Is Ampol Missing the Point with Electric Vehicles?

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Starting in six months, Ampol Australia is building out 121 ultra-fast charging stations across its service network. These are being built on the east coast in metropolitan centres and large regional towns. Ampol is targeting commuters and others who just need a top-up during the day. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which is funding these chargers, believes that large growth in EVs will take place after 2025 when EVs become cheaper than petrol cars.

I support any rollout of chargers to support the uptake of EVs, but I find the assumptions behind this project hard to agree with. First of all, the east coast and metropolitan areas are pretty well covered both with Tesla Superchargers and also with government chargers like those in QESH (Queensland’s Electric Super Highway). It would be great if these 121 ultra-fast chargers were being built in areas where there aren’t any chargers at all — there are lots of those areas, as we found out on our recent trip to Winton.

Second, commuters and school mums can charge at home. They don’t need ultra-fast charging stations – just plug the thing in at night and unplug it in the morning. I wonder what marketing will be done to keep people coming to servos (gas stations) when they could save money, time, and hassle by just charging in their own garage or driveway.

A surge in EV take-up is happening in Australia now. 2021 saw a penetration rate of less than 1% of new vehicles sold being plug-in electric vehicles. By September of this year we had already reached 2%, and it will be even higher by the end of the year when the Chinese EVs get here. By 2025, Australia should be up around 50%. Compare this with: “I would expect that growth part of the curve occurs from 2025 onwards, and throughout the next decade after that,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said, adding that right now most Australians were not aware of the significant savings.

I find Ampol and ARENA a little naïve. A quick search of European and Scandinavian EV sales should be enough to convince them that we are entering the upward tick of the S curve and that the service station industry needs to reinvent itself for this bold new electric world. The people have to have a reason to come in before you are able to sell them a choccy bar or a slushy. 

“The energy types that people are going to need is going to change from being diesel and petrol to diesel, petrol, electricity, maybe hydrogen — that’s our customer base and Ampol will be playing a leading role in that transition,” James Myatt, Ampol’s General Manager of Energy, explains. “Electricity is much more efficient and cheaper than petrol and diesel … (and) once you’ve committed to that upfront cost, people will be pleasantly surprised at the low maintenance and the low operating costs of an electric vehicle. And the convenience, frankly, is something that people will really love.”

I am pleased that they want to play a leading role. Methinks they better lead faster. In Norway, very few cars are queuing up for diesel, petrol, or hydrogen. More than 90% of new car sales are plug-in electric

 

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