With an expected acceleration of EV adoption in Australia and globally, solving the issue of charging is an important aspect to support that adoption. Energy provider Origin, has been conducting a Smart trial since August 2020 and today they’ve released an interim report to let us know how things are going.
The trial is designed to provide insights required to inform the design of tariffs and retail propositions for smart charging to encourage the charging of EVs by customers in a way that will be beneficial to both EV owners as well as the electricity system.
So far residential and business participants total 103 (70 residential and 33 business) which have had smart chargers installed and are providing meaningful baseline charging data. The whole trial will see at least 150 chargers installed onto Origin’s Virtual power Plant, with the trial concluding in December 2022.
Initial findings of charging data includes:
- The profile of our participants is skewed to early adopters. Any commercial propositions would need to consider the appropriate customer segment as it is unlikely there will be a one size fits all solution for the management of charging whether it be residential or business.
- Charging data was impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns in various states and at various times. Behaviour is starting to normalise, and this will continue towards later periods of 2021. Even so, charging can be seen to peak towards later afternoon to early evening periods.
- Technology to control a small group of EV chargers can be simple, however the eco-system becomes fragmented and costly at scale. Policies and standards should be explored to address this.
Origin received expressions of interest from 388 residential participants, which were distributed all around the nation. There was particularly strong demand from QLD, NSW, and VIC, which made up around 75% of the total expression of interest.
70 residential participants (Figure 3) were selected to be part of the trial based on eligibility criteria including:
- Dwelling type (e.g., freestanding houses or townhouses).
- Off-street parking to install chargers.
- Being an Origin Energy electricity customer.
- Willingness to participate in surveys, interviews, and experiments over the period of 2 years.
Through surveys and interviews, Origin identified that 89% of participants had Solar PV installed at their premise of which 20% also have a battery.
When it comes to businesses, Origin received interest from over 50 large organisations across a wide variety of industries. Local and State Government, Retail, Property Services and Manufacturing were key segments which expressed interest in participating in the smart charging trial.
The most significant of these was Local/State Government which accounted for more than 30% of applicants, showing a strong design for them to lead the way in terms of charging, also matching with many local councils that are trialing EVs in their vehicle fleets.
Business participants were assessed for selection into the trial based on:
- Existing sustainability and EV fleet plans.
- Availability of dedicated parking spaces to install EV chargers.
- A detailed site assessment to understand charging infrastructure requirements.
- Participation of surveys, interviews and experiments over the period of 2 years.
33 fleet chargers have been installed to date across 15 business participants, with 6 in VIC, 6 in NSW, 2 in QLD and 1 in SA.
For the majority of business participants in the trial, the uptake of EVs was not driven by economics, but rather linked to a sustainability commitment or a business offering intrinsically linked to sustainability. Transitioning to EVs was seen as “the right thing to do”.
Many Local/State Government entities are increasingly including EVs as a means of lowering transport related emissions. Many of these entities tend to have progressed beyond a single EV within their fleet and are purchasing multiple EVs and chargers across multiple sites.
Particularly in the retail segment, transitioning to EVs was either brought about by corporate targets to reduce emissions, or as a means of exhibiting the organisations commitment to the environment. It was also noted that in some instances for smaller organisations, sustainability was intrinsically linked to their business offering.
The average number of chargers by industry is a good proxy for the scale to which EV uptake has progressed by industry (Figure 8). Whilst many participants are looking at 1-2 chargers as a means of trialling out the technology, a few segments have expanded beyond that to include EVs as a key cornerstone of their future fleet requirements.
Data of the charging behaviour from the participants revealed some interesting insights.
Most people only plugged in their EV for charging, once the battery reached a certain percentage, or once every few days. This differs from the common expectation that drivers would get home at the end of a day and plug in, to establish the charging behaviour and rely on the car’s scheduling in the software to ensure an adequate amount of charge was available for the next day.
The other interesting metric was the hour in the day that charging was taking place. Surprisingly most were not using off-peak charging, when the cost is at its lowest. A majority of charging occurred between 7am and 11pm. Much of that time can be attributed to when the sun is out and given a large percentage of participants had solar, this makes sense, with the energy being essentially free from the sun, if you exclude the missed Feed-in-tarrif amount.
With more of us being home due to Covid-19 lockdowns, this certainly makes sense, however those charging between 6pm and 11pm are really using power at the peak time and costing themselves the most amount of money. The trial doesn’t dive into which EVs were used, which may explain some of this behaviour, as not all EVs support charging schedules. This would mean you get home and plug in for convenience and perhaps they’re willing to pay a premium for that.
Overall the data in the Report, does show some great insights for an electricity provider to structure their infrastructure to accommodate the growth in electric vehicle charging.
The big question now is just how rapid is that adoption curve for EVs in Australia?
You can read the full interim report here.