Watts vs. litres: changing the way we fuel

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The modern service station is as hideous as it is ubiquitous. The big red lettering, the oily asphalt and the stink of petrol are an unfortunate necessity for combustion drivers worldwide, and Australians have been putting up with them practically since federation.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. By integrating EV charging with existing parking infrastructure we could do away with fuel stops entirely. A future without servos might not be so far away, so today we’re taking a look at what a post-petrol Australia might look like.

Taking a break

Any post-EV society is going to require us to rethink how we approach fuelling/charging our vehicles. Conventional service stations are designed for a 10 minute in-and-out experience. The pump lures you in, you buy a handful of snacks inside, and you’re on your way with a fuller tank and a lighter wallet.

Just a light snack; gotta keep the energy up

Just a light snack; gotta keep the energy up

Regardless of how much that model appeals to you, it doesn’t really work for plug-in electric vehicles. Even the fastest superchargers require at least 15 minutes to provide a reasonable amount of charge to an EV battery. A more realistic wait might be upwards of an hour, so planning around your charges can be a necessity for longer drives.

Yet while stop times will necessarily be longer, it’s important to remember you won’t be tied to an overpriced convenience store for the duration. Parking at a restaurant or shopping strip and leaving your EV to do its thing is entirely possible, cutting down time on other chores and eliminating the need for detours to find a station.

That’s if you need a charge at all. Daily commutes already fall well within the range of a single charge for most EV batteries, so once you’re in the habit of nightly charging you may never need to plug-in outside your home again. Even cross-country road-trips might not require as much planning as you’d think. JET Charge’s sister company - Chargefox -  has already begun work on a network of superchargers for highways nationwide.

Servo withdrawal

In spite of their many flaws, it’s hard to deny that service stations hold a sentimental place in Aussie culture. Whether its a hidden love of chico rolls or a warm nostalgia for childhood road-trips, many of us have a soft spot for our favourite servo, and  would be sad to see them go. So if combustion heads the way of the dinosaur, what will happen to them?

There’s a lot of space around the country dedicated to these stations. Even smaller 2-pump stops require relatively spacious sites, certainly larger than most retail businesses. This leaves a lot of spare room for development if combustion fuel becomes redundant.

A few square metres for sure

A few square metres for sure

Could these business endure if fuel ceases to be viable? It’s tough to tell. Urban convenience stores are always in demand, and highway locations could be converted from pumps to superchargers if they can also find a way to keep customers busy for the duration of their charge. Perhaps a shift from fast food to sit-down cafes & restaurants will become the norm for longer trips in years to come. Our waistlines would certainly be grateful.

The great unknowns

Any change of this scale will be met by inevitable resistance from petrol profiteers. Since EVs cost so much less to run than combustion, we can count on some seriously stubborn resistance to mass-adoption in Australia. The signs are already there; successful lobbying from oil & gas interests has kept Australia as one of the few developed countries without tax incentives for EVs. This is in spite of the very real benefits for the nation that come with their use.  

At JET Charge, we think that it’s maths that will kill the servo more than anything else.  They currently command 100% of the market for fuelling. If you need to fill your car, it’s almost inevitable that you will be doing so at a petrol station.  This concentrates fuelling power into handful of oil giants, many of whom are among the largest companies in Australia today.

However, with EV Charging the majority of charging is done at home or at work, and only 10% is done in public.  As a result, the market share for servos shrinks to that 10%. Can any market player survive an overall market contraction of 90%, and yet still operate the same as they always have?  We don’t think so.

Nothing beats the convenience of charging overnight and having a full battery for tomorrow’s commute. The same can be said for public charging while you dine, shop, or relax. Abandoning service stations will require some getting used to for sure, but we can hardly wait.

But dreaming of a post-petrol world is more of a fun exercise than anything else, at least for now. We’re excited to see what’s next for charging and EV adoption, so let us know in the comments where you think Australia is going. Are the days of the servo numbered? What would you like to see replace them?

The future of EV supercharging

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This month Tesla unveiled their latest V3 superchargers, capable of putting out up to 250 kW per vehicle from a 1 MW cabinet. Those are insane numbers — about 35x as powerful as a standard 7.2 kW domestic charger. And they aren’t the only ones; the future of EV charging is almost here, and it’s supercharged.

Despite the hype surrounding Tesla’s announcement, EV supercharging isn’t as new as many might think. Last year JET Charge’s sister company Chargefox began rolling out an Australian supercharger network. These chargers are able to put out between 150 and 350 kW, the fastest of any in Australia. Chargers this powerful can deliver up to 400 km of range in as little as 15 minutes.

