Electric vehicle charging is poised to become a multi-billion dollar industry in Australia as the country catches up with the EV Revolution, says JOLT Charge CEO Doug McNamee.

The Australian start-up has just secured a major investment from global investment giant BlackRock Real Assets, a $100 million capital injection provided over time to underpin its plans to eventually roll out 5000 of its fast charging stations across Australia.

Electric vehicle take up in Australia has lagged rapid growth markets like Europe to date, with figures from the Electric Vehicle Council this week showing just 0.78% of new vehicle sales in Australia in 2020 were EVs, compared to 10.7% in the UK and an incredible 74% in Norway.

That compares to a 4.2% average worldwide, although the 8688 EVs sold in 2021 to date represent 1.57% of light vehicle sales and have already outstripped the record of 6900 sales in CY2020.

But BlackRock has already flagged its investment in JOLT from the US$4.8 billion Global Renewable Power Fund will not be its last in Asia-Pacific charging networks, and McNamee says electric vehicle charging infrastructure will eventually be big business in Australia.

“I think the reality is, is that it’s going to be a large business. How big? Your guess is probably as good as mine,” McNamee told Stockhead.

“For Australia it’s obviously going to be a multi-billion dollar industry at the very least.

“But there are talks of hundreds of billions of dollars regionally. And then obviously, trillions of dollars globally.”


JOLT looking at expansion after BlackRock investment

McNamee said JOLT is South Australia’s largest fast charging station operator on the back of a program to install 21 new stations in metropolitan Adelaide councils backed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The company is set to install its first fast charging stations in September in Sydney in a partnership with Ausgrid.

JOLT has an innovative funding model where it sells advertising space on its units.

Users are able to get the first 7KWh free, roughly equivalent to 15 minutes charging time or 45km on the road, then pay for their power after that point.

McNamee said Australian governments have done a “fantastic job” delivering fast charging infrastructure between cities and regional centres.

This has done a lot, he said, to counteract potential range anxiety consumers have when making the choice between battery electric vehicles and internal combustion engine cars.

JOLT is focusing on urban areas, where charging infrastructure is not visible or accessible enough despite the high proportion of Australia’s population and vehicle fleet in capital cities.

“On the charging side, I think range anxiety is probably more apparent actually in cities than it is going between cities,” he said.

“The government’s done a really good job of investing in intercity connectivity for charging.

“So you can pretty much drive across Australia now on fast charging infrastructure that ARENA have put in, which is great.

“And so now, it’s about building out that charging infrastructure within metropolitan areas where the vast majority of kilometers are driven.”

Visibility, McNamee said, is key.

“It’s one thing to sort of pop open your Plugshare app and see a lot of chargers, but if they’re not readily available because they’re in private property, or they’re at the bottom of a council car park that you’ve got to pay to enter, it doesn’t actually help you,” he said.

“So the availability of fast, visible charging infrastructure, which is on curbside and at highly accessible locations is a key piece of that.”


EV Revolution coming to Australia, finally

Underpinning McNamee’s confidence in the charging industry is the belief that the EV Revolution will take over Australia as carmakers overseas phase out ICEs.

Volkswagen, for instance, plans to remove ICEs from its production line between 2033 and 2035, Volvo is already aiming for half its cars to be electric by 2025 and retire ICEs and hybrids by 2030. GM wants to stop building polluting vehicles by 2035.

McNamee said the shift would come regardless of Government policy.

“I would say the government does a really good job of creating the rails and the framework for the private sector to do the job,” he said.

“I think the government in 2021, in particular, has done a great job of saying, ‘this is where we want to be, this is where we want to go now’.

“It’s really up to the private sector to actually deliver on that program … regardless of really government policy in a lot of ways the EV, I guess, ‘Revolution’ is coming.

“We’re a technology taker in Australia – we’re 1.8% of the right hand drive market.

“There’s not going to be cars specially made for the Australian market. we’re just going to get what every other right hand drive market is getting.

“Key leaders are Japan and the UK for Australia, as well India and China.”


Choice and cost big factors for EV takeup

More than range anxiety McNamee said the price and number of models available to Australian consumers was behind the relatively slower pace of take up in the Australian market.

“If you were to go down over the last two years and want to buy an electric vehicle under $60,000, you really only had maybe the Hyundai Kona, Hyundai Ionic and now the MG to choose from,” he said.

“I think as we start to see more model availability come in, that’s going to be a key sort of linchpin.”

That will change as OEMs shift their production practices to focus on electric vehicle assembly lines.

“What I would say is that as the global OEM supply chain shifts, you’re going to have an exponential uptake in EVs,” he said.

“You’re going to be a general consumer, you’re going to go down to the Toyota dealership, they’re going to have three petrol Camrys that are available, and they’re going to have 17 electric models.

“And so you’re going to have this sort of natural consumer benefit by shifting, because they’re going to be cheaper, they’re going to be more available, and it’s going to be pretty quick once it happens.”


Fast charging set up for the future

It will likely take more than five years for JOLT to hit its 5000 station target, but McNamee said it is aiming to add 1000-2000 over the next two to three years.

All will be DC fast charging models with the slowest, 25MW chargers adding 190 kilometers per hour.

McNamee said the nature of how, where and when you ‘fill up’, particularly in metro regions, is set to change as the wider public shifts to electric vehicles.

“You don’t use an EV like you do a petrol car, right, you use an EV like use your mobile phone,” he said.

“You leave the car on charge or you leave the phone on charge overnight.

“You’re driving around and probably get it down to say 30% or get it down to 40% and then top up when you charge up again and then you keep going, as opposed to sort of filling up 400 K’s worth and then taking seven or eight or 10 days to drive that bar.

“The average trip in Australia is only 20 kilometers by distance from here to here.

“You actually have a more efficient use of the battery if that makes sense, because you’ve got the ability to charge it wherever you are.”