Electric fleets to hit the road – is Australia ready?

Origin Energy 360 Drive Day.

The Federal Government has thrown its support behind Origin Energy’s push to decarbonise fleets, pledging $6.2 million to help them deliver 1000 electric vehicles, and charging stations to business customers nationally.

Origin Energy’s $12.8 million Accelerate Electric Vehicle Fleet program aims to help businesses who want to transition their fleets.

While capital costs of electric vehicles have fallen, there still is a financial barrier, especially when charging infrastructure is considered.

Light vehicles account for about 11 per cent of Australia’s total emissions, with fleet users accounting for nearly half of all passenger vehicles sold in Australia.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), who is providing the funding, has a keen interest in decarbonising land transport, with the goal of seeing the country’s transport emissions reduce in line with international commitments.

ARENA’s acting CEO, Chris Faris said the program will create a blueprint for how electric vehicle fleet leasing models can operate, adding that the 1000 new vehicles will eventually feed the second-hand market.

The announcement has garnered support from various industry bodies with both Farmers for Climate Action and the RACQ welcoming the funding and confirming it will make Australia’s transition to electric vehicles more achievable and fairer for consumers.

“Many farmers are telling us they want to switch to electric vehicles, but they need more to choose from and at better prices,” said Fiona Davis, Farmers for Climate Action CEO.

“A strong fuel efficiency standard will deliver Australia a better range of fuel-efficient cars, including electric vehicles, at lower prices.”

While the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) is happy with the announcement, they warn that roll outs need to be swift in order to calibrate and enforce Australia’s fuel efficiency standards which are lagging behind.

“It’s a relief that an Australian Government has finally committed to fuel efficiency standards, which have been operational in the US and Europe for decades,” said Behyad Jafari, EVC’s Chief Executive.

“With those jurisdictions now leaping forward in terms of ambition, Australia must bring in strong standards that keep pace with the modern world.”

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the program, however, with academic circles questioning whether the country’s electricity infrastructure will cope with the demand.

While he accepts that it is welcome news, Dr Roger Dargaville, Deputy Director at Monash University’s Energy Institute says Australia’s electricity grid and charging infrastructures are currently not sufficiently equipped to handle a significant uptake of electric vehicles.

“We need investment in the required infrastructure to support electric vehicle uptake,” he said.

“This includes not only charging infrastructure, but also the development of a smart grid that can handle the increased demand for electricity with high penetration of renewables and the creation of policies that incentivise private investment in charging stations.”

Since 2015, ARENA has provided more than $146 million in funding to projects that decarbonise the transport sector, including heavy vehicle fleet operators such as Team Global Express’s Depot of the Future project, Australia’s largest order of electric trucks to date.

Meanwhile, Origin is partnering with fleet management organisation, Custom Fleet, to deliver the Accelerate EV Fleet Program, which is expected to run until 2025.

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