Australia Makes Progress On Electric Highway

3 years ago by Ted Dillard 9

Cape to cape in Western Australia

Cape to cape in Western Australia

As we reported earlier this year, EV supporters in Australia are pushing to develop a network of EV charging stations, and recent news is that the RAC (The Royal Automobile Club, Australia’s version of the AAA in the US) is moving forward with commitments to fund the “Electric Highway”.

The idea was first proposed by The University of Western Australia’s REV Project as simply a concept, and was embraced and promoted by the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA). The commitment by the RAC sends an encouraging message, and seems to confirm that the Electric Highway will indeed take shape.

The RAC has been hammering out details with the local governmental Councils, and what we’ve been able to gather is that the Councils have been told the RAC will fund the installation and operation costs of each station.  The available information is that the deal has not been inked yet, however.

Here’s a bit of information about the UWA REV Project:

The UWA Renewable Energy Vehicle Project (REV) hopes to “revolutionize personal transport” by building zero emission vehicles, powered by electricity from renewable sources, charged from any plug point and viable to both the performance and commercial markets. REV is tackling the problems created by rising fuel prices and vehicle pollution head-on. The REV team is comprises Engineering staff and students from the University of Western Australia, fueled by a passion for a sustainable future. REV provides a unique opportunity for students to learn and develop multi-disciplinary teamwork plus innovative, design, leadership, management, marketing, finance and practical skills.

The REV proposed routes:

Proposed routes 1 and 2 of the WA Electric Highway

Proposed routes 1 and 2 of the WA Electric Highway

While folks in California and other areas that are EV friendly may find this news somewhat mundane, it represents a whole lot of work in the less-than-EV-friendly world of Australia.  We were able to get in touch with Chris Jones, the Vice President of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association for some more information.  A lot more information:

Perth seems to be the EV capital of Australia.  Not because of numbers, but on a per capita basis we seem to have more electric cars, scooters, motorbikes and e-bikes than the other parts of the country.  Our AEVA chapter over here has about 90 financial members – Sydney has less than 70. 

In about 2002 or so, Thundersky cells came onto the scene, and Rod Dilkes (now running EV Power) put them in his Suzuki Mightyboy.  This was possibly the fist lithium EV in Australia.  At the time there was talk of this Tesla mob and the rest was history.  By the end of the decade, another professor at UWA, Thomas Braunl had won a grant to build a half dozen converted electric cars, install L2 charging stations around Perth, and monitor how people go driving around for a few years. 

Thomas’ efforts to get a DC fast charger anywhere in WA were to no avail, so that’s where it ended.  A couple of years later, an AEVA member called Patti McBain who bought a used conversion (one of the EV Trial Focuses) wanted to push again for a series of fast chargers, from Fremantle (our port city) to Margaret River in the beautiful southwest.  She teamed up with Mel Bainbridge from the Fremantle local government and started to canvass for an Electric Highway.  I drafted the first Electric Highway Vision document, which after several revisions, was effectively a blueprint for the roll-out of an entire fast charging network.  We knew it could be done for under $2 million; chicken feed compared to the $800 million roads budget for the state.

The concept of recharging stations has been around for a long time, but this was the first time a ‘community infrastructure’ approach had been taken, and it worked.  Mel Bainbridge set up a meeting with the Royal Automobile Club of WA and they decided the time was right to do something bold, like build an Electric Highway to Augusta and Margaret River.  The focus was on getting local governments to manage the chargers and upkeep, while the RAC paid for the units and their installation.  All up, there will be 8 or 9 DC fast chargers, ChaDeMo and SAE Type-1 Combo compatible.  Additional 7 kW level 2 AC chargers will be included to satisfy converted cars.

DC fast chargers exist elsewhere in Australia, but none form a route from one place to another.  Best of all, we won’t have the Apple Mac of the EV world (the Tesla S) dominating our EV infrastructure over here.  It’s ours to develop, and turn into something unique.

So yeah, we’re all pretty proud of getting this far, but there’s a lot of work yet to be done.  Should be ready in time for the AEVA AGM in 2015!

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9 responses to "Australia Makes Progress On Electric Highway"

  1. Spec9 says:

    Nice to see a local effort getting something done. Lord knows Tony Abbott isn’t going to do anything useful.

  2. vdiv says:

    I was told by a credible source that electrons down under spin the opposite way making the electric cars capable of only moving in reverse 😉

    All kidding aside, it is great to see EV Aussies making progress despite all of the odds. More power to them! 🙂

    1. Mikael says:

      It’s a good thing that EV’s are as fast moving in reverse (unless electronically limited of course 😉 )

      It would be fun to see an Australian Tesla P85D do 0-100 in 3,3 seconds in reverse 😛

    2. Mikael says:

      But I like the North Korean EV that Kim Jong Un drives that does 0-100 in 0,2 seconds (with optional flying capabilities) because of their use of the quadrupel spin of the positron instead of lousy electrons.

  3. Rob Stark says:

    So Nissan has slashed prices of the LEAF to $AU 40k within 3k of the Prius from 56k a few years ago. Has this ignited LEAF sales?

    Or is this e-highway only really for hardcore EV nerds and their conversions?

  4. Chris says:

    Ted – the Route will start from metropolitan Perth and travel through Mandurah, Harvey, Bunbury, Busselton, Margaret River and finally in Augusta. Two additional stations will be built at Nannup and Bridgetown.

    The Leaf is still $40k in Australia. It is currently the only new EV you can buy, with the iMiEV not being sold in Oz any more and the Tesla S still a long way off. Perhaps the BMW i3 will arrive early next year?

    We have no subsidies of any persuasion in Australia. Zero. I don’t have a problem with that, but the high upfront cost is the main reason we only have about 100 or so EVs in the state, and about 800 in the whole country.

    Now that folks have a place to drive to, they can ditch their ICE all together!

    1. Priusmaniac says:

      Great mate, go for it!
      Don’t forget the ******** roo bar on the Model S if you want it bush proof in WA!

  5. Robert says:

    Thus is more than the Chicken Vs. Egg issue, but more how to feed the Chickens so they don’t die!

    Targeting DC Quick Chargers with the Multi-standard cables, allows the one unit to handle whatever comes down the road in designs.

    Will the Kia Soul EV make it to Australia?

  6. Reecho says:

    Soul EV is unlikely for Oz. Too hard business case for them apparently…