Australia edges closer to EV tipping point

Australia is edging closer to the tipping point for electric vehicle prices to match petrol-engined cars but the electricity grid must be able to cope with the increased demand, Ampol chief executive Matt Halliday says.

Mr Halliday believes manufacturers are going to shift quickly from having supply chain issues to competing for the Australian electric vehicle market.

“Purchasing intentions, at least what we see from B2B customers on the fleet side, is that the intentions are there to shift to EVs. The price points are moving, in the second half of this decade to be at parity and on a total cost of ownership in the mid-part of this decade,” he said.

Mr Halliday said governments can offer incentives to make it happen faster but the “critical thing is that the grid can cope”.

“Because the electricity draw when you shift en masse to electric vehicles is very substantial, two Tesla’s plugged into the Walmart drawing more power than the Walmart,” he said.

“This is a phenomenal shift in terms of the electricity draw, so you’ve got to make sure the grid can cope, the micro grids can cope, and you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got charging infrastructure for people who otherwise have a concern about range, especially in a country like Australia.”

Mr Halliday was speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (AmCham) event on Australia’s future energy security.

He said Australia’s transition to sustainable and greener energy sources will need to be technology-led and will require huge capital investment.

“You do need a clear policy framework to encourage the investment, but we see so much momentum at the moment and what I’m really encouraged by is the reaction we’re seeing from our customers, they really want to be part of this, they’re demanding to be part of this,” he said.

“There’s a huge capital investment that’s required to enable the transition. Can a carbon price play a role? Does it need to play a role? It may, but in terms of the most efficient transition that we can enable, it’s going to be technology led.”

Mr Halliday said it will require infrastructure companies to repurpose their infrastructure to avoid capital disruption if there is a “disorderly transition” to more sustainable energy sources.

“You need to make sure there’s an investment in technology on the one hand, you’ve got to make sure there’s investment in the enabling infrastructure.”

Ampol is pushing ahead with its own decarbonisation initiative unveiled in May, which includes plans to move into green hydrogen and batteries and to roll out a network of electric vehicle refuelling sites.

The business’ traditional service station role will face competition in the electric recharging market. Companies like Jolt are offering drivers 15 minutes of free charging in metro markets and Evie Networks has struck a deal with Rich Lister Jack Cowin’s Hungry Jack’s fast food chain to provide chargers at restaurant car parks – moves which are likely to reduce the need for the traditional trip to a service station.

But Ampol is also focused on hydrogen as an alternative to petrol.

Mr Halliday said hydrogen will play an important role in Australia’s long haul heavy-duty transport industry as batteries will likely not be able to sustain the trucks for the distances required to transport goods across the country.

“That’s where our distribution infrastructure will be critical and that repurposing and that sort of technology is all going to be important to enable those sorts of hydrogen highways, if you like,” he said.

Hydrogen will also be an exportable resource, Mr Halliday said, with the country’s proximity to Japan and Korea likely to drive interest into Australia’s hydrogen industry.

Extracted from AFR

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