New multi-million-dollar EV charging trial announced

Government-funded smart charging trial to help drive electric vehicle take-up

A new Federal Government-funded smart charger initiative aims to investigate how best to integrate electric vehicle charging into the national electricity grid, while helping increase the relatively low level of electric vehicle take-up.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $838,000 in funding to Origin Energy, to undertake an electric vehicle (EV) smart charging trial across the National Electricity Market (NEM).

Origin Energy will use the funding to launch an EV smart charging trial which will include the roll out of 150 smart chargers to fleet and residential customers in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. 

A statement from Origin Energy said the smart chargers would be installed across residential, commercial and industrial premises of EV owners and fleets, where they would be remotely monitored and controlled via software. They’ll also be integrated into Origin’s existing platform for managing distributed energy. 

A statement from ARENA said the $2.9 million program would look to “evaluate the benefits of and barriers to controlled smart charging, including improving understanding of EV driver behaviour, willingness to accept third party control and what incentives are needed to encourage future participation in charge management programs.” 

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the Origin trial would help to demonstrate how the Australian electricity grid could successfully integrate higher numbers of EVs while limiting costly network expansion.
 
“As the uptake of EVs increases, it will be important to efficiently manage the charging of vehicles, to avoid potentially costly impacts on peak demand, associated network charges and grid security issues,” Mr Miller said.
 
“Smart charging enables charging at times when demand is lowest and electricity is cheapest, which reduces the burden on the network and the cost to the customer.

Origin EV trial
 
“It is well known that electricity costs much less than petrol in terms of powering cars and light-duty commercial vehicles.

“However, EVs provide additional economic opportunities for consumers through the potential of further reduced electricity costs from higher network utilisation, and possible revenue generation via technologies such as vehicle-to-grid technology which ARENA is also supporting.”

A statement from Origin energy said the smart chargers would connect to its Virtual Power Plant (VPP) platform, which enabled multiple devices to be orchestrated remotely using artificial intelligence with benefits for customers, such as lower running costs, as well as for wholesale energy markets and distribution networks more broadly. 

It said the objective of the trial would be to improve the economics and appeal of EVs by shifting charging from times of the day when energy was more expensive to off-peak periods and when wholesale prices were low – typically when wind and solar were generating strongly.

“Transportation is the second highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, accounting for nearly 19% of emissions,” said Origin executive general manager Future Energy and Technology, Tony Lucas.

“EVs provide an opportunity to significantly improve Australia’s environmental performance, particularly if vehicles are charged using renewable energy.

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“EV adoption is expected to increase significantly in the coming years with the price of new EV models continuing to fall and performance and range improving all the time.

“We hope this trial will help us understand how we can maximise the benefits to customers by offering products that reduce their EV charging costs, as well as how we can manage EV charging in a way that helps with grid and network stability.”

 “Origin has developed a leading artificial intelligence orchestration platform, with a wide range of distributed assets, such as storage, residential air-conditioning systems, pool pumps and industrial coolers, already connected and continuing to grow. 
 
“Using the platform, we will be able to remotely switch chargers on and off, or higher or lower, in response to changes in wholesale prices, with benefits for customers in terms of lower charging costs and the NEM as we can more efficiently manage demand and supply in the system.
 
“We want to get people thinking about EVs as more than just a car and saving on petrol, they will double as battery storage in the home and be connected to virtual power plants or used for grid stabilisation, all of which will significantly reduce payback periods and improve the economics of EV ownership for many Australians,” he said. 

Origin will partner with Hyundai, Nissan, Custom Fleet, Schneider Electric, GreenFlux and Ausgrid and United Energy to deliver the trial.

Findings from the two-year trial will be made available to help the industry develop customer offers that improve the economics and appeal of EVs to Australian drivers, as well as deliver benefits to the broader energy market.