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Electric cars: ERM Power’s Trevor St Baker in pole position to charge world’s EVs

Posted on 12/03/2018 by SuperUser Account

Australian businessman and ERM Power founder Trevor St Baker was profiled by The Australian journalist Rosie Lewis, for his accomplishments in the electric vehicle (EV) industry.

As the US prepares for a wave of investment to fast-track the ­installation of electric vehicle chargers across the country, one Australian businessman is making sure he gets in on the action.

Trevor St Baker, the Brisbane-based founder of energy company ERM Power, wants to build the “backbone” of a network of super fast electric vehicle chargers in Australia, capable of putting 35km in a car’s battery every minute, and be part of a 10-year rollout in the US.

Mr St Baker attended the powerful National Governors ­Association conference in Washington last month as chairman of Tritium, which makes EV chargers for homes, shopping centres, workplaces and highways.

Tritium already claims 25 per cent of the EV fast charger ­network in the US after its first ­charger was installed in 2014. The conference, attended by more than 40 governors, was used to sell the company’s product to more states, connect with local businesses and advance potential deals.

“America now has a $2 billion budget being managed by Electrify America (owned by Volkswagen Group of America) to roll out ­electric vehicle charging throughout the country within the next 10 years so that by 2027 America will be largely electric, what they call zero-emission vehicles,” Mr St Baker told The Weekend Australian while he was visiting Washington.

Significantly, Electrify America is funded out of compensation paid following VW’s diesel emissions scandal.

“It will get rid of gasoline fumes out of cities, it will improve health costs, it will improve the exchange rates of a lot of countries. It’s a growing market. Our aim is to keep that (25 per cent share). We’re working hard to make Australia catch up but our business doesn’t rely on that. We have a bigger ­market here and Tritium’s whole business is 95 per cent export so it’s an international business.”

Tritium employs 120 staff in Brisbane, up from five staff five years ago, and has another 47 in the US and The Netherlands, where a new factory will officially open next month. At home, Tritium hopes to have a fast charging EV station every 200km between Brisbane, Cairns and Perth at an estimated cost of $100 million, in a bid to overcome “range anxiety” — concern an electric vehicle’s battery will not last long distances.

The company has committed to paying for the first five chargers and hopes the Queensland ­government will invest.

Eighteen slower Tritium chargers have so far been stationed across Queensland.

“Who would think that Brisbane would be the world headquarters of this emerging, massive industry, which is the catalyst for the take-up of electric vehicles and cleaning of the air in cities?” Mr St Baker said.

“(Americans) are quite interested in the experience we’ve had in Australia of rolling out this backbone, which is what they’re doing here.”

A Morgan Stanley report last year predicted there would be more than one billion battery ­electric vehicles by 2050 but warned the cost, technology and consumer acceptance of the cars remained clear hurdles.

The report found additional annual electricity demand from BEVs was unlikely to be a ­challenge “for a while”.

Total EV sales since 2010, ­including estimates for Tesla ­because it declines to release figures, suggest that in a total ­passenger fleet of 14 million there are 8000 EVs on Australian roads. That is equivalent to one in every 1750 cars.

Mr St Baker said electric ­vehicles in Australia would “take off” once super fast chargers were introduced.

“The main impediment to the take-up is to get this distance,” he said. “There’s a range anxiety. They say: ‘I want to drive to Melbourne but how can I drive to Melbourne? So I’m not going to buy an electric vehicle.’ Once the backbone is in, more models will be released as well. There’ll be cheaper cars and more competitive cars.”

The NRMA is planning to roll out 40 fast chargers in NSW and the ACT, doubling the existing ­facilities. Tesla added to its ­proprietary fast-charging network last year and claims to cover 80 per cent of Australia’s population with just 22 locations.