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Big numbers

Even today EV adoption continues to be stalled by range and charge anxiety from potential buyers — and it’s a legitimate concern. While home and portable charging solutions are ideal for day-to-day use, they can’t always keep up with the demands of longer commutes or cross-country trips. Australia is a big country and we need chargers that can make the distance.

That’s what Tesla is trying to achieve with the V3 superchargers. Promising up to 1600 km of range delivered per hour, the units are designed to get more EVs on the road in less time. And at an enormous 1 MW cabinet capacity, the days of splitting unit power with neighbouring cars may soon be over.

Tesla has also unveiled a new feature across their range: on-route battery warmup. When navigating to any Tesla supercharger station (V2 or V3), your car will automatically heat its batteries to an ideal charging temperature, reducing charge times across the board by approximately 25%. In addition, they plan to unlock 145 kW charge rates for their existing V2 supercharger network in the coming weeks.

As of right now, Australians should expect to see Tesla V3 superchargers appearing late this year.

A growing market

Of course, Tesla aren’t the only manufacturers working on supercharger technology. Swiss giant ABB has offered the 350 kW Terra HP since 2017, and local outfit Tritium sells the super-high-powered Veefil-PK at outputs of up to 475 kW.

Values based on currently-available datasheets & press information

Values based on currently-available datasheets & press information

JET Charge have completed installs for all kinds of high power chargers, and we’re extremely excited for the future of the technology in Australia. But we do have to ask, are our current EVs ready for it?

Backing off the pressure

As much as we love discussing the crazy numbers of the latest superchargers, we’ve still got to concede that it’s overkill for the EVs of today. Many EVs are limited to 50 or 100 kW charging to preserve battery health, and while those values are growing it does make supercharger outputs seem excessive.

That said, we have to remember that these units are designed to serve multiple cars at once. They’re not exactly viable on a domestic network or budget, so will generally be reserved for public or fleet installations where they can take advantage of their full capacity. The current roll-out from Chargefox will bring 21 superchargers to highways nationwide, with plans for many more in the coming years.

How much is a 15 minute charge worth? Will battery technology be able to keep up? Comment below with your thoughts on superchargers and their potential for changing the Aussie EV landscape.

Tesla backpedals on retail closures

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The wave of recent Tesla news continues with the announcement that many of their retail locations will remain or reopen. This comes as an unexpected reversal of the company’s decision to close almost all physical locations and move to online-only sales. High-end model 3 will incur a 3% price rise as a result of this change. Model S and Model X are still enjoying a massive price drop.

Tesla announced the change late yesterday, giving potential buyers the week until March 18 to purchase models at the current price, a 6% reduction on prices prior to the mass-closures that began two weeks ago.

Following March 18, prices on high-end Model 3 variants and luxury models will increase by approximately 3%. Pricing for the $35,000 USD base Model 3 will remain unaffected. Tesla have not commented on how Australian prices will be affected when the Model 3 arrives later this year.

Following an internal evaluation and public backlash, the automaker has decided to reopen a number of high-visibility locations closed for low foot traffic, as well as keep approximately half of the stores previously slated for closure. All Tesla purchases will still take place online, with stores being kept primarily for test drives, sales information, and servicing.

With purchasing remaining online-exclusive, Tesla will be keeping their “1000 mile or 7 day” return policy, allowing customers either 1600 kilometres of driving or one week (whichever comes sooner) for a return and full refund on their vehicle purchase.

Sales and pricing for Tesla chargers should remain unchanged. JET Charge continues to offer installation & management services for all Tesla charging infrastructure as their national recommended installer.

Tesla products can be found on our model pages:

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

For information on our full range of installations and services, contact JET Charge at info@jetcharge.com.au

One plug to rule them all: how Type 2 become the Australian AC standard

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See the end of this post for a short technical explanation of the different plug types

Around 2 years ago, I was in a room full of “parking professionals” (yes that’s a thing) and the ex-Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, talking about all things parking.  Like that annoying kid in class I asked why the City of Melbourne wasn’t doing more to support the roll-out of EV charging infrastructure in the new apartment buildings springing up all over the city.  His response was something along the lines of, “We’ll look at supporting this if you people can get your act together on plug standards”.

That dismissive remark at the time represents the number one question the EV industry gets every day about charging: What’s with the plugs? 

