BlackRock Seeks to Jolt Australia’s Sluggish Switch to EVs

BlackRock Inc. is betting that Australia’s sluggish adoption of electric vehicles won’t last, as it invests in the nation’s charging infrastructure. 

The Real Assets unit of the world’s largest money manager made its first investment in the EV charging sector in the Asia-Pacific region through a stake in Jolt Charge, which plans to roll out more than 5,000 stations across Australia, and will also provide more than A$100 million ($72 million) in funding. BlackRock’s Global Renewable Power fund, which raised $4.8 billion at final close earlier this year, has plans to deploy over 10% of its capital in EV charging capacity. 

“Australia has been a laggard in terms of the deployment of electric vehicles, but that’s partly because there’s no charging infrastructure,” Charlie Reid, BlackRock’s head of renewable power investments for the APAC region, said by telephone.

Australia’s efforts to decarbonize its transport sector rank among the worst in the Group of 20 nations, while a lack of national targets and supporting policies for the EV rollout has seen major manufacturers shun the market, leaving consumers with a limited choice of older models at relatively high prices. The country has also been slow to build charging infrastructure, making long-distance travel a challenge for EV owners. 

Still, momentum is starting to build. A report by the Electric Vehicle Council on Monday said 8,688 EVs were sold in the first half of 2021, already eclipsing the 6,900 electric vehicles sold over the whole of 2020. The number of EV models available on the market is expected to rise to 58 by the end of 2022, from 31 currently, and there are now more than 3,000 public charging stations across the country, which is almost as big as the lower 48 states. 

“Given the trajectory toward EVs globally, and the fact that in order to hit net zero by 2050 you need the sale of combustion engine vehicles to be phased out by 2035, this transition is going to happen,” Reid said.

Reid said BlackRock was attracted to Jolt’s business model — where the charging stations are located on existing electrical infrastructure that can also be used for outdoor advertising, offering an additional revenue stream.

“Institutional capital will play a critical role in developing the infrastructure that will galvanise and accelerate EV uptake in Australia,” Doug McNamee, Jolt’s founder and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

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