The NSW government has opened a box of tools for companies to plan and build tomorrow’s EV charging infrastructure.

Just when the people of NSW thought they could never be tempted to give up their Ford Rangers and V8 Porsche Cayennes, the state government has declared it is serious about seeing adequate charging gear installed to ease an inevitable transition to electric vehicles.

The NSW Liberal government’s Electric Vehicle Fast-charging Master Plan is aiming to deliver a thousand “ultra-fast” charging bays in the state by 2027 to “support motorists to make their next vehicle an EV”, the latest step in its $500 million Electric Vehicle Strategy.

In Sydney, drivers will have no more than 5km to drive to the next ultra-fast charger, and those motoring around the state will find them at 100km intervals.

Funds are available for developers to build new ultra-fast EV charging infrastructure in areas where drivers are not able to access private off-street parking, which the government claims is about 30% of drivers. According to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, this means households with limited off-street parking will live no more than 5km from a fast or ultra-fast charger.

Mapping tool to help developers

EVs will become a far more common sight on the roads of NSW once cheaper models are available and charging bays are more visible.

The master plan includes an open-access map to guide investors to what state planners say are optimal locations for chargers, showing layers for distribution cables, substations, traffic volumes, existing fast chargers (over 50kW), fast food zones, petrol stations and more.

JET Charge founder Tim Washington says the planning tool is “super useful”, particularly around the availability of distribution transformers. “The only disappointing thing is that some distribution networks are not participating – you just need to look at the Sydney CBD area,” he says, although the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment say new data will be added.

As EV charging takes centre stage, owners of charging networks need to make sure they are properly managed and integrated into the electricity grid, Washington says. “We should be ensuring that through more advanced monitoring and control, EV charging companies can work with utilities to lower the cost of EV charging for everyone.”

Charging network Jolt is entering the Sydney market having built 17 chargers in Adelaide and attracted institutional funding. CEO and founder Doug McNamee says the NSW plan and map helps networks look at the opportunities in the infrastructure market.

“As EV adoption continues to accelerate across the state, this framework will be invaluable to drivers,” McNamee says. “We know the major barriers that have traditionally affected the uptake of EVs across Australia include access to charging, cost and range anxiety, so knowing where to charge is a significant step for reducing range anxiety.”

Linga owner Adrian Kinderis is working on a different model, where lower-power chargers are available to drivers who wish to motor around the regions for pleasure, not purpose. He finds it interesting in a state the size of NSW that the government’s focus is on 50kW and above. Why are they ignoring “destination charging”, he asks?

“It means well and a coordinated approach is a good thing but I think it is over-simplified and you’d like to know how they determined ‘technical, social and economic’ criteria,” Kinderis says.

“I think you start entering the realm of diminishing return looking so far forward on a technology that is so transformative.”

Give us a lift

Chris Mills, the CEO of charging network Evie, says the map is a good start but immediately apparent are the gaps in regional charging infrastructure. “Unlike in greater Sydney, as yet there are no concrete plans to build for the future requirements for charging in NSW regions,” Mills says. “With gaps in regional coverage and capacity we expect that consumer confidence may be affected, so we expect that further regional charging coverage will be a high priority.” 

Chris Mills at Evie says drivers will choose charge locations that fit their routine. It may be a 15-minute break you’re after or perhaps wait until the weekly shop so you can leave it on the hook for an hour.

The map aims to address barriers to building charging infrastructure and includes data on zone substation capacity and location of distribution cables and substations. This is helpful at a desktop level, Mills says, but unfortunately Ausgrid data doesn’t seem to be available.

“Our experience over the last many years of deploying EV infrastructure tells us there is no substitute for boots on the ground to assess not only power, but also amenity, accessibility and safety of candidate charging station sites.”

Evie has been working on deploying charging gear for nearly two years and its team has begun to understand how, when and where drivers want to charge. “For example, we already understand that public fast-charging often occurs in the middle of the day and aligns well with solar generation, somewhat allaying fears that public fast-charging may negatively impact the grid,” he says.

Home charging will be the preferred choice for most EV owners most days, Mill says. “However, there are many driver segments and situations where public fast-charging will be essential. For example, high-mileage drivers such as ride share will need convenient access to public fast-charging at the beginning or end of the day as well as top-up options during the day.

“Fleets will need public fast-charging so they have confidence they can keep moving. Anyone without a driveway will also need public fast-charging so they are not left driving old internal combustion engine vehicles while the rest of Australia moves on to electric.” 

Charging should be designed to fit in with drivers’ lifestyle habits, he says, which may mean 10-30-minute spells near fast food outlets, which are included on the map, or those who need a longer charge may choose a destination where the natural dwell time is 45-60 minutes, for example doing your weekly shopping.

“Charging should be designed to fit with natural consumer behaviour, not the other way around,” Mills says. 

Plug in

At 25kW, Jolt’s current chargers don’t qualify for NSW government support of units above 50kW. But the market is set for rapid change.

In a case of possibly being seen to be “directing the traffic”, the department says it will give priority to public charging at sites within and around what it has identified as “optimal zones” indicated on the map.

New public fast charging stations with multiple charging bays will be co-funded by the NSW government, focusing on fast and ultra-fast charging.

The map is part of the NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy, which aims to encourage 52% of new-car buyers to pick an EV over any other option by 2030-31, as the state targets net-zero emissions by 2050.

Car-buyers in NSW can already apply for a $3,000 rebate on an EV costing less than $68,750, so long as they are among the first 25,000 to apply for the subsidy.

A prospectus and expression of interest will be available for property owners interested in hosting stations.