Retail centres have taken the lead over office towers when it comes to the number of electric vehicle charging stations available between the two. Office properties hold just one fifth of charging stations compared to retail centres’ 80 per cent according to CBRE analysis of EV charging infrastructure across 20 major premium or prime office buildings and 10 major regional and sub-regional shopping centres across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

While the situation is improving, Australia has continually lagged the rest of the world in both EV vehicle numbers as well as charging stations. On the plus side, EV sales have grown exponentially across the last five years to bring the number of EV’s on our roads to around 83,000. In the 12 months to April 2023 almost 7 per cent of new vehicles sold were EVs, and more than one in 20 new cars bought in January this year were electric. However, these figures compare to an average global growth of between 12 per cent and 14 per cent, and as high as 80 per cent in Norway. (The US is tracking around 13 per cent). Australia’s Electric Vehicle Council estimates that the number of EVs will need to hit one million by 2027 if Australia is to meet its 2050 net zero targets.

Slow but steady

There were just 60 charging stations within the total office buildings surveyed by CBRE across the four capital cities, while penetration varied greatly between the two sectors combined. Perth led the way for number of stations in both office and retail properties, a situation attributed to the West Australian state government’s Charge Up Workplace program which allowed grants to small businesses, non-government organisations and local governments that offset as much as 70 per cent of the cost of installing EV charging stations.

Sydney had the highest number of EV charging stations across the two sectors with a penetration rate of 90 per cent. CBRE calculated that the average Sydney shopping centre with EV charging was able to offer about six charging stations. This went hand in hand with NSW having one of the highest EV market shares (4 per cent) of the states surveyed, largely due to the state government having also implemented the highest incentives for EV purchasers. 

Fuel stations of the future

Landlords and owners of petrol stations are facing similar issues around EV charging stations, the facilities clearly a key component for future development.

Among the most significant moves in this area has been made by Ampol which rolled out the first of five pilot EV charging sites at Ampol Woolworths MetroGo sites in Sydney’s inner-city suburb of Alexandria in October last year. The new charging infrastructure is being followed by the development of more than 300 charging bays stations spread between another 120 sites on Ampol forecourts Australia-wide.

These new AmpCharge sites will be capable of delivering a charge up to 150kw to two vehicles at a time, according to Ampol. “Service stations are the only asset that is positioned to deal with supervised fast charging,” said Mark McKenzie, chief executive of the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association (ACAPMA).

In future, additional benefits for petrol station owners would spring from their becoming pick-up points for online deliveries – ideally while EV owners charge their cars.

But in the meantime, commercial property landlords considering installing an EV charging station on their premises face a few roadblocks, CBRE concluded. Chief among these was the shortage of microchip and semiconductors demanded by both manufacturers of EVs as well as charging stations. Leading Australian fast-charger supplier Tritium which serves global as well as local markets has estimated a 52-week lead time on semiconductors. EV charging stations can also only be installed by a licensed electrician, and their numbers are thin on the ground.

Landlords could however get the ball rolling, said head of ESG for CBRE’s Pacific Property Management Natasha Mulcahy. “We’re certainly seeing a sharp increase in tenants, and particularly government tenants, requesting EV charging infrastructure from their office landlords,” Ms Mulcahy said. “The first step for landlords should be to conduct an EV Charging Assessment which will examine electrical infrastructure, historic and projected electricity use, and create a capacity plan for EV infrastructure.”