicles. Company vehicles make up more than half new sales in Australia. If that whopping commercial edifice can fall to the energy transition, the rest of the road transport market would be sure to follow.

Charging forward together

E-mobility start-up Evenergi is putting ARENA funding to good use with the launch of its Charge Together Fleets program, developed with industry body the Electric Vehicle Council. The program aims to help businesses make the switch to EVs and includes a free online platform, BetterFleet, which enables fleet managers to map potential shifts to EV use. 

The BetterFleet platform enables users to develop procurement plans with economic and environmental assessments of vehicles and charging infrastructure. In the coming year, Evenergi will launch a companion platform and smartphone app for private consumers, helping Australians find the EV to suit them. 

More than 100 Australian fleets have already signed up to the Charge Together Fleets program, including insurer NRMA, Charles Sturt University and grid operator Ausgrid. 

“This is about offering Australian businesses, councils and organisations real choice,” said Evenergi CEO Dan Hilson, “BetterFleet will reduce the cost of planning a migration [to EVs] by tens of thousands of dollars in many cases and managers should be able to clearly understand the options they have and proceed from that basis.”

Grid planning tool

Any great shift is bound to have an impact on the system so Evenergi is also developing a national planning tool to help electricity distributors to adequately plan and manage the effects of the EV transition on the grid. 

That tool will essentially be a forecasting framework taking into account data such as network constraints, EV electricity capacity, usage, charging infrastructure necessity, renewable energy generation capacity, management tools and the like. It is set for launch early next year with Ausgrid as its first user.

ARENA chief executive Darren Miller said Evenergi’s online platforms would help inform those wishing to buy EVs. “Charge Together Fleets is a free, practical way for fleet managers and businesses to make commercial decisions about the future of their fleet,” said Miller, “and how they can best transition to EVs with minimum impact on their operations.” 

ARENA has already committed $21 million (US$14.2 million) to EV charging providers Chargefox and Evie Networks to help fund a network along major interstate highways.

By Blake Matich