The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has launched the Future Fuels Program, with $127.9 million in funding to support fleets to shift to new zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) technology.

The Future Fuels Program will operate as a competitive, open and ongoing program that aims to support vehicle fleet operators to integrate ZEVs into their operations over the next four years.

Funding will be available for light vehicle fleet operators for charging and electrical infrastructure, while heavy fleet operators are eligible for funding towards enabling infrastructure and some support for vehicle costs. ARENA is also looking to fund projects that incorporate hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and refuelling infrastructure.

The program is the second iteration of the Australian Government’s Future Fuels Fund that is designed to drive co-investment at scale in charging and refuelling infrastructure projects for future transport needs, including electricity, hydrogen or biofuels. This package of funding delivers on the next stage of the Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy released by the federal government on 9 November 2021.

Under Round 1 of the Future Fuels Fund, ARENA awarded $24.55 million to five companies for the construction of 403 electric vehicle fast charging stations spread across every state and territory. The first of these charging stations was completed and opened for use by the public on 8 November 2021.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said that this expanded program would build on the early successes of the Future Fuels Fund and drive the shift to ZEVs.

“Assisting fleet users to move to zero emissions vehicles means getting more zero emission cars and trucks on the road sooner, driving the road transport sector toward a net zero future.

By getting these vehicles on the road as soon as possible we’ll reduce emissions in the short term and help to create a market for second hand vehicles in the future, giving more consumers the option of switching to a ZEV with their next vehicle purchase,” Mr Miller said.

“ARENA is proud of what we were able to achieve with Future Fuels Round 1, with the largest ever expansion of public fast charging infrastructure in Australia. With our support, more than 400 public fast charging stations for electric vehicles are being built across the country.”

Following the success of the Future Fuels Round 1, the Australian Government announced a $178 million cash boost including funding specifically allocated to fleet programs. This fresh cash injection brings the total value of the Future Fuels Fund to $250 million and has enabled ARENA to launch the fleet program with a $127.9 million envelope.

Future targeted funding rounds under the program will focus on further expansions to the electric vehicle public charging network, including regional areas, as well as increasing the use of smart chargers in drivers’ homes.

ARENA has committed over $78 million to ZEV technologies since 2016, including fast charging networks on major highways, home smart charging trials, next-generation biofuels and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. In October 2021, ARENA announced funding for Transgrid to develop a state of the art electric bus depot in Leichhardt, New South Wales, providing a blueprint for how fleet operators can incorporate charging infrastructure in Australia.

Australian Logistics Council (ALC) CEO, Brad Williams, welcomed Round 2 of the Future Fuels Fund as it supported the uptake of low and zero emissions vehicles in commercial fleets.

“Given the nature of Australia’s heavy vehicle fleet, the future availability of second hand low or zero emission vehicles in the marketplace will mean more affordable access for non-fleet businesses, over time,” Mr Williams said.

“There are already a number of positive developments across the transport sector and momentum is building but the transition is influenced by a range of factors including government incentives, policy settings, access to the right technology, customer expectations and investor sentiment.”

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