Power supply for electric car charging. Electric car charging station

By Oliver Hill, Research Program Manager – RACE for 2030 Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), Electric Vehicles & Energy Networks

With the increasing uptake of electric vehicles, researchers at the Reliable, Affordable Clean Energy for 2030 Cooperative Research Centre (RACE for 2030) are leading a project to demonstrate how strategic integration with Australia’s electricity grid and energy storage is vital for electric vehicle adoption.

The adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is growing rapidly around the world as countries endeavour to decarbonise transport sectors and as EVs become more affordable. As the uptake of EVs accelerates, one particular challenge slowing down the EV uptake in Australia is coordinating a successful integration into society.

Just like other Distributed Energy Resource (DER) solutions, such as demand flexibility, rooftop solar and battery storage, the integration of EVs into homes, businesses, and electricity networks presents a range of opportunities and challenges.

Incentives for EVs in Australia have a way to go before catching up to other developed nations, but the Federal Government has begun to think critically about EV integration.

How EVs are integrated with the energy system will have long-lasting implications for Australia, and calls for a strategic approach informed by cooperation between private industry, government, and research sectors.

The EV race to 2030

The Reliable, Affordable Clean Energy for 2030 Cooperative Research Centre (RACE for 2030) is an industry led cooperative research centre that was established in 2020.

With $68.5 million of federal funding and commitments of $280 million of cash and in-kind contributions from partners, RACE for 2030 aims to deliver $3.8 billion of cumulative energy productivity benefits and 20 megatons of cumulative carbon emission savings by 2030.

Cooperative Research Centres lead some of Australia’s largest industry-research collaborations, with recent impact evaluations estimating Australia’s centres have delivered $32.5 billion of economic impact from $4.8 billion in government investment.

With this collaboration at the heart of the Cooperative Research Centre Program, RACE for 2030 provides a unique opportunity to bring together a diverse group of industry stakeholders to work collaboratively with leading researchers on the challenges facing the electricity distribution networks, as they look to strategically integrate EVs into the energy system.

Initial research funded by RACE for 2030 on EV grid integration produced a research opportunity assessment report, Electric Vehicles and the Grid, which recommended key areas of targeted research for future development including:

  • Data collection
  • Analysis of current trends and behaviours
  • Business model design to incentivise beneficial EV charging patterns
  • Impact analysis of EV adoption on mobility and the design of urban environments
  • Design of standards and protocols for EV charging equipment and communication devices

Following this research, RACE for 2030 funded the MyV2X project, which undertook national stakeholder consultation and a technical prioritisation study on EV integration.

This study, and engagement with RACE for 2030 partners, identified opportunities for partner-led demonstration projects and developed key questions for future research.

The study also makes initial recommendations for a technical pathway towards grid integration of EVs and will be released in June 2023 to the public on the RACE for 2030 website.

Demonstrating strategic EV integration

The Australian Strategic Electric Vehicle Integration Project (SEVI) is a three-year, $3.4 million project that will investigate ways to integrate EVs with renewable energy generation and storage that have promise for scalability and replicability.

Following an initial period of research co-design in 2023, RACE for 2030 partners in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia will lead on-the-ground demonstrations, providing matching in-kind support for the research.

Industry partners include Ausgrid, Australian Power Institute, Endeavour Energy, Planet Ark Power, Powertech Energy, New South Wales Government, South Australian Government, Selectronic, SA Power Networks, SwitchDin, Plico Energy, Western Power and Witchcliffe Ecovillage.

The research partners leading the project include Curtin University and University of Technology Sydney, with additional research from Griffith University, Monash University, RMIT University, and University of South Australia.

Through stakeholder engagement in previous projects, RACE for 2030 identified a preference for future research to investigate customer use cases that demonstrate a pathway to scale and replicability.

With this recommendation in mind, demonstration projects chosen for the SEVI project will focus on three use cases:

  1. EVs in fleets – in New South Wales, this demonstration will focus on the inclusion of EVs in business fleets in both at-work and at-home charging settings, with optional support from mixed energy storage options
  2. EVs in regions – in South Australia, this demonstration will focus on private EVs in regional areas that use behind-the-meter energy storage to understand how private storage capacity can support regional towns
  3. EVs in precincts – in Western Australia, this demonstration will focus on private EVs in residential precincts with embedded networks, with optional support from mixed behind-the-meter and front-of-meter energy storage options

The research gathered through these three demonstrations aims to apply learnings from earlier literature on EVs to these partner-led demonstrations so RACE for 2030 can begin bridging the gaps in understanding of how these revolutionary technologies will integrate with Australia’s energy system and wider society.

By investigating on-the-ground demonstration projects that are likely to scale and replicate across Australia, the SEVI project aims to move research beyond the early adopters of EVs and begin uncovering the extent of the cost, impact and wider value that can be captured from the strategic integration of EVs.

The future is electrified

As demand for EVs continues to grow, RACE for 2030 will remain focused on building collaboration between researchers and industry, while exploring the opportunities that can be seized as national transportation and energy infrastructure modernises.

Results from this project will build understanding and confidence in the benefits of integrated EVs among consumers, industry, and policymakers.

Sharing knowledge and communicating key findings will take place throughout the project and will inform wider practice through avenues including case study reports, digital media, and industry training modules.

It is clear that the transition to electrified transport has begun, but these are just early days. With 80,000 EVs on Australian roads at present, growing to a possible 2.5-3.5 million by 2030, the additional load EV charging places on the energy system varies depending on when and where it occurs.

Whether EVs cause a slight increase in total demand by 2030, an enormous instantaneous charging load, or are fully integrated into a decentralised energy system is not yet known.

However, what the SEVI project will discover are the approaches that can be used to supercharge government fleet transitions, electrify regional communities, and future-proof residential precincts.

 

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