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Viva Energy: Ambitious EV charging

Image of a Shell retail site where there may be future potential to include electric vehicle recharging under the canopy. Image: Viva Energy.

The recent funding announcement with the NSW Government for Viva Energy to build a network of electric vehicle chargers at select Shell petrol stations provides the perfect opportunity to reshape the electric vehicle market.

One of the biggest challenges to the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) is the lack of charging infrastructure across Australia. While state governments and private enterprises are working to rectify this issue, the scarcity of charging infrastructure co-located with places for people to rest remains an ongoing concern.

There are a range of opportunities for the right businesses to integrate charging infrastructure with food, beverage and rest facilities. An ideal location for these would be the enormous number of petrol stations dotted around the country. Many already have food and beverage facilities for customers and their expansion to incorporate rest facilities could revolutionise the uptake of electric vehicles across Australia.

Viva Energy is one company working to shift the thinking around EV charging. It has entered into a co-funding agreement with the NSW Government for the development of a network of 30 EV charging stations across its Shell-branded network in NSW. The project is to be rolled out progressively over the next few years. This announcement will provide EV drivers with the most reliable, fast-charging option on the road. It will ensure connectivity between metropolitan and regional areas and help to address range anxiety for drivers in NSW.

Sandra Lau – Head of Hydrogen and EV’s – Viva Energy Australia.Image: Viva Energy.
Sandra Lau – Head of Hydrogen and EV’s – Viva Energy Australia.
Image: Viva Energy.

The NSW Government is contributing $14.7 million to the project through round two of its EV fast-charging grants program, tied to Viva Energy’s commitment and progress in building out the network.

Sandra Lau is the head of hydrogen and electric vehicles at Viva Energy Australia. She is the sort of person who likes to visualise problems as she tries to solve them. Sandra’s movement into the zero-emissions field came after completing a large project.

“I completed an executive MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management,” Lau says. “It is one of the real benefits of working for a company that is willing to invest in your personal development and help me move into a more strategic role.”

She also felt that her problem-solving and engineering backgrounds were key to looking at the bigger and broader challenges around zero-emissions strategies.

Pioneers

Viva Energy is working at the cutting edge of electric and hydrogen vehicles. The goal is to establish a customer-focused offer.

“We want our EV drivers and hydrogen vehicle drivers to have a great experience,” says Lau. “We want them to become comfortable with the technology, and we can grow our activities in those areas.”

To investigate that, Viva Energy has established its New Energies Service Station Project. It has partnered with customers to demonstrate the important role that hydrogen vehicles can play in decarbonising a range of industries.


 

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“Viva Energy is excited to start this build shortly, and we expect to be refuelling hydrogen trucks by the end of the year,” Lau says. “It will be the largest hydrogen refuelling centre, offering both 350-bar and 700-bar refuelling options. The station will also cater for electric trucks, with 150-kilowatt chargers in drive-through bays for trucks to use.”

The goal is to help Viva Energy’s customers and the general public understand the investment challenges, so they can think further on what vehicles they want to buy. Lau encourages anyone in southwest Victoria to come and check out this vision of the future once the New Energies Service Station opens for business later this year.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to test vehicle types, assess them for their businesses, and investigate what their options are,” says Lau.

Partnering with the NSW Government

The support from the NSW Government to collaborate with Viva Energy to develop a network of EV charging stations is critical. 

“We hope that these 30 sites will be fast, smooth experiences for the customers,” Lau says. “We want the payment system to work with ease, and the customers to have a positive experience in our service stations.”

The project incorporates the installation of solar panels and batteries. There will be a minimum of four ultra-fast charge points at each site to minimise wait times for drivers and ensure maximum charger availability. 

Australia’s most ambitious hydrogen mobility project will see the development of a New Energies Service Station in Geelong. Image: Viva Energy.
Australia’s most ambitious hydrogen mobility project will see the development of a New Energies Service Station in Geelong.
Image: Viva Energy.

Power from the solar panels will be supplemented by sustainable energy from the grid. This is to ensure the project provides emission-free power for EV drivers across a mix of highway, metropolitan and regional sites in NSW.

“Viva Energy has gone through significant change in the last year or so, as a result of several acquisitions,” she says. “We have just received initial approval from the ACCC for the purchase of the OTR group. This will allow us to combine an outstanding convenience offer with EV charging and other new energy offers. 

“In the end, it’s about helping people get to their destinations while providing the services they need. That includes market-leading food, beverage, and convenience offers.”

Ultimately, it means that people can be on the road faster, whilst taking the opportunities that arise from having high-quality convenience offers during the dwelling time. That’s the time people are waiting for their recharge to finish.

While there are challenges on the power supply side, Lau believes there are numerous opportunities for businesses to work together as partners to solve these challenges together. 

“I think the integration of EV chargers and petrol stations is going to be key to increasing the uptake of EVs,” Lau says. 

“One thing petrol stations have is a large footprint and network that people recognise. It’s a place where people are driving around and might need a top-up or have forgotten to charge [their EV]. The site locations of all these stations across the entire network is key to providing EV drivers with the knowledge that they can be serviced and charged on the road.” 

This article was originally published in the February edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

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