EV Range Anxiety Test: 2,000km Tesla Trip In Australia

Can a Tesla electric car cover long distances in Australia when rural travel is a big chunk of the journey? SolarQuotes Founder Finn Peacock found out in this EV field test.

Transcript begins —

Now onto this month’s field test. When it comes to potential sticking points for EV in Australia, this one ranks right up there: range anxiety. So, the question we’re asking in this field test is:

“Can my electric vehicle do the long distances I need it to, in Australia.”

In order to pick up a much desired new family member – Dynamo the dog – I put just that question to the test just before things went south in Victoria.

Here’s my story.

A 2,000 Kilometre EV Road Trip

So, recently my wife bought a beautiful new puppy, a bordoodle – cross between a border Collie and a poodle. The only problem was it was in Wodonga, Victoria; and we live in Adelaide, South Australia.

Lily – who’s behind the camera – and I are going to get a puppy from Wodonga – that’s a thousand kilometers away.

So, the car’s got 86% charge – let’s go.

That’s a 2,000 kilometre road trip. It can get pretty rural out there. There’s not a lot of charging options and we have to plan our trip. If we look on Google Maps, we want to go to Wodonga by the shortest route possible. It’s just under a thousand kilometres.

But we couldn’t go that route because we had to go via fast chargers. A fast charger is a charger that charges with DC electricity, typically tens of kilowatts, even up to say 150 kilowatts. And it whacks the electricity into your car really, really quickly, so you’re not hanging around too much on a long trip waiting for it to charge up.

The route we had to take was – our first stop was at Keith, South Australia; just near the South Australian Victoria border. Stop there to charge – that was the plan at the Tesla supercharger there. Then over the border into Victoria, stop at Horsham to charge; then along to Bendigo. And then finally we were going to go to Wodonga. So, we’ve added an hour onto our trip by having to go a slightly longer way.

Pulled into Horsham, then went to find the charger. Then there was a bit of a spanner in the works.

A Change In Charging Plans

We got a call from the lady that had the puppy, and she said she couldn’t meet us in Wodonga anymore for various reasons. She wanted to meet us in a place on the Victoria – New South Wales border called Cobram, which is much smaller than Wodonga.

Now the only problem with Cobram is it hasn’t got a Tesla supercharger there. But I thought, you know, no problem, change of plans, but we’ll charge overnight. And we pulled into Cobram. We had charge in the car, but unfortunately the motel we were staying at – yeah, it was a bit dodgy.

I had a look at the state of the sockets in the motel and I was not prepared to plug my charger in there and pull two kilowatts for 10 hours. I was fairly confident the wiring would overheat and I’d burn the motel down. So, we didn’t charge that night in Cobram.

We got up early, we drove to the RACV Cobram Resort. We knocked on the reception door and said, you know, pretty please, can we use your charger? They said, yeah, no worries – plug it in. But we did sit there for about two hours topping up, just so we’d have enough to get back to Bendigo.

It is a problem – the lack of charging infrastructure. It’s generally really good on the routes between cities, not even main cities. Tesla do a really, really good job. But if you want to go somewhere a bit out of the way like Cobram and the place you’re staying cannot charge your car overnight, you might get a bit stuck and you might have to spend a bit of time sitting around waiting for charge.

Running On (Nearly) Empty

And that’s how it went. We picked up the puppy in Cobram. And then we headed back to Adelaide. On the way back, the hairiest bit was actually driving between Horsham, Victoria and Keith in South Australia. It was pretty windy and although the car told us we had well over a hundred k’s to play with, by the time we rolled into Keith the clock on the Tesla was telling us we only had 32 kilometres of charge left.

Charged up at Keith, had another coffee at the wonderful coffee shop there and headed home to Adelaide in our EV with Dynamo the dog and Lulu in the back.

So, we did a 2,000 kilometre road trip in Australia. We weren’t exactly in the middle of civilization, and we managed fine. I was getting a bit nervous at times because I’m just not that used to running your fuel tank so low in a petrol car – a little bit of [heart palpitations] as as the battery went down and we’re in the middle of nowhere, but we got there.

There’s a supercharger about every 200 k’s; so you really want to make it to the next supercharger.

What will solve that problem? Simple: at the moment, we’re right at the beginning of the electric car transition in Australia and very, very soon, there’s going to be a DC fast charger at least every 50 kilometres. You get an electric car, go on a long trip and you’re not going to run out of charge if you’ve got half a brain.

It’s really pleasant – you stop every 300 kilometres for half an hour and you should be doing that anyway. Overall, it’s not a problem. And it’s only going to get easier.

— Transcript ends

This segment is from SolarQuotes TV – Episode 10 – The Ultimate Guide To Electric Vehicles. For more SQTV episodes and a bunch of other videos on everything solar power related, check out and subscribe to the SolarQuotes Youtube channel.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Sounds great , except what happens when 2 or more cars turn up needing charging , Basically you have waist 30 minutes for the car in front to finish charging , then its your turn .

    • Adam, new chargers are being built all the time. Do you think in future that there will only be a single charger every 200km? Look at Norway and parts of Europe where you pull into a charging station and there are 10, 20, even 40 chargers. This really won’t be a problem 99% of the time. The only time I would see queuing as a problem is at the start of school holidays or a long weekend – no different to queuing at the petrol pump now.

      • George Kaplan says

        You usually wait what, 5-10 minutes if the pump is really busy? That’s a far cry from 30 minutes for a recharge.

        And where petrol stations usually have what, 8 pumps, that’s a huge difference to 10-40 chargers. Thus the space required for a charging station is several times more than that for petrol and other such fuels.

        This piece says recharge at every 300 km, but isn’t it 5 charges making for about 400 km and a near flat battery on returning home?

        • George, if we are talking about road trips instead of running around town, then the typical petrol station is a roadhouse beside the highway. The 8 pumps are usually surrounded by a few hundred car parking spaces, where the cars park after filling up, while their occupants use the associated diners/cafes/toilets etc. In an electric future I would imagine each car park having a charging outlet next to it. The whole complex would be no larger than the current ones.

        • Geoff Miell says

          George Kaplan,
          You usually wait what, 5-10 minutes if the pump is really busy?

          …or whenever, if Australia’s liquid fuel supplies are disrupted. See the graphs tweeted by Crude Oil Peak yesterday showing Australia’s petrol and diesel fuel imports by country from Jan 2004 through to Aug 2021 at:
          https