Electric vehicle (EV) adoption across the globe is steadily increasing, with just over 2 million EVs now in circulation; however, EV and Hybrid adoption rates in Australia have been much slower, with only 1,369 plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicles being sold in 2016.1
Why has EV adoption been so slow?
There are a lot of reasons as to why Australians have been reluctant to make the jump from traditional gas-powered vehicles to EVs, such as affordable EV options being scarce and the fear that the infrastructure needed to make long distance travel possible is not yet in place.
Fortunately, this is slowly starting to change: with more affordable EV options slated for 2018, and new EV charging stations coming online every year, Australia is poised for an EV renaissance of sorts.
To help our readers learn more about EV charging stations, we’ve put together this article that covers everything there is to know about the state of Australia’s car charging infrastructure, and what the future of EVs hold for consumers.
What are EV Charging Stations?
An EV charging station is a place where an electric vehicle can “refuel” or recharge its batteries so that it can continue driving.
As of right now, the most common way to charge an EV’s battery is through a cable that plugs straight into the car from the power source; however, there are some efforts being made in the wireless charging arena that might negate the need for a cable altogether.
Electric car charging stations are split into three types, or “Levels”, with each level being capable of different charging speeds.
In short, a Level 1 charger offers the slowest charging speed, adding 2-5 miles of capacity an hour to an electric vehicle, whereas as a Level 2 charger can add approximately 10-25 miles of range in the same time span. Both of these charging types work off AC, with an onboard charger that converts AC power to DC power inside the vehicle.
On the other hand, Level 3 electric car chargers use DC and are capable of providing an EV’s battery with an 80% charge in as little as half an hour.2
Why are Charging Stations so Important?
Although most electric vehicles can be charged at home, charging stations are still a critical infrastructure component that helps increase the range at which an EV can travel.
Additionally, while many EVs possess enough capacity to handle an average commute, there are some key benefits to keeping a car’s lithium-ion battery as close to full charge as possible.
Reducing Range Anxiety
According to a survey by RACV where 504 Victorians were asked about their perceptions of electric vehicles, 40% of respondents said they would not consider buying an electric vehicle because of the fear of getting stranded and being unable to recharge their EV.
Interestingly, modern electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S have a range of about 240 and 480 kilometers respectively, but Australians, on average, only commute about 35 kilometers a day.3
This means that the likelihood of getting stranded due to a failing battery is relatively small; however, there remains the issue of “what if”, which for many people, adds up to “what if I forget to plug in my car when I get home?” Then what?
It’s a real concern, and something that EV charging stations will need to address if public opinions on EVs are to change.
Taking Care of the Batteries
There is also a practical reason for keeping EV car batteries at near full charge: battery health and longevity.
As with all rechargeable batteries, each time a battery is charged or “cycled”, it loses a bit of capacity, and this cycling process is worsened when a battery is drained to its lower limit and then re-charged back to 100%.
This isn’t to say that your brand new shiny Tesla will stop working after a few charges; on the contrary, EV batteries, especially those used in Tesla vehicles, are far more robust than batteries found in devices such as a smartphones and laptops.
According to some recent findings, the Tesla Roadster retained about 80-85% of its battery capacity after 100,000 miles, and for the Model S, retention was better at about 94% after 50,000 miles.4
This means that the average EV will last for 10 years or longer on a single battery; however, consumers could likely squeeze a few more years out of their battery with more frequent, short charging sessions where the battery is kept at near full charge.
While not necessarily a huge deal, this sort of knowledge can help change the perception of both EVs and EV charging stations, as consumers will likely feel that their investment is better protected against wear and tear, which will save them money over the long-term.
Misconceptions about the EV Charging Infrastructure
As mentioned above, consumers care greatly about the dynamic between owning an EV and being able to charge it out on the road.
However, the results of the survey suggest many Australians believe that there simply aren’t enough EV chargers to ensure safe travel.
As it turns out, this isn’t entirely true: as of June 2017, Australia had approximately 476 dedicated EV public charging stations, and more are being created every year.5
Below are some recent EV charging projects that are making long-distance commutes by electric car safer and more convenient.
Queensland Electric Superhighway
The Queensland Government and Energy Queensland have teamed up to make it possible to drive an electric vehicle from Cairns to Coolangatta, a trip that is almost 1,800 km long.
Finished in early 2018, the project consisted of installing fast-charging stations in Bowen, Cairns, Carmila, Childers, Gatton, Hamilton, Gold Coast Airport (Coolangatta), Mackay, Marlborough, Maryborough, Miriam Vale, Rockhampton, Springfield, Sunshine Coast (Cooroy), Townsville, Toowoomba and Tully, with more chargers expected to come online in Helensvale after the Commonwealth Games.
This project and others like it has increased electric car adoption in Queensland from 600 registered vehicles in 2016, to 1300 in 2018, which is promising to say the least.
As an added benefit, electric charging at these new stations will be free for the first 12months, and afterward, will cost commuters an average of about $45 to fully charge their EV. 6
Adelaide to Brisbane: Now Possible Thanks to Telsa
The trip from Adelaide to Brisbane, which is well over 2,500 km, is now possible thanks to five new superchargers recently installed in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia.
This network of superchargers, in combination with the chargers completed as part of the Queensland Super Electric Highway, now means that traveling from South Australia all the way to the most northern parts of Queensland is now possible without using a single drop of fuel.
This is an enormous accomplishment by both the private and public sectors, and will do much to persuade consumers that there has never been a better time than now to purchase an electric vehicle, especially with more and more electric charging stations coming online in the future.
Electric Car Charger
While the EV charging infrastructure continues to grow and expand all across Australia, there are still many hurdles to overcome when it comes to increasing the adoption rate of EVs by consumers. Of these hurdles, the most critical will be making more affordable EV options available to Australian consumers.
In 2018, EVs like the BMW i3, Hyundai IONIQ, Jaguar I-PACE, and a few others will be hitting the market; however, as it is throughout much of the world, EV adoption rates won’t really reach exponential growth until there is a mass-market, relatively inexpensive option that normal people can buy without breaking the bank.
This day will certainly come as EV car technology continues to advance and parts become less expensive; in fact, the Australian Market Operator predicts that electric cars will make up somewhere between 16% and 45% of all new vehicle sales by 2036.7
Therefore, as long as the EV charging infrastructure continues to expand, it appears that EVs are poised to become a major player in the auto industry, which will be instrumental in reducing global carbon emissions.