A 12-month, $3.4 million electric vehicle (EV) smart charger trial will kick off in three states to give network operators a better understanding of how smart chargers interact with the grid.

As part of the trial, smart chargers have been installed at the homes of more than 160 EV owners in Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT.

These smart chargers not only charge EVs up to three times faster than the chargers that usually come with the vehicle, but also allow electricity network operators to dynamically adjust when the vehicle charges.

This means participants’ EVs can be plugged in when it’s convenient, but charged at times when the electricity grid has more capacity, whether that’s after midnight, or during the day when excess solar energy is being fed back into the grid – ideally leading to lower electricity bills for all consumers.

Information about EV charging habits so far shows most owners plug in their vehicles to charge at around 6pm, already a time of high demand on the electricity grid.

Through the trial, participants will have more visibility of their EV charging data, as well as being able to charge their cars faster, and electricity network operators will gain a better understanding of how to work with EV owners to manage the increasing demand on the grid.

‘Solar soak’ events on forecast sunny days will be a key feature of the trial. During these events, participants will be notified ahead of time to have their cars plugged in during a day when there is an abundance of solar energy being exported into the grid, to better understand the impact of EV charging in absorbing surplus electricity and helping manage grid voltage.

According to figures from the Electric Vehicle Council, EV sales are rapidly increasing, jumping from 6,900 sold in 2020 to 20,665 in 2021.

Federal Government projections indicate EVs will be up to 30 per cent of all new cars sold by 2030, which would mean about 1.7 million electric cars on our roads – all of which will need charging and place demands on the grid.

The EV grid trial is being led by Jemena, which delivers electricity to homes and businesses across north and western Melbourne. Jemena has partnered with Victorian electricity distribution network businesses AusNet Services and United Energy, TasNetworks in Tasmania and EVOEnergy in the ACT.

Jemena Networks Executive General Manager, Shaun Reardon, said, “It’s clear that energy network businesses need to be ready for an influx of EVs.

“Through this trial, we’re looking at how we can best work with customers to coordinate charging their vehicles at times when there’s more capacity in the grid.”

EV charging infrastructure business JET Charge is the trial’s technology partner, responsible for providing and installing the smart chargers across all locations. The trial has been co-funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) under the Advancing Renewables Program.

JET Charge Founder and CEO, Tim Washington, said, “The EV grid trial demonstrates one of the key paradigms of our time: the convergence of transport and energy. By harnessing the power of smart charging, we will work with our project partners to ensure that EVs offer a tangible benefit to the efficient operation of our electricity grid.”

Trial outcomes will be shared with electricity retailers, electric vehicle manufacturers, governments and other energy industry stakeholders. In total, 123 Victorian, 22 Tasmanian and 22 ACT households have had smart chargers installed to participate in the trial.

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