Why is this important?

Before we dive into a brief history we need to outline the importance of plug standards:

  1. A consistent standard helps public charging providers install charging stations with confidence, knowing that they won’t need to replace them down the line

  2. It helps fleets install charging stations for long-term use

  3. It gives consumers confidence to buy vehicles knowing that they’ll be compatible with public charging infrastructure

  4. It allows for a coordinated approach and simple message when speaking to government

The king that was: Type 1

The push for electric vehicles in Australia started around 7 years ago. Back in those days, the only models available were the Mitsubishi i-Miev (2012) and Nissan Leaf (2012), followed soon after by the Porsche Cayenne PHEV (2014) and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (2014).

At that time the dominant vehicle was the Nissan Leaf, and Chargepoint was the dominant public charging infrastructure provider.  Being from Japan, Nissan naturally chose the J1772 or Type 1 standard, which was common in their home country.  Likewise, Chargepoint Australia, operating under licence from the US, also used the Type 1 standard. Type 1 was, and continues to be, the dominant standard in the US.

On the DC front, CHAdeMO was the common standard, again because of the dominance of Japanese EVs.

Chargepoint chargers back in 2014.

Chargepoint chargers back in 2014.

In what was essentially “follow the leader”, Porsche introduced the Cayenne and Panamera PHEVs with the Type 1 plug as well, despite the European carmaker using Type 2 as standard in their home markets.

The challenger: Type 2

It was in this context that Tesla formally entered the Australian market with the Type 2 plug.  While Tesla did sell the Roadster here, it wasn’t until the Model S that the brand gained widespread recognition.

Tesla in the US has their own proprietary standard, but have chosen to adopt international standards in other markets.  When faced with the decision of what to bring into Australia, it chose the European standard: Type 2.

Their reasons were pretty clear; Type 2 could operate on three phase as well as single phase (our grid is three phase).  It could also be locked into the car (so people can’t just come up to the car and unplug it).

As Tesla were building out their own charging infrastructure, both through the supercharging network as well as their destination charging network, they did not need to consider existing public charging infrastructure, the vast majority of which at the time was Type 1.  They also did not need to consider inter-operability with other car manufacturers, meaning they didn’t need to worry that other manufacturers all used type 1.

While this was not a big issue at the outset, it soon became clear that there were going to be two major plug standards for Australian AC charging. 

For DC charging Tesla used the equivalent of a “proprietary standard”.  No other manufacturer uses the same plug for both AC and DC charging, and yet Tesla does.  (In 2018 Tesla announced that the Model 3 would come with CCS2 instead).

With Tesla quickly becoming the best selling battery electric car in Australia, and also investing the most in public charging infrastructure, the move to Type 2 seemed inevitable…

The stumble: a return to Type 1

…except it didn’t.  In 2016, the Audi A3 e-tron was introduced into Australia with a Type 1 plug due to the Tesla network being only available to Tesla vehicles.  Again, we have another European brand eschewing their own standard to conform to the perceived Australian preference of Type 1.  They were followed by BMW, Volvo and Mercedes, who all introduced plug-in hybrids using Type 1 plugs.

Action and reaction

That is when the automotive industry realised Australia’s EV adoption was being hindered by confusing plug standards. With no discernible action from government in relation to standardisation, various entities within the EV and automotive industries decided to act.

I remember sitting in a large meeting room at a vehicle manufacturer’s head office, with most of the entities involved in EV charging in Australia, discussing the implications of having multiple standards in the Australian market.  I remember being particularly encouraged that everyone agreed on a need for action.

A year later, thanks to the hard work of some motivated individuals within the industry, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries released a technical statement on EV charging standards for public recharging infrastructure (read about it here), outlining a single approach to plug standards in Australia.  It was recommending that by 2020, all its members should move to Type 2 charging for AC, and either CHAdeMO or CCS2 for DC Charging.

A single approach

In the year following, many of the manufacturers who brought vehicles with Type 1 plugs made the switch to Type 2 for AC charging;  BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Porsche changed their plug-in hybrid specifications. Renault and Hyundai soon followed, and Nissan will be moving to Type 2 with the new Leaf.

On the DC side, there continues to be two standards: CHAdeMO and CCS2.  Do we all wish there was just one standard?  Sure.  But we face different plug standards on a daily basis: Android vs Apple, petrol vs diesel nozzles, the endless number of USB variants.  We haven’t stopped buying smartphones or cars, and it won’t be enough to slow down EVs.