Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) has announced it has launched a $71.9 million Future Fuels Fund, announced as part of the 20/21 Federal Budget, which it says is aimed at ‘addressing barriers to the roll out of new vehicle technologies’.

ARENA says the first round of the Fund will see $16.5 million of grant funding made available to fund battery electric vehicle (BEV) public fast charging infrastructure to expand the network and reduce blackspots.

The funding will be available to support the roll out of networks of fast charging stations (50 kW and above) across eight geographic areas including each Australian capital city, alongside large regional centres including Newcastle, Wollongong, the NSW Central Coast, Geelong, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Each regional location is expected to receive at least four fast charging stations. Applicants should seek to maximise coverage of their fast charging stations across these geographic areas.

The initial funding round is focused on BEV fast charging stations to increase consumer choice, after industry consultation identified that a lack of public fast charging in major population centres is a key barrier to uptake of BEVs for both the public and fleets.

Subsequent funding rounds, kicking off later this year, will focus on supporting business fleets to transition to BEVs, as well as explore opportunities with hydrogen and biofuels. Further research and consultation will also look to sharpen the focus on regional charging needs and blackspots to help increase consumer choice in these areas. The scope of later rounds will be developed in consultation with industry.

In the first round of funding, ARENA is requesting applications that ensure coverage across the geographic areas, will maximise private sector investment and can be delivered within two years. Fast charging stations will also need to be powered by renewable energy.

Applications for the initial round are now open and will close on Tuesday 6 April 2021. Interested applicants should review the Future Fuels Round 1 Guidelines located on the ARENA Future Fuels Fund website listed below.

In September, the Minister for Energy & Emission Reduction Angus Taylor announced the Future Fuels Package, as part of the Australian Government’s First Low Emissions Technology Statement.

Earlier this month, Minister Taylor together with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack announced the release of a discussion paper to inform the development of the Future Fuels Strategy which outlines the Government’s vision to empower consumer choice, stimulate industry development and reduce emissions in the road transport sector.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the Future Fuels Fund will help businesses and regional communities take advantage of opportunities offered by new vehicle technologies across battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell and biofuels.

“Through this initial round, we are addressing one of the barriers to roll out of new vehicle technologies by significantly increasing the number of fast charging stations available to consumers across Australia, and reducing charging blackspots in both metropolitan and regional centres.

This funding by the Australian Government will stimulate the fast charging market and drive private sector investment, and will build on our considerable body of work in this sector,” he said.

“As electric vehicles continue to become more competitive, it is important we have the recharging infrastructure in place to give motorists confidence they can choose an EV and recharge it conveniently and cost effectively,” Mr Miller said.

ARENA has provided $29.7 million in support for BEV charging projects, including Australia’s first two intercity ultra fast charging networks on major highways being rolled out by Chargefox and Evie Networks. ARENA has also previously supported managed charging and smart charging trials run by ActewAGL in Canberra, AGL, Jemena, and Origin, as well as the roll out of free public charging stations in four Adelaide council areas by JOLT. ARENA has also supported hydrogen and biofuel projects, including hydrogen refuelling projects with Toyota and BOC.