The visual assault of LED billboards is something city drivers are having to get used to, as they motor past vast, bright hoardings that could double as cinema screens. Smaller examples are doing their utmost to influence consumers wherever foot-traffic is found. But what’s a little more advertising in your day if it means you get to top-up your electric vehicle for free?

Sydney-based EV charging network Jolt channels revenue from the advertising it sells on the big screens on its 25kW chargers into 7kWh of free electricity per driver, which it says is equivalent to about 45km of travel.

You’re only allowed one free charge a day and once 7kWh is reached a tariff of 42c/kWh applies on Jolt’s network of 17 chargers in Adelaide. Tariffs closer to 40c/kWh will apply to units in NSW, when they are built.

Pull up and plug in

As EVs very slowly replace petrol-powered motors on our roads, charging networks are planning where tomorrow’s refuelling infrastructure should be built.

“We’re constantly learning and trying to find places that make sense,” says Jolt CEO and founder Doug McNamee. Locations of Jolt chargers so far vary between football ovals and public pools to on-street parking zones. “People want to be in areas where they can live their lives as they normally would. It comes down to what’s the best use of people’s time and where is the most convenient place to charge when you’re doing what you’d rather be doing other than fuelling your car.”

The tipping point for adoption of EVs may be closer than many think because Jolt has attracted the interest of one of the world’s biggest institutional investors, with news in late August that BlackRock Real Assets had bought an equity stake in the company and will provide $100 million in capital to fund the construction of 5,000 charging stations across Australia.

“We’ll be constantly building every month for the next five years or so,” McNamee, whose background is in media and marketing, tells EcoGeneration.

The company is about to complete another 21 chargers in Adelaide with the help of $984,000 in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. In NSW, Jolt is hoping to adapt about 2,000 Ausgrid power distribution boxes into charging stations, most of them in Sydney. The partners have spoken to councils with the aim of fitting chargers to distribution boxes near parking spots and work starts in September.

Turning circle

In Adelaide drivers are charging about 20 minutes on average, McNamee says, using 100% GreenPower. “Jolt has given out 65,000km on the Adelaide network for free so far this year.” Owners who dawdle incur an “idle fee” of $5 per 30 minutes, to cut the chances of drivers hogging the plugs.

McNamee won’t discuss commercial arrangements with landowners, councils or governments, the extent of BlackRock’s direct equity investment in Jolt or details about the milestones that will trigger deployment of the $100 million in capital.

According to BloombergNEF, annual passenger EV sales are expected to increase from 3.1 million in 2020 to 14 million by 2025, with global passenger EVs on the road rising from 12 million today to 170 million by 2030.

The Electric Vehicle Council says Australia hosts about 3,000 public chargers, about 470 of them DC fast-chargers. Melbourne-headquartered Chargefox claims to have the largest network, with 1,400 plugs, and it has plans to build another 5,000.

The Jolt deal is BlackRock Real Assets first foray into EV charging in the Asia-Pacific region as part of its latest Global Renewable Power strategy, which raised $US4.8 billion earlier this year.