ARENA backs app to help fast-charge EV uptake

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A new ARENA-backed campaign is hoping to help crack the nut of Australia’s electric vehicle problem, by identifying both the barriers preventing uptake, as well as the key incentives that might drive a consumer to make the switch to an EV.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency said on Friday that it had granted $172,215 in funding to a public participation program called Charge Together, designed by local start-up EVenergi.

ARENA said Charge Together would involve a social media and marketing campaign to identify prospective EV buyers, and use consumer research to help understand where the Australian market is going wrong on electric vehicle uptake.

As we have reported on RenewEconomy, electric vehicles have so far failed to thrive in the Australian automotive market, thanks to a vicious circle of policy inaction and what has been perceived as a general lack of consumer interest.

Participants in the Charge Together program would be given a home and car monitoring system which will “emulate the cost and logistics of owning, as well as charging and maintaining an electric car.”

EVenergi would then use this data to build a mobile app and online platform to help consumers to model the influence of rooftop solar, home batteries and electricity tariffs on a decision to buy EVs.

The idea is to optimise the buying and owning an electrical vehicle by giving customers access to significant discounts on selected EV related products and services, and by incentivising them to charge in ways that could help reduce strain on the electricity grid.

The research gathered will also be used to inform a report for government and industry, identifying barriers to EV uptake, potential infrastructure hotspots and lay the groundwork for EV charging
stations as uptake increases.

For participants in the program, a sweetener to the deal will be the chance to win “prizes and rewards” from Renault, which in September last year revealed its pure-electric ZOE supermini and Kangoo ZE van would be made available to Australian buyers within the next “couple of months”.

In a statement on Friday, ARENA chief Ivor Frischknecht said the Agency was excited to be involved in the effort to capture information about the needs and preferences of potential electric vehicle customers, and the capabilities of electricity retailers and networks to accelerate the uptake of EVs.

“Understanding the potential impacts of EVs on both home energy use and the electricity network will provide valuable knowledge on how EVs can maximise the use of local generation while integrating into a more flexible renewable distribution grid of the future,”  he said.

The $349,573 Charge Together program, which has been successfully trialled in the UK, will initially be rolled out in South Australia – presumably to give it the greatest chance of success, considering SA’s leading position in Australia on renewable energy, rooftop solar and other industry leading low-carbon initiatives.

Based on its level of success, it could then be rolled out in other states.  

  • Chris Jones

    We don’t need another $100k study to find out why Australians aren’t buying EVs. We have known for a long time already why we aren’t buying them:

    There are simply no sub $50k cars to choose from. Want a Tesla for the cost of a home in Tasmania – good for you. But for everyone else, crickets, and a sales rep pushing you towards the nearest Clio, Pulsar or Golf.

    And why is this? Because the manufacturers are not confident they will sell until they get some indication from business and government that there is a market for them. Many of them are putting their hands out for government support as some kind of blackmail where the only one who suffers is the consumer.

    • David Dixon

      Hey Chris, I whole heartedly agree, there is simply no half decent electric cars in Australia < 30,000 AUD. A simple search on shows that unless you want 7 year old Miev mini cab (which really isnt a car) there are two cars nation wide < $30,000 AND these cars have ranges < 200 km (a 2012 Leaf and 2015 i3). No one in there right mind is going to pay 20k-30k $ for a car < 200 km of range.

      We simply need a car with a reasonable range ~300km at a reasonable price ~25,000 $AUD to get the ball rolling and people will buy them.

      I simply don't understand how this is not obvious. An incentive scheme such as a rebate on cars <$35,000 and must have 300km range! would get the ball rolling, similar to the 7500 $ tax credit in the US on EVs.


      • Chris Jones

        Neither of those cars has anywhere near 200 km range – more like 100-130 km on a warm day. If we were allowed to do parallel imports we could have any of the 20-odd right-hand-drive EVs on offer around the world. I don’t even care for a subsidy – just give me the choice!

        • wideEyedPupil

          and imports on 2nd hand from the Japanese market where 2nd hand EVs go unwanted.

        • Daniel Hilson

          Chris – the new Nissan Leaf has a range of almost 250 kms and Renault zoe 300 kms. Nissan is pushing to get here by early next year, and Renault is launching Zoe in SA right now – again dependant on demand.

          • Chris Jones

            I’m well aware of the new Nissan Leaf’s range – David was referring to the EVs available on Carsales right now – two 2012 Nissan Leafs with about 100 km range. We won’t be seeing the new Leaf until the end of next year.

