The CEO of a Major Australian EV Charging Network On Why Installing New Stations Is So Damned Difficult

The CEO of a Major Australian EV Charging Network On Why Installing New Stations Is So Damned Difficult

Publically available EV chargers are essential to Australia’s EV uptake, just as they have been overseas, however it’s not as easy as picking a carpark and throwing down a charging box.

While governments at the state and federal level have been enthusiastic about rolling out EV chargers across Australia this year, it’s not an easy process. Actually, there are a lot of things to consider before the work can be done.

While chargers in Australia range from 7kW ( slow chargers, usually what you’d use at home or in emergencies) to 350kW (ultrafast chargers, what you’d find on highways, provided by networks from Evie and Chargefox), and with more popping up over time, there are so many variables to consider when installing a charging station, different from place to place, charger to charger.

“The process to roll out a charging station involves a number of different disciplines. It’s not just about dropping a box on a site,” Chris Mills, the CEO of Evie, one of Australia’s largest EV charging network companies, told Gizmodo Australia.

If you have an EV in Australia, you may have used one of Evie’s stations. If you don’t have an EV, you may have seen an Evie charger being built or operational in a shopping centre or at a highway stop.

They’re one of only two EV networks currently using ultra-fast 350kW chargers in Australia (the other being Chargefox) and are an Australian company, buying chargers from Tritium, another Aussie startup making a name for themselves on a global stage.

Despite the obvious connection, the name ‘Evie’ is also tied to the Stevie Wright song, Evie, Part 1 (Let your hair hang down), with Mills saying the song is about freedom and being out on the open road. The ‘open road’ is where Evie has prioritised much of its work, with “highway chargers” capable of a 350kW charge, along with 50kW chargers for shopping centres.

This speed isn’t actually available with any EVs in Australia at the moment, with most cars limited to charging speeds of under 250kW (the max speed of Tesla superchargers), but eventually, cars will be developed with the higher charging speed capability (and that’s not to say that these chargers can’t be used by most EVs in Australia right now anyway).

So far, Evie has installed only 77 EV chargers of its 350-large charging station inventory, mostly at sites with two boxes for two charging spots. Those chargers were all purchased when Evie was awarded a grant from the Future Fuels Fund back in 2020, with other state-level grants awarded since.

The company plans to have 2,000 chargers rolled out by 2033, capturing 25 per cent of the market.

Left: Chris Mills, the CEO of Evie. Right: AMP Capital Head of Retail and Investment, Marco Ettorre, announcing an initiative to bring charging stations to shopping centres across Australia. Image: Evie

Charging up

Electric vehicle charging sites are simple: they require the charging station, the box that you plug your car into and car parking spots for the vehicle to charge in. Most sites right now are comprised of two boxes with one car parking spot each. Mills said that the price can run up to $1 million before the site is turned on, which can take up to 12 weeks to construct.

“It’s not generally a quick process,” Mills said.

“A highway site typically costs us between $750,000 and a million dollars, of which $250,000 of that is the power.

“As the use of the site grows and the congestion at the site increases, then we would bring on the third charger and the fourth charger.”

That’s after finding an ideal spot, renting the land, building the equipment and configuring it appropriately.

Evie has done things to minimise the complication, such as using units solely sourced from Tritium, whereas some other networks tend to use units from several manufacturers. This way there’s only one source of parts and no incidents where parts are mixed up.

“There are a number of sites where we have actually deployed the infrastructure for six chargers and taken the lease on six parking bays but only deployed the first two charging bays,” Mills added.

Evie has also developed a load management system to make sure that car charging doesn’t negatively impact the power usage of the installed site.

Say, for example, the Mcdonald’s at the site just turned on all the machines in the kitchen and the EVs parked at the charging bay just started charging: the load management system would limit charging speed for a time until the danger of a fault can be avoided.

Additionally, if Evie wanted to upgrade a metropolitan site, such as giving a shopping centre a greater charging speed, Mills said that the price is “disproportionately more expensive than the cost to upgrade the power at a highway site”.

So, yes, it’s fraught with complexities, but it’s a challenge that the Australian company sees as manageable.

evie charger
The Polestar 2 uses an Evie charger in Taree. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia


Mills was quick to cite fuel efficiency standards as the biggest problem affecting EV uptake in Australia.

Fuel efficiency standards are rules put in place on automakers to reduce the emissions used by the vehicle. They’re a cap placed on a fleet of cars, incentivising the development of more efficient vehicles, strictly regulating their emissions output.

Basically, if Australia had fuel efficiency standards, automakers would be incentivised to bring electric cars to Australia. We’ve discussed this in detail before, but it remains a concern for EV stakeholders (although standards are being considered by the government).

But what about the electric charging station sector in particular, a space that needs to be fleshed out in its own way? Well, it has its own unique problems.

“It costs me more to buy the energy than it does to sell to you as the driver,” said Mills.

Business energy tariffs are broken down into two components: the amount of energy you consume and the maximum power you draw at any one time. Energy providers charge for the maximum power draw on top of the amount of power used because their networks need to be able to satisfy this high level of demand if they were to come under stress.

Because electric vehicle charging stations tend to use more power when initiated, Mills says that he pays for power at a “disproportionately” higher rate than other businesses and that changes will need to be made for the charging industry.

“The tariffs that exist today have typically been in existence for about 40 or 50 years … They were designed to meet the use cases that were in place 40 or 50 years ago,” Mills added.

“I’m not asking for a free ride, I’m not asking for special treatment, but I am asking for a tariff that is appropriate for public electric vehicle charging.”

Mills thinks that “volumetric, time of use tariffs” could be the answer. These are tariffs that cost more during peak periods like 4pm and 8pm, but lower costs during shoulder periods, such as between peak and off-peak periods.

But ultimately, Mills wants there to be a conversation about this topic at a government level.

“If we’re not careful with the tariffs that are being applied, what I call a blind application of historical tariffs that really aren’t appropriate for electric vehicle use, then you can find yourself killing the golden goose before it has laid the egg,” said Mills, describing the EV market as an opportunity for energy grids that are currently being shunned.

Changes to energy tariffs would need to come in at a government level, so perhaps this could, down the line, be another area where lawmakers can assist in the uptake of electric vehicles.

Additionally, another problem is the expectation of free charging infrastructure from rivals. Mills said that, while free-to-use chargers being built (available in some locations) may promote electric vehicle uptake, these chargers pose an unfair threat of competition to private EV charging companies.

Free EV charging is good, sure, but it’s difficult for Evie to compete with free chargers which, in all likelihood, probably aren’t making a return on their investment anyway.

“Those chargers that are being deployed for free will never be sufficient to actually provide a meaningful, balanced Australia-wide network of chargers that will support the needs of the general public,” added Mills.

“It makes it much more difficult for me to build a network that is commercially viable when I’m competing against all these chargers that are being deployed out there for free.”

If you’re an EV driver, you’ve likely used a free public charger before. Such chargers exist on the Chargefox and NRMA networks, however it’s unlikely that this will stay this way. NRMA, after all, has said that it will start charging for its station use next year.

Charging forward

“I don’t look at Chargefox or any of these guys as being competitors. My competitor is the petrol car,” Mills said.

“Because the more people who move from petrol to EVs, then the more cars that are on the road is going to be beneficial for all of us.”

We’re bound to see more electric vehicle chargers in the future, but for now they’re the subject of a nationwide (and international) rollout through private companies.

It’s instrumental for this shift to happen, frankly, and much will need to be done if we’re going to see EV infrastructure truly supported across Australia.

While you’re here, why not check out our list of every new EV in Australia, or every electric vehicle coming to Australia

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