Friday, April 19, 2024


‘Always be charging’: is the great Australian road trip ready to go electric?

Oliver Pelling set out on an 800-km journey along the Great Ocean Road My first mistake on my electric road…

By Chan , in Travel , at March 20, 2024

Oliver Pelling set out on an 800-km journey along the Great Ocean Road

My first mistake on my electric road trip happens in Lorne. This is about 145km away from my Melbourne home.

Thanks to the PlugShare application, which maps the majority of publicly available charging stations in Australia, I know that there is a charge point at the Lorne Visitor Information Centre. The only thing I didn’t realize until I got there was that the charger I was looking for didn’t work with my car.

Ben, the Tesla Model 3 that I have hired for the next two days, calls me to ask if there’s anything I’m not getting. Electric vehicles (EVs), which I was familiar with as a kid, were the Scalextric slot car racers that my father and I would compete in. EVs are a far cry from what they used to be. Ben confirms I only need an adaptor.

Ben thinks that the adaptor issue isn’t a major concern anymore (I tend to disagree). It’s something that anyone who wants to drive long distances in an electric vehicle should keep in mind. I am being diligent with my battery, and I still have enough to get me from Sydney to Apollo Bay, where the app says there are a few more charging stations.

I’m driving along the Great Ocean Road from Port Fairy to Melbourne and back in a Tesla because I can.

The Electric Vehicle Council, the national body that represents the EV industry of Australia, has reported that since July 2019, the number of ultra-fast charging stations in Australia has risen by 42%.

According to a recent report, based on statistics from the Electric Vehicle Council, EVs can now access at least 10 of Australia’s famous road trips, including Perth to Ningaloo and Grand Pacific Drive.

The rise of EV-sharing platforms is perhaps the best development for those who are concerned about the environment (or curious about technology) and want to take a road trip, especially during this year when domestic tourism is at its peak.

Evee offered me Ben’s Tesla. They offer a variety of models and makes, as well as a range in price (starting at around $140 per day for a Tesla Model 3 or Hyundai Ioniq), so Australians can get a taste of EVs without having to pay the minimum price of $43,990. Avis, Thrifty, and AGL all have electric vehicles available in their fleets. However, availability is limited.

Slava Kozlovskii is the CEO and founder of Evee. He says that while driving long distances in an EV vehicle has become easier, some considerations and planning are still required. Kozlovskii says that there is an informal rule to follow when driving in electric cars. It’s called ‘ABC.’ It stands for “always be charging.” “Whenever you stop or your car is stationary try to always find an electrical outlet.”

Kozlovskii reminds us that despite the fact that all the new infrastructure for charging EVs is opening up the country, the old-fashioned household plug already makes it possible to access much of the nation (although with longer charging time). He explains that there are more power sockets than petrol stations in Australia.

It takes me three hours to charge my car in Apollo Bay behind the Great Ocean Road Beerhouse (to go from 5% up to 90%). I could charge my car to 100% in 30 minutes with a supercharger, but that’s not the case here.

PlugShare reports that this stretch of the south coast, as of the time of writing, is still lacking in superchargers (except for two near Adelaide and a few in Geelong). On the East Coast, they are everywhere: from Cairns to the Gold Coast and down to Sydney. Anyone interested in reducing charging times should plan a route that passes through these supercharger superhighways.

The next morning, I discovered a charger in a motel near Port Fairy. This is my second and final mistake of the trip. After paying $20 to the motel owner for a top-up, I was on my way back to Melbourne via Apollo Bay (with a final recharge). After the trip, I had driven over 800km along a winding, undulating, and famously steep road that ate up battery power quickly.

 

Most of the time, EV road trips are successful with a bit more planning, a bit more time, and a lot more consideration when choosing a route. It’s a small price to pay for the low-impact experience of driving an EV yourself. If the idea of a successful road trip for anyone is to drive as quickly as possible from A to B, then they are doing it wrong.

Behzad Jafari is the CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council. “Or when email or the internet was invented. It’s just that there are new things to be learned. There isn’t a huge learning curve, but it’s important to learn how the new technology works. I believe that’s positive.”

The future of electric cars is exciting, but the present, which is now more accessible, will also be. Even petrolheads will be impressed by the speed, comfort, and class of the electric vehicle. Charging is still more difficult than refueling, but the open road feels more free (and guilt-free!) than ever before.

If you are still not convinced, you can always rent an electric vehicle.

  • Evee Provided the car hire for this trip.

Road trip tips for EVs

  • You should check the range and the charging points (with the PlugShare app) before you leave. Also, double-check which chargers you need (and whether you will require any additional adaptors). If available, look for superchargers on your route. The owner of the car will be an excellent resource if you are using Evee or another car-sharing platform.
  • A growing number of hotels, restaurants, and motels in Australia offer EV chargers to encourage guests. So, a little research before you book can pay off.
  • Typically, a full day of driving requires at least one charging. This could take three hours. Use the time to eat, explore, and drink before you hit the road.