      • Daniel Hilson

        This program aims to help Manufacturers believe there is demand so as to push them to release new vehicles here.

    • MaxG

      Sort of agree… the dealers pushing towards ICE cars though is the same driver as in the US: no follow on business, once you drive this EV out of the showroom. They are protecting their turf like any other fossil fuel mob..

    • Daniel Hilson

      HI there. Dan here, we are running this program.

      This study is not focused on why people are not buying EV’s. We know that. It is focused on developing an evidence base to work out the specific infrastructure, education and incentives that are required, and create tools to help people understand the myths and realities.

      In past research we have conducted around why people dont buy EV’s (which I am happy to share) 90% have one problem or another with nothing to do with price – questions about range, depreciation, battery life etc.

      • Chris Jones

        It’s always the Australian way though, isn’t it? A pilot run here, a trial there… We never seem to have the fortitude to just embrace something when it’s ready. Charging infrastructure is a highly visible way of promoting EVs, but it’s also a bit of a luxury considering most people will charge at home or at work where it’s cheap and convenient. People simply need to see EVs in daily use in order to understand how normal they really are; and that’s tough when there are so few options to choose from right now.

        • Daniel Hilson

          Agree. The program includes Nissan, Renault, Mitsubishi, Hyundai and BYD and one of the key things we will work through with them is how we can demonstrate the demand to ensure greater supply of new range.

          I also agree on charging infrastructure. While it is vital, I don’t think people realise how much they would charge at home – and that it is actually more convenient not less. Generally people charge up to 80% at home.

      • Ferris B

        I would support your efforts Dan when I see a questionnaire in my inbox and the inbox of the other 4000 Australian EV owners that may have some useful experience in infrastructure, education and lack of subsidies.

        • Daniel Hilson

          Hi Ferris,

          We have worked with AEVA on this program. A large number of their members were consulted and we did survey them, and they worked with us on framing the program

          Clearly talking to all 4000 would be tough.


  • Chris Sanderson

    I agree, which makes Freidenburg’s apparent support for EV’s so hypocritical.

  • reecho

    “Choice of 2 brands starting from around $70k”

    There you go ARENA….Cash or cheque will be fine…

  • handbaskets’r’us

    The primary problem is ‘range anxiety’ but this is quickly being offset by the rollout of charge networks. Second problem is that dealerships don’t want to sell EV’s because there’s no after-sales maintenance, -ongoing. Third is probably the knockers like Kelly who spout fossil-fuelled misinformation. The there’s the pricetag, but I strongly suspect we’ll soon see plenty of low-priced electrics coming from, in particular China,with Japan, Korea, and perhaps even India jumping on board.
    And, -we can only hope- something Australian.
    It’s happening, it’ll just take time.

  • Miles Harding

    Many of the advantages of EV uptake can’t be readily measured or quantified in dollars.
    By concentrating on financial aspects, they will be missing the most compelling arguments:

    Urban noise- Streescapes are much quieter with EVs.
    Pollution- No tailpipe emissions mean the stink in the garage is a thing of the past.
    Convenient- No forecourt fuelling queues, It happens while you sleep.
    Low maintenence costs- effectively only one moving part that has no oil.
    Great drive experience- they just work nicely.

    There there’s the environment and energy security…

    • Daniel Hilson

      Thanks miles. We will 100% be focused on all the aspects. The behavioural research part of the campaign will work out how to leverage all these mechanisms to “nudge” people to buy EVs.

      Have a look at the site and you can see the fact that we are already promoting these.

  • gasdive

    350 000 dollar program… I’d rather have had 350 three phase charge points rolled out, if it’s all the same…

  • MaxG

    I hate to say it, but when I was in the market for a car to commute: 100km one way or 200km/day, or 1,000km/week… I opted for a Merc S350… it chews 7.8l/100km, the tank goes 900km. Those folks who know me around the forum may remember my promise that the next car would be a Tesla; as we know it, I can’t buy one here, other than an old S for 100k$. So… the next car will be an electric 🙂
    I am even considering importing something from the UK if the AU market does not improve in the next years.
    As for EV incentives: the government does not want them, the car dealers don’t want them, and the people do not care.
    What I like about this funding thing though is: it will run in SA due to renewable leadership. I hope SA will have far more benefits based on their green approach,beating the other sates by miles!!!!

  • wideEyedPupil

    Considerable amount of money to be invested in this program, not ARENA’s usual line of investment. Fingers crossed.