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What are electric vehicles?

Electric vehicles (EVs) refers to cars or other vehicles with motors that are powered by electricity rather than liquid fuels.

There are currently four main types of EVs:

  1. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs): these vehicles are fully-electric, meaning they are solely powered by electricity and do not have a petrol, diesel or LPG engine, fuel tank or exhaust pipe. BEVs are also known as ‘plug-in’ EVs as they use an external electrical charging outlet to charge the battery
  2. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs): these vehicles are powered by a combination of fuel and electricity. They can be charged with electricity using a plug but also contain an internal combustion engine that uses liquid fuel
  3. Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs): these vehicles use a fuel cell instead of a battery, or in combination with a battery or supercapacitor, to power their electric motors. FCEVs are typically fuelled by hydrogen
  4. Non-plug-in hybrid EVs (HEVs): instead of using an external plug to charge the vehicle, the electricity generated by the HEV’s braking system is used to recharge the battery. This is called ‘regenerative braking’.

Electric vehicles in Australia

Electric vehicle uptake in Australia is currently lower than other developed countries but the number of EVs is expected to grow as cheaper models arrive and more charging infrastructure is rolled out.

Alongside the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, we published the Australian Electric Vehicle Market Study Report that explored topics such as the potential uptake of EVs in Australia. According to the report, EVs are expected to match petrol vehicles on both upfront price and range by the mid 2020s. Once EVs reach this price parity with internal combustion engine vehicles, sales of EVs are expected to rapidly increase.

The potential benefits of EVs include reduced fuel costs, lower maintenance costs, enhanced energy security, reduced air pollution (with associated health benefits) and an improved driving experience. Greenhouse gas emissions can be eliminated if EVs are charged using renewable energy.

To date, more than five million EVs have been sold worldwide with the pace of sales accelerating rapidly. According to Bloomberg’s Q1 2019 Global Electrified Transport Market Outlook, close to two million EVs were sold in 2018, representing 3.2 per cent of total passenger vehicle sales. Bloomberg expects another 2.7 million to be sold in 2019.

ARENA action

Our purpose is to accelerate Australia’s shift to affordable and reliable renewable energy. By connecting investment, knowledge and people to deliver energy innovation, we help to build the foundation of a renewable energy ecosystem in Australia.

Our focus is the integration of electric vehicles with the electricity grid in a way that benefits electricity users generally.

Charging EVs can provide benefits to the grid if appropriately managed. If they are charged when there is plentiful cheap solar and wind power they can increase the use of renewable energy, with less need for electricity storage.

Conversely, if EV charging is uncoordinated additional generation and network investment may be required, increasing total electricity system costs.

EVs could provide energy back to the grid (‘vehicle-to-grid’ or ‘V2G’) when demand is high and supply from renewables is low.

Working out how to manage EV charging to best complement an electricity system increasingly powered by renewables will require testing new technologies and business models, as well as coordination between the EV industry, electricity sector – including retailers, networks and market bodies – and government.

What are we are looking for?

  • projects to gather EV charging data to inform forecasting and integration efforts of AEMO, network service providers and other relevant parties
  • demonstrations of EVs being incorporated into passenger fleets to inform how a fleet of EVs interact with the grid in the Australian context
  • managed charging and V2G demonstrations, especially those involving networks and retailers, that gather evidence on different methods and the benefits of managed charging and V2G services for the energy market and end users
  • demonstrations of EVs being incorporated into heavy vehicle fleets (trucks and buses) to inform how a fleet of EVs interact with the grid in the Australian context.

What we have done?

We have supported several projects involving EVs and renewable energy, including consumer tools and ultra-fast charging infrastructure, which could help to overcome barriers to uptake.

Knowledge sharing

We share knowledge, insights and data from our funded projects to help the renewable energy industry and other projects learn from each other’s experiences. Our projects capture high-quality quantitative and qualitative data and information, linked with the needs of the market, while respecting our recipients’ commercial and contractual rights.

Read reports from our EV projects in the ARENA Knowledge Bank.

Last updated 12 September 2019
Last updated
12 September 2019

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