Finding Electrons for an EV in Australia

Written by Mary Hendriks, on September 15, 2017

The following article was published in the September 2017 issue of Energy News magazine:

BMW i3 using a Keba EV charger installed at the University of Queensland. Photo credit: www.evse.com.au

Australians have been extremely slow in their uptake of EVs, with the majority of the 8,000 or so units sold to date purchased by business. This is expected to change dramatically as more compact and lower priced eVs become available in australia the next few years.

If you are considering purchasing an EV for your home or business in Australia, fuelling that vehicle with electrons will be part of your future reality. This article looks at the issue of charging your EV. It is by no means comprehensive, and only a snapshot of information that I found in a short space of time.

Planning to buy, lease or hire an EV means finding out about your charging options. If you will always charge the vehicle at your own premises, the various options for charging units will usually be provided when you enquire about a particular vehicle. While most charging of EVs is done at the owner’s home or base site, there will still be many times when you need to charge your vehicle in another location.

A good place to start is Plugshare, a free EV charging mapping tool, which lists most charging sites in the world, including those in Australia. This shows where the units are located in your city or town, including private sites via the member group, public stations, and high powered fast charging stations. The app also shows which are currently in use.

These maps make it very clear that most public charging stations are located in capital cities, and on the highways between major population centres.

You will also very quickly see that Tesla has its own charging stations, available for the owners of the Tesla series of EVs. Due to different connection standards, two EV charging networks are being developed in Australia, one for Tesla owners and one for most other EVs.

Private companies are leading with development of these networks and several companies are now offering services to make the charging experience easier to negotiate.

First it helps to understand the level of charging that is being offered. According to Australia’s newly established EV Council, the following levels of charging types are now offered:

Table 1: Approximate EV charging range
Charger Level EV Distance
(Nissan Leaf, BMW i3,  Tesla Model S)
level 1
240V 2.4KW
20 KM/hour
level 2
240V-415V 3.3KW-22KW
20-120KM/hour
level 3
DC Fast Charger
70KM/10 minutes
or 420KM/hour

Source: www.evse.com.au

Level 1

  • Any existing power point (10 amp)
  • Sometimes called ‘trickle’ charger, as this is slow
  • No specialised installation required

Level 2

  • A 15 amp power point which allows most EVs to be fully recharged overnight
  • Requires an electrician to install
  • Typically installed in the home and at long-stay destinations (work premises, shopping centres, hotels)

Level 3

  • A 55 amp power point which can provide approximately 80% charge in 30 mins
  • Requires specialised installation
  • Will effectively replace today’s fuel stations

Charging times vary by the type of charging station (Level 1, 2 or 3) and an EV’s on-board charger (Table 1). While more expensive than Level 1 units, most home-owners and businesses are now installing Level 2 charging.

According to the June 2017 Climateworks report entitled The state of EVs in Australia: “Currently, the majority of chargers available in Australia are AC chargers. AC charging is used primarily for locations where an electric vehicle will be parked for more than an hour… In contrast DC chargers provide much faster charging, and are thus more useful for travelling long distance between cities.”

To charge an EV, users need a cable and plug to connect to one of these charging units. All EVs come with a charging station that allows users to charge from a power point (Level 1), and some also come with a Level 2 charging station.

Type 1, the US/Japanese standard, is used by Japanese manufacturers, as well as by current EV models from European manufacturers. The new European standard is Type 2, also called the Mennekes plug, which is currently used by Tesla and Renault and will be used on future models from most European manufacturers, as well as Korean manufacturers such as Hyundai.

DC, or rapid charging, has its own plug standard CHAdeMO which is used by Japanese cars, and Combined Charging System, used by European vehicles. A simple outline of EV plug types is found at www. jetcharge.com.au/vehicle-plug-types

There is a strong push to accept an ‘open access’ Type 2 socket for public charging units. With a wider range of EVs expected to be sold in Australia in the coming years, charging standards will become a central topic for EV owners and fleet managers.

Finding a Charger

ChargePoint operates a large and open EV charging network for members, providing wht they call a “seamless charging experience” by enabling users to find available charging spots from their mobile phone from one of their 350+ charging units in Australia.

Shopping centres are one of the obvious places to find public EV charging units. Westfield has installed EV charging stations in 10 of their shopping centres in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

In June this year, Stockland announced the roll-out of Tesla Destination Chargers across 31 shopping centres from Cairns to Melbourne, alongside their existing charging units.

Universities, convention centres and hotels are among those who are also installing charging stations. For example, Wollongong University installed charging stations at the University’s main Campus and at its Innovation Campus, and uses the data to improve understanding of the impact of EVs on the grid.

The recently-opened Sydney International Convention Centre has 20 ChargePoint network electric car spaces in their Darling Harbour parking station.

Charging Highways

Charging highways are being developed by organisations or state & local governments in conjunction with local & international companies. In Western Australia, RACWA commissioned a series of 12 fast DC charging units from Perth through to the south-west, managed by ChargeStar using a radio-frequency identification (RFID) card system.

Some state governments in Australia are now stepping up to provide parts of the fast charging infrastructure that will be in high demand from EV owners.

In June 2017, Queensland Minister Mark Bailey unveiled the first of many fast-charging EV stations, which will be rolled out at various locations up the Queensland coast from the Gold Coast to the far north to form the state’s Electric Super Highway: http://statements.qld.gov. au/Statement/2017/6/29/worldslongest-electric-vehicle-superhighway-revs-up

In eastern and south-eastern Australia, Tesla has developed an extensive network of superchargers and is developing a growing network of Destination Charging Partners with dedicated Tesla charging, at hotels, restaurants, shopping centres and resorts: www.tesla.com/en_AU/ supercharger.

Etiquettes of EV Parking

As charging in public places becomes more common, there is a need for guidelines of accepted behaviour for use of these spaces.

EV charging places are usually clearly marked, however it is not uncommon to find a petrol car in the spot. This is called being ICE’d, having your charging opportunity taken by an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle.

Plugshare, which allows users to comment on charging points, is full of entries from EV owners noting their frustration in finding an ICE vehicle parked at an EV charging spot.

In areas where EV charging spots are limited or spaced at some distance from each other, this is a major challenge that needs to be overcome. As has happened in some other countries, local governments in Australia may end up reviewing parking infringement policies, along the lines of fining private vehicles using a business loading zone.

Another issue is how long an EV may occupy a charging space. This is more complicated, as the vehicle may be fully charged, but still occupying the site.

Common courtesy is to move the vehicle once it has been charged sufficiently. Another suggestion is to leave contact details visible in the car so a user can be contacted by anyone needing the space.

With more charging spots available and reporting of those who are regular ‘power hogs’ this may be a problem that ends up solving itself.

Innovations

EV charging is undergoing a stampede of innovations: for charging units, types of charging and access to charging units.

In Australia, recently-launched company Everty enables someone who owns a charger to share and monetise that unit, by offering it on member-based system with Everty managing the payment and booking system for the user and site owner.

Globally, one of the hotly pursued challenges is wireless charging, and this is especially useful for electric buses.

While there have been many trials in China and Europe, including a recent one in Sweden, further development of this technology is needed before it will be commercially viable.

Even more innovative is the concept of charging via roadways. This was tested in France and a start-up called Electroad is building a test installation on a public bus route in Israel’s Tel Aviv using an underthe-pavement wireless technology: see the May 2017 issue of www. CarAdvice.com.au

Summary

With France set to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and many countries and regions taking similar initiatives, EVs will be a large percent of new vehicles by 2030. In Australia, which imports over 90% of transport fuels, the uptake of EVs is important, not just for our environment, but also for our energy security and our balance of trade.

Implementing EV charging networks with consistent global standards, and designing our new energy networks for this change, is timely and essential for Australia’s future.

I have no doubt that over the next few years, a plethora of very fast, flexible charging solutions will emerge, making the whole EV charging process much simpler and easier.