Origin has received a A$838,000 (US$604,000) grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to fund a trial to roll out 150 smart chargers to EV owners and fleets.

The smart chargers will connect to Origin’s Virtual Power Plant (VPP) platform, which enables multiple devices to be orchestrated remotely using artificial intelligence with benefits for customers, such as lower running costs, as well as for wholesale energy markets and distribution networks more broadly.

The objective of the trial will be to improve the economics and appeal of EVs by shifting charging from times of the day when energy is more expensive, to off-peak periods and when wholesale prices are low; typically when wind and solar are generating strongly.

“Transportation is the second highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, accounting for nearly 19% of emissions,” said Origin executive general manager Future Energy and Technology, Tony Lucas. “EV adoption is expected to increase significantly in the coming years with the price of new EV models continuing to fall and performance and range improving all the time.

“We hope this trial will help us understand how we can maximise the benefits to customers by offering products that reduce their EV charging costs, as well as how we can manage EV charging in a way that helps with grid and network stability.

“Origin has developed a leading VPP platform orchestrated using artificial intelligence, with a wide range of distributed assets, such as storage, residential air-conditioning systems, hot water systems, pool pumps and industrial coolers, already connected and continuing to grow.

“Smart chargers will be able to talk to the platform, which can remotely direct chargers to switch on and off, or higher or lower, in response to wholesale prices, with benefits for customers in terms of lower charging costs and the NEM [National Electricity Market] as we can more efficiently manage demand and supply in the system.

“We want to get people thinking about EVs as more than just a car and saving on petrol, they can provide additional value to their owners through battery storage for the home, connected to virtual power plants or used for grid stabilisation, all of which will significantly reduce payback periods and improve the economics of EV ownership for many Australians.

“The trial is one of a series of initiatives we have in the e-mobility space that will be rolled out in the near future, as we seek to accelerate the uptake of EVs in Australia.”

For his part, ARENA CEO, Darren Miller added the trial will help demonstrate how the Australian electricity grid can integrate higher numbers of EVs, while limiting the cost of network expansion.

“As the uptake of EVs increases, it will be important to efficiently manage the charging of vehicles, to avoid potentially costly impacts on peak demand, associated network charges and grid security issues,” said Miller.

“Smart charging enables charging at times when demand is lowest and electricity is cheapest, which reduces the burden on the network and the cost to the customer.”

The 150 participants will comprise fleet and residential customers in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

Origin will partner with Hyundai, Nissan, Custom Fleet, Schneider Electric, GreenFlux and Ausgrid and United Energy to deliver the trial.

Findings from the two-year trial will be made available to help the industry develop customer offers which improve the economics and appeal of EVs to Australian drivers, as well as deliver benefits to the broader energy market.