Melbourne-based electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure company JET Charge is set to rapidly expand after closing a $25 million Series B funding round, including a $6.1 million contribution from the Australian government.
The round was led by RACV, with participation from the government-owned Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) Innovation Fund and Claremont Capital, alongside further support from existing investors Carsales.com.au (ASX: CAR) founder Greg Roebuck and climate-tech investor Simon Monk.
As one of the leading companies in Australia building EV infrastructure, JET Charge installs chargers in dealerships, public charging networks, and homes.
“With our scale and Australasian presence, JET Charge is in a unique position to ensure that Australia and New Zealand are ready for the mass adoption of EVs,” JET Charge founder Tim Washington said.
“We have grown from a business that digs trenches and installs cables to become the market leader in EV charging infrastructure and technology, and a company that is shaping the industry by solving challenges for business, governments and EV owners.”
Initially selling and installing charging stations for Tesla owners in Victoria, the business has since grown from 25 to 93 employees following a $4.5 million Series A funding round closed in 2020 while developing its diversified infrastructure and technology capabilities.
The business doesn’t own the public charging infrastructure; it builds the technology in the background to facilitate the charging stations.
“A very typical example is when you have a building that's 50 years old, and they have 200 carparks,” explains Washington.
“The electricity network infrastructure in that building is not designed for the charging infrastructure.
“What we do is, we build the technology to help the charging stations; we balance the load of the chargers, to make sure that it doesn't trip the building.”
Based on the current scale of JET Charge, Washington says the business is well-positioned to deliver a wide-ranging suite of infrastructure to meet the challenges of low-emissions mobility in Australia.
“The first thing that we're using the money for is to build out our grid integration technology,” he told Business News Australia.
“The second thing is genuinely just building up a really large chain to service Australians who want to partake in the transition.
"We represent around 21 vehicle brands in Australia, so every time any corporate, government department or person buys an electric car, JET Charge will need people to help service the demand of installing charging stations.”
Preparing Australia for the EV influx
In a report from EY and Eurelectric published last week, it is projected that Europe will need 65 million EV chargers by 2030 to fuel cars, trucks and buses, with 85 per cent required for personal use in homes.
Washington says it will take a long time for public charging to reach critical mass. Therefore, he is concentrating resources on home charging, where 80 to 90 per cent of charging currently takes place in Australia.
“The funding allows us to continue on our journey and keep up with the pace of transition because there are very few industries globally that are going to grow 25 times over the next eight years,” Washington says.
“The pace and scale of it keep me up at night, and I want to make sure that Australia doesn’t miss out and that people have a good experience in their transition.
“Because if they don't have a good experience, then they’ll be more hesitant, which would be a bad outcome.”
There are currently 3,000 EV charging points in Australia, with the most (1,017) in NSW and only 30 available in the NT.
Although Australian sales of new plug-in and hybrid electric vehicles tripled in the past 12 months to more than 20,000 vehicles, this only represents 0.78 per cent of all new cars sold here – compared to a global average of 4.2 per cent.
Washington says the Australian government has been very supportive of companies like JET Charge, especially on a macro policy level, but believes there is always room for more to be done.
The lack of qualified electricians in the industry might need to be addressed. Currently, there are close to 17 million cars on Australia’s roads, and as these cars transition to electric over the next decade and a half Washington wonders whether there will be enough electricians to service these vehicles.
Electrifying the low-emission economy
As the funding allows JET Charge to expand its workforce to create an end-to-end EV charging team in Australia and New Zealand, Washington is excited about the chance to offer jobs to ordinary Australians in the new low-emission economy.
The business receives regular interest from people who used to work as fly-in and fly-out (FIFO) workers but are hoping to leave the industry as they’re ready to settle down.
FIFO workers’ focus on safety is a big plus for JET Charge, which aims to retrain electricians to become project managers and coordinators.
“Many people have joined us from “traditional industries”, and that's something we're really proud of; to employ the next generation of apprentices and project managers,” Washington says.
“We just love that part of the story because every single news story that you see is about tech.
“While we are a big tech company and have bigger aspirations to do that as well, I think the broader story is just everyday jobs for everyday Australians who are figuring out 'what part do I play in this transition?'.”
The biggest obstacle Washington foresees in rolling out the necessary technology is aligning the interests of the electricity grid with the interests of the consumer.
“The real question is when it comes to charging, how do you make sure that you get enough people on board to be part of the electricity system so that we can cater for the number of electric vehicles that are coming on the road?," says Washington.
“It's not a zero-sum game because very soon every single person who drives an electric vehicle, who have solar on their roof (80 to 90 per cent of every driver), will be their own power plant because they can charge their vehicle during the day with solar and then at night they can discharge the vehicle to power their house.
“An average EV will have two to three day’s worth of electricity for your house in its battery pack, and if we don't work on grid integration and aligning interest between consumers and the electricity grid, more and more people will say; well, I'll be completely self-sufficient.”
Washington says balancing an under-pressure electricity grid system with the interests of individual homeowners is a significant challenge but is vital in ensuring everyone works together for the common good.
JET Charge aims to work with utility partners to solve electricity generation and demand issues to play a growing role in the energy space, both as an electricity consumer and a storage device.
The government believes Australia will become carbon neutral by working in partnership with businesses like JET Change, and the funding will help build EV charging options and the flow-on effects for the grid.
“Building additional charging infrastructure is key to removing range anxiety and supporting consumer choice,” Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said.
“More and more Australians are already making this choice, with plug-in EV sales tripling last year. This investment will support this number to grow even further.
“This project expands on our $250 million Future Fuels Fund, taking the Government’s investment in low emissions vehicle technologies to over $2.1 billion.”
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