Ambitious EV charging

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

03 Apr 2024

This article first appeared in its original format on Roads & Infrastructure and has been reproduced with permission. It has been updated to include the latest information.

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 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.

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 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.


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 a hydrogen project at its Viva Energy Hub in Geelong. It has partnered with customers to demonstrate the importance that hydrogen vehicles can play in decarbonising a range of industries.

The project received a $34 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of ARENA's Advancing Renewables Program and the Victorian Government also contributed $1 million to the project via the Renewable Hydrogen Commercialisation Pathways Fund.

“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-barand 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 customers and the general public understand the investment challenges, so they can think further about what vehicles they want to buy. Lau encourages anyone in southwest Victoria to come and check out this vision of the future once the Viva Energy Hub opens for business later this year.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to test vehicle types, assess them for their business, 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 convenient, 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.

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 all required regulatory approvals 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 are key to providing EV drivers with the knowledge that they can be serviced and charged on the road.”

Find out more about EV charging in NSW