To give the slow transition to electric vehicles a nudge along, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has committed $16.5 million in grant funding to attract investment in the buildout of fast-charging infrastructure in the country’s major cities and regional centres.

The money comes from the Federal Government’s $71.9 million Future Fuels Fund, included in October’s federal budget to ease the way for new vehicle technologies.

The funding will be available to support the roll out of networks of fast-charging stations (50kW and bigger) across eight geographic areas: each capital city and regional centres including Newcastle, Wollongong, and the Central Coast in NSW, Geelong in Victoria and the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

Each regional location is expected to receive at least four fast charging stations, to alleviate concern about the convenience of “refuelling” as drivers consider whether they should upgrade to an EV.

A strategy to increase consumer choice was decided on after industry consultation identified that a lack of public fast-charging in major population centres is a key barrier to uptake of EVs for both the public and fleets.

Subsequent funding rounds later this year will focus on supporting business fleets to transition to EVs, as well as exploring opportunities with hydrogen and biofuels.

Plugged in

ARENA is looking to maximise private sector investment and attract renewables-powered fast-charging projects that can be delivered within two years.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the Future Fuels Fund will help businesses and regional communities take advantage of opportunities offered by new vehicle technologies across battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell and biofuels.

“Through this initial round, we are addressing one of the barriers to roll out of new vehicle technologies by significantly increasing the number of fast-charging stations available to consumers across Australia, and reducing charging blackspots in both metropolitan and regional centres,” Miller said.

“As electric vehicles continue to become more competitive, it is important we have the recharging infrastructure in place to give motorists confidence they can choose an EV and recharge it conveniently and cost effectively.”

ARENA has provided $29.7 million in support for charging projects, including Australia’s first two intercity ultra-fast charging networks on major highways being rolled out by Chargefox and Evie Networks.

The agency has also supported managed charging and smart charging trials run by ActewAGL in Canberra, AGL, Jemena, and Origin, as well as the roll out of free public charging stations in four Adelaide council areas by JOLT.