Round one of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) $71.9 million Future Fuels Fund is now open, aimed at addressing barriers to the rollout of new vehicle technologies by providing more public fast-charging stations.

This opening round will provide $16.5 million in grants to support battery electric vehicle (BEV)  fast-charging infrastructure to expand the network and reduce blackspots. 

The funding will be available to support the rollout of networks of fast-charging stations (50 kW and above) across eight geographic areas including each Australian capital city, alongside large regional centres including Newcastle, Wollongong, the NSW Central Coast, Geelong, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Each regional location is expected to receive a minimum of four fast-charging stations each. Applicants should seek to maximise coverage of their fast-charging stations across these geographic areas.

In September 2020, Minister for Energy and Emission Reduction, Angus Taylor, announced the Future Fuels Package, as part of the Australian Government’s First Low Emissions Technology Statement. Mr Taylor said the first round of the Future Fuels Fund would support EV uptake and give motorists more confidence when choosing new technologies.

“The first round of the Future Fuels Fund will encourage additional EV fleet uptake in metropolitan areas and reduce concerns about their capacity to travel longer distances in regional Australia,” Mr Taylor said.

“The program will make it easier for consumers in regional Australia, as well as fleet owners, taxi operators and businesses, to access the infrastructure they need to embrace new technologies.”

The initial funding round is focused on BEV fast-charging stations to increase consumer choice, after industry consultation identified that a lack of public fast charging in major population centres is a key barrier to uptake of BEVs for both the public and fleets.

Subsequent rounds of the Future Fuels Fund will focus on reducing the barriers for businesses in choosing new technologies for fleets, and supporting more infrastructure for regional Australians by addressing charging blackspots, along with hydrogen and biofuel opportunities.

In the first round of funding, ARENA is requesting applications that ensure coverage across the geographic areas, will maximise private sector investment and can be delivered within two years. Fast-charging stations will also need to be powered by renewable energy.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said the Future Fuels Fund will help businesses and regional communities take advantage of opportunities offered by new vehicle technologies across battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell and biofuels.

“Through this initial round, we are addressing one of the barriers to the rollout of new vehicle technologies by significantly increasing the number of fast-charging stations available to consumers across Australia, and reducing charging blackspots in both metropolitan and regional centres,” Mr Miller said.

“This funding by the Australian Government will stimulate the fast-charging market and drive private sector investment, and will build on our considerable body of work in this sector.

“As electric vehicles continue to become more competitive, it is important we have the recharging infrastructure in place to give motorists confidence they can choose an EV and recharge it conveniently and cost-effectively.”

The Future Fuels Fund supports the Federal Government’s Future Fuels Strategy Discussion Paper, which is currently open for consultation until 2 April 2021. 

The paper outlines the Federal Government’s vision to create an environment that enables consumer choice, stimulates industry development and reduces emissions in the road transport sector. 

Supporting the rollout of EV charging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure where it is needed, and an early focus on commercial fleets are two of the five priority initiatives under the Future Fuels Strategy.

ARENA has provided $29.7 million in support for BEV charging projects, including Australia’s first two intercity ultra-fast charging networks on major highways being rolled out by Chargefox and Evie Networks. 

ARENA has also previously supported charging and smart charging trials run by ActewAGL in Canberra, AGL, Jemena and Origin, as well as the rollout of free public charging stations in four Adelaide council areas by JOLT. ARENA has also supported hydrogen and biofuel projects, including hydrogen refuelling projects with Toyota and BOC.

Applications for the first round of the Future Fuels Fund are now open and will close on Tuesday 6 April 2021. For more information, click here.

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