Quest event energy insights logo

Creating clarity during the energy transition

    cancel (1) 1

      A living network of curious minds.

      We’re an open platform where over 100 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface.

      New call-to-action


      March 25, 2024 | Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park

      Australian Domestic Gas Outlook 2024

      June 11, 2024 | Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

      Australian Energy Week 2024

      New call-to-action
      Australian Hydrogen Forum
      New call-to-action
      Transmission & Distribution — 5 mins read

      How, and how soon, will EVs impact the Australian grid?

      Electric vehicles are increasingly visible on Australian roads. Yet most of us still drive high-emission cars and view EVs as an expensive luxury.

      With no federal government policy to subsidise take-up, it’s left to the states and private companies to come up with their own trials, programs and incentives.

      While much is being done behind the scenes, most of us are still scratching our heads. What are electric cars like to drive? Could I ever afford one? If I do, would I risk conking out in the middle of nowhere?

      As rapidly changing technology impacts our world, climate scientist Jill Cainey evaluates how – and how quickly - EVs will revolutionise the way we live, work and travel.

      Statistics tell the story

      Consultant at Erne Energy, Jill points to some current EV figures.

      • In Australia last year, the Tesla Model 3 sold more units than Subaru Forester, Toyota Kluger and Kia Seltos. It came close to outselling the Toyota Camry, which beat it by 987 units.*
      • The average age of vehicles across Australia increased to 10.6 years in 2021, according to ABS figures. Older cars are less efficient and emit more CO2, which increases the urgency of a faster switch to EVs.*
      • Australian cars drive an average of just over 30 kilometres per day, based on average annual distance of 12,100 km. This suits EVs with smaller batteries, which are easy to charge at home.*

      What’s driving EV take-up?

      Jill agrees with NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean, who insists the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles must be phased out by 2035 to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. But it’s a big ask.

      The incentives

      'When the government incentivises something, it gets snapped up,' Jill says.

      'But absence of federal government policy means we are not attractive enough to EV manufacturers.'

      Despite NSW, Queensland and Victoria rolling out their own EV policies, electric cars remain expensive, and in short supply.

      The experience

      In Jill’s view, 'EVs remain a novelty for most of us. While those who drive them usually love their power and flexibility, it’s a huge investment to replace your car. That’s why government policy is needed to put them in consumer reach'

      The network

      'We need a large roadside charging network to support growing numbers of EVs on our roads. Slow overnight charging is fine for work the next day, but rapid 15-minute charging is necessary when travelling interstate, or in regional areas,' she says.

      The Chargefox network has 1,400 national chargers to date for example but, in many parts of the country, you’re still on your own.*

      The demand

      'We have to get our price signals right, encouraging use during peak solar generation - middle of the day - and disincentivising use during heavy evening demand,' she says.

      It must be easy for consumers to plug in at their workplace, or shopping mall car parks.

      'Networks are still trying to adjust their tariff schedule. Programs like the 2021 EV Grid trial in Victoria, ACT and Tasmania will also help them understand and manage emerging technology.'*

      V2g and V2h: EVs as mobile batteries

      Vehicle-to-grid (V2g) charging technology is finally being introduced in Australia, after a patchy start.*

      If enough EVs plug into the mains using bidirectional chargers, the right software can link them into a virtual power plant (VPP) network – creating a commercial-scale battery.

      According to JET Charge CEO, Tim Washington, if all 19 million Australian cars were EVs, they would store more energy than 10,000 Tesla Big Batteries.*

      Yet Jill says most EV buyers aren’t interested in being part of a virtual grid, where others make a profit on your energy.

      'What really excites me is vehicle-to-home (V2h) technology, where residents get all the benefits. You can even pre-charge your EV to withstand blackouts during natural disasters,' she says.

      'EVs like the Nissan Leaf work as both a car and a home storage battery. You can top it up in primetime solar, draw it down to meet your evening needs, then recharge it overnight. This keeps power bills low and reduces your impact on the grid.'

      And the future?

      Rather than standing alone, Jill sees EVs as sparking off major changes in the way we live, work and trade.

      • Growth of home-grown battery industry, mining our critical sources of lithium, cobalt and rare metals
      • Consumers shopping around for the best EV charging rates, just as they ‘fuel shop’ for petrol
      • Single-car family households, relying on share rides, driverless carpools and on-demand electric scooters and bikes to fill the gaps
      • Smaller towns supplying extra EV charging facilities to put themselves on the EV-friendly map
      • Every home having a dedicated EV terminal, with bidirectional charging managed by networks

      There are so many variables, and no tangible government policy in place, Jill says.

      'That’s the difficulty for electricity networks. They know what they have to do, but when should they do it? Unfortunately, EV timelines remain elusive.'

      Wendy Riley, Energy Insights

      Energy Monthly

      Group (2)

      Get a different perspective on energy with our monthly newsletter.

      New call-to-action
      March 25, 2024 | Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park

      Australian Domestic Gas Outlook 2024

      June 11, 2024 | Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

      Australian Energy Week 2024

      New call-to-action