Return to the world's longest EV super-highway

4 min

With major pandemic restrictions still in place in Victoria, and the majority of state borders now closed in response to same, many Australians can only dream about getting out on the open road again but for Queenslanders (and specifically electric vehicle enthusiasts) that prospect just became a lot more tantalising.

We previously reported on Queensland’s Electric Vehicle Super Highway (QESH), the nearly 2,000km stretch of tropical coastline from Cairns to Coolangatta dotted with fast charging stations for use by locals and tourists in electric vehicles (EVs). These charging stations (which are carbon-neutral and pollutant-free) are located close to major highways and retail/food service premises

Now the Queensland Government has just announced that they will add a further 13 new electric vehicle charging stations to the QESH, boosting the total number of charge points to 31. New fast-charging site locations include Springwood, Ipswich, North Lakes, Forest Glen, Gympie, Gunalda (Curra), Gin Gin, Mt Larcom, Proserpine, Ayr, Cardwell, Innisfail and Port Douglas.

According to the Queensland government, an EV fully recharged by solar can save 2.7 to 3.8 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually when compared to a fossil fuel vehicle (driving 15,000km per year).

More renewables (such as solar and wind) are being added to Queensland's energy generation mix, which means the energy used to charge EVs along the QESH will become cleaner and more sustainable.

Analysis by AEMO forecasts nearly four and a half million residential and commercial EVs in operation across the east-coast of Australia by 2037-38, representing approximately 17% of the total vehicle fleet, as EV technology (along with other sustainable automotive fuel options such as hydrogen) continue to evolve and become more accessible.

In AEMO’s recent 2020 Integrated System Plan (ISP), which set out a 20-year roadmap for the National Electricity Market (NEM), we noted that electrification of transport could also change NEM energy consumption and demand, and may be important in the future design of the energy systems. The uptake of electric vehicles is forecast to emerge as a key influence on electricity infrastructure in the next decade; the scale and pace of electrification of transportation is varied as an input across the ISP scenarios.

Digital controls and falling costs are making these interactive assets easier and cheaper to adopt and, as consumers install distributed PV, the level of uncontrolled energy in the system increases, and as batteries and EVs charge and discharge, the demand profile for grid supplied energy shifts, which in turn influences how generators operate and increases the value of flexible generation and storage.

Smart EV chargers are a necessary enabler for efficient coupling between the energy, transport and infrastructure sectors. AEMO is collaborating with industry, government and regulatory bodies on the opportunities and challenges presented by EVs, via the Distributed Energy Integration Program.

While the technology, opportunities and adoption of EVs continue to evolve and overcome challenges, the future of road travel in a post-pandemic Australia looks increasingly interesting.

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