RMIT leads charge for all-electric vehicles with new research centre

Brendan Rees

A new electric vehicle research facility will be established at RMIT University’s city campus, thanks to a $5.2 million funding boost from the state government.

Situated in the heart of the CBD, the university said the facility would be the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Dubbed the “Electric Vehicle Living Lab”, it will feature charging stations, a regenerative grid, and battery simulators, with capacity to carry out “real” scenario testing.

With Victoria’s transport sector currently accounting for 25 per cent of the state’s emissions, the major investment marks an important step for the government’s goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The state is aiming to have half of all new car sales to be electric by 2030 and its public bus fleet to all be all-electric by 2025 – with research from the lab to help inform a “smooth transition” to sustainable transport.   

The facility will be in operation by mid-2023 and create 18 jobs while also providing hands-on training for students.

“We know our local universities have a lot to offer which is why we’re working with them, and industry, to build a bright future – while also creating great study, research and job opportunities for Victorians,” Higher Education, Training, and Skills Minister Gayle Tierney said after announcing the project’s funding on February 15.

Led by RMIT, the $8.18 million “Supporting the Electrification of Victoria’s Future Fleet” project will also be a collaboration with Monash and La Trobe universities as well as industry partners Siemens, the City of Melbourne, Centre for New Energy Technologies (C4NET) and CitiPower/Powercor.      

RMIT deputy vice-chancellor research and innovation and vice-president Professor Calum Drummond said it would develop cutting-edge battery technology and simulate the impacts of “widescale electric vehicle adoption on electricity grid loading, prices and the broader system.”

“As well as applied technology development, a full-scale applied research project will inform policy towards Victoria’s net zero emission targets in the transport sector, proactively addressing both likely and unforeseen challenges as electric vehicles are adopted at accelerated rates,” he said.

James Seymour, CEO at C4NET, said in addition to its support of EV research, it would seek to develop an electric vehicle data library including real-world data on travel patterns, user behaviour and customer responses to tariff signals, and details on the performance of various battery technologies. 

Member for Northern Metropolitan Region Sheena Watt said the project was important step “for the future of clean, green transport in Victoria” as well as the state reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund for the research centre comes in response to the significant impact of the pandemic on universities •

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