E-mobility plays key role in Australia’s push for sustainable transportation

With electric vehicles making headlines as part of Federal election commitments, perhaps the time has finally come for electric mobility to have its moment in Australia.

In its third consecutive year of record-breaking emission levels, Australia, which otherwise championed the cause of sustainable energy, has been conspicuously slower than other developed nations in embracing e-mobility. With the country on track to miss its Paris Agreement climate target by 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to a report by consultancy firm NDEVR Environmental, there is no better time than now for Australia to build a sustainable mobility platform.

David Sullivan, head of ABB Australia’s Electrification business using the first ABB 350kW Terra HP charging stations that have been installed on the Hume Highway, Victoria as part of the Chargefox ultra-rapid charging network. ABB’s Terra HP charger is capable of providing up to 200km of range in only 8 minutes
David Sullivan, head of ABB Australia’s Electrification business using the first ABB 350kW Terra HP charging stations that have been installed on the Hume Highway, Victoria as part of the Chargefox ultra-rapid charging network. ABB’s Terra HP charger is capable of providing up to 200km of range in only 8 minutes

The implications are far-reaching. At 1.7 percent growth rate, Australia’s population expands at double the rate of the United States and the United Kingdom. This means every year a staggering 407,000 people are added to the Australian transportation system, which currently relies on costly oil imports. If Australia extensively adapts to an electric-powered mobility system, it can eliminate 16 million barrels of imported oil every year by 2030, according to research led by the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC). 

The average Australian also stands to immensely benefit from adapting to e-mobility.

Apart from saving costs by reducing the dependency on an increasingly volatile oil market, the typically low maintenance electric vehicles (EVs) can help consumers save up to $2,300 every year, the EVC study showed. A lack of favorable policies, scant charging infrastructure and higher cost of acquisition may have kept EV penetration to just 0.2 percent of overall new car sales in Australia in 2018, but the truth of the matter is that every country that has embraced e-mobility has first had to break these barriers of entry. Indeed, for Australia to move closer towards the goal of zero emission transport, they need to develop a well-established and integrated ecosystem, made up of four key components:

-  The availability of high performance and competitively priced electric vehicles

-  Accessibility of reliable and fast charging infrastructure

-  Grid reinforcement

-  The integration of renewable power generation

At ABB we have the pleasure of collaborating with leading automotive manufacturers who are driving the future for EVs, while our 130-year history as a global pioneering technology leader means that we are well positioned to help deliver the other three.

In Australia, for e-mobility to be successful as more electric vehicles hit the roads, the nation must plan ahead and invest in building a well-connected and reliable EV charging infrastructure network.

Fast chargers for EVs are popular among consumers due to their reliability for long distance journeys. While the distance or the range covered by an electric vehicle varies from one model to another and largely depends on the battery size and road conditions, ABB’s Terra HP charger is capable of providing up to 200km of range in only 8 minutes.

The first ABB 350kW Terra HP charging stations have been installed in Victoria as part of the Chargefox network. They are the first of their kind in Australia with liquid cooled cables, and are assisting in deploying the first of the new generation of high-power charging stations in Asia Pacific.

With a decade of experience in developing chargers that suit the next generation of smarter mobility, ABB can be Australia’s future-proof partner for planning the nation’s charging infrastructure. ABB has already played a crucial role in the widespread adoption of electric cars in the United States, by creating a national network of fast charging stations – the EV equivalent of fueling stations. It is supplying its Terra HP charging stations to Electrify America as part of the biggest EV infrastructure project in United States history. ABB’s chargers will be installed in hundreds of locations in and around 17 metropolitan areas and along the nation’s highways.

Meanwhile in Europe, ABB has been selected by IONITY (a Joint venture of BMW, Daimler, Ford and the VW Group) as the key technology partner and supplier. By 2020, IONITY plans to operate a network of approximately 400 fast charging stations across 24 European countries. ABB has also provided more than 500 car chargers to Norway, which has the world’s highest market share for sales of fully electric cars.

Even the world’s best hardware technology will only go a small distance if it is not reinforced with new-age technology such as cloud computing and Internet of Things that integrate the entire system and make it future proof. For instance, with cloud connected charging solutions, such as ABB AbilityTM enabled chargers public transit operators can remotely service the vehicles, configure charging points and be able to predict maintenance schedules. Cloud-connected charging stations can also alert electric car drivers on the nearest available charging points.

ABB's Terra High Power electric-vehicle chargers enable launch of IONITY service station on the A2 motorway in Switzerland
ABB's Terra High Power electric-vehicle chargers enable launch of IONITY service station on the A2 motorway in Switzerland

Australia will also have to work towards making its power grids 100 percent renewable, for a greener, pollution and emission-free future. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change, Australia has set a target of reducing carbon emissions by 26 percent, by 2030. In just one year, the country’s renewable energy sector has doubled its output and is currently running projects worth over $20 billion.

ABB’s microgrid technology is already having a positive impact, enabling renewables integration and improving power supply security with more than 15 solutions across the energy and resources sectors. In South Australia, with 50 percent of renewable energy penetration into the grid, secure power supply is being supported by the Energy Storage for Commercial Renewable Integration (ESCRI) project that utilises the ABB AbilityTM PowerStore solution. PowerStore is the heartbeat of any microgrid. Its “virtual generator” can form a grid sourcing up to 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources, enabling affordable and reliable power whenever and wherever it is needed. Not only will the ESCRI project improve the overall reliability of power supplies, it will also make it possible to provide additional market services and fast-acting power response that helps to balance the network on a daily basis.

ABB supplied a microgrid solution to the Energy Storage for Commercial Renewable Integration (ESCRI) project
ABB supplied a microgrid solution to the Energy Storage for Commercial Renewable Integration (ESCRI) project

In addition, grid reinforcement, with the use of digital technologies to efficiently manage power supply and power consumption will be essential. ABB was recently awarded a contract to modernize and upgrade the control and protection systems for two vital high-voltage transmission links in Australia. The latest developments in ABB HVDC technology will see it become increasingly important with its capability to transmit more power across greater distances, with lower losses. This makes HVDC a key technology in overcoming the complexities of integrating remote renewable generation, like solar, wind and hydropower, with conventional thermal generation and bringing this sustainable power to the population centers where it is needed most.

Australia’s inherent advantage with solar and wind resources, and high internet connectivity coupled with the available technology create the potential for the country to be a genuine pioneer in the adoption of sustainable transportation technology. The benefits are clear for all to see, what is needed now is a change of mindset. 

Author: David Sullivan, head of ABB Australia’s Electrification business. He leads a technology portfolio that covers the full electrical value chain from substation to the point of consumption, enabling safer and more reliable power. He also oversees ABB Australia’s Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure and Solar businesses. David has more than 20 years’ experience, both locally and internationally, in the electrical supply industry as it relates to Utilities, Process Industries and Minerals.

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