The Coalition’s electric vehicle infrastructure grant scheme has been opened up to gas fuel projects and non-electric heavy vehicles after regulations were changed last year by energy minister Angus Taylor.
Guidelines for the $128 million round two of the Future Fuels Fund – the centrepiece of the Coalition’s electric vehicle (EV) strategy – were released Saturday, revealing new objectives and eligibility requirements for an eight-times larger second round.
Objectives have been updated for the second round to add “zero emissions vehicles” (ZEVs), which along with battery electric vehicles can also include hydrogen fuel cell vehicles or vehicles using sustainable biofuels.
The ZEVs need to be powered by renewable sources or use green certificates to “cover” their energy use to be eligible.
The previous round provided grants only for the material increase of fast charging infrastructure for battery electric vehicles and the reduction in charging blackspots. It included minimum funding allocations and charging stations for certain regions, ultimately administering $24.5 million in grants.
The second round has been opened up as part of the Coalition’s Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy, which was released in November and quickly criticised by EV groups as well below what was needed to drive uptake.
The second round will now offer grants in total up to $128 million to companies under much wider objectives, including accelerating the uptake of ZEVs by fleets, improving grid integration, and to “demonstrate new use cases for ZEVs” or increase associated skills.
Round two was announced on Saturday by Mr Taylor, who focused on the fleet aspect, saying the addition of hydrogen would help this market.
“Including hydrogen refuelling as a priority area will help accelerate the decarbonisation of heavy and long-distance vehicle fleets where battery EVs may not be a viable option,” Mr Taylor said in a statement on Saturday.
“This fleets-first approach will also create a larger market for second-hand vehicles, which will improve affordability and accessibility for other consumers.”
Under the Future Fuels Fund, applicant cannot use grants to fund direct vehicle costs for light vehicles, but grants may now be used to “support the acquisition of heavy vehicles”, which includes trucks, buses, industrial and heavy mining vehicles.
Changes to the Future Fuels program and funding non-renewable technology are possible after controversial regulation changes by Mr Taylor last year to allow ARENA to fund “anything that is intended to reduce barriers to the on‑road use of” electric, biofuel or clean hydrogen powered vehicles.
The regulations, which include several other program changes, were criticised as a way to redirect funding for renewables to the government’s preferred technologies like carbon capture and storage and hydrogen.
Despite challenges in parliament and warnings of legal action, the contentious changes have remained intact.
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