After decades of fighting the riptide of alternative energy transport and electric vehicles, the Australian federal government appears to be, at last, acknowledging the importance and inevitability of zero-emissions cars with crucial infrastructure support.

Partnering with Origin Energy, the government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced a contribution of $838,000 to a $2.9m project that will supply, install and commission 150 electric vehicle smart chargers across various industries and applications.

The goal of the trial is to better understand the usage and demand of residential, commercial and industrial EVs and, most importantly, how to accommodate a growing number of battery powered vehicles in the national grid.

Happy chargers

While manufacturers continue to offer more appealing and affordable models, there are concerns that the current power infrastructure could be crashed by a large number of EVs all charging simultaneously, in a similar manner to household air conditioning surges on hot days.

The trial’s smart chargers, however, will be able to manage the demand EVs place on the grid preventing an overload situation.

In addition to important charging habits and behaviour data, the trial will also examine the public’s willingness to accept third-party control of charging infrastructure. The so-called ‘smart’ chargers will be monitored by Origin and have the ability to temporarily interrupt charging if an unusually high demand is placed on the grid.

The announcement of government funding follows other recent state and federal government alternative energy and EV initiatives. It might even be the beginnings of Australia pedalling to catch up to the rest of the developed world in the adoption of EVs.

The NSW government has recently announced funding for public charging stations - albeit buried among paperwork - was a sneaky ‘distance charge’, which is not such good news for EV owners.

While a massive $300m federal investment is paving the way for Australia to be a world leader in clean hydrogen production along with the potential for fuel-cell EVs.

Read next: Massive hydrogen production investment for Australia
Over in ACT, a separate trial is analysing how EVs themselves may be used to prevent blackouts by pumping power back into the grid if it’s subjected to high load.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the smart charger trial and investigation will help better understand how people want to use EVs in Australia’s unique automotive climate, as well as solving the problems battery cars may cause for power distribution networks.

“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,” he 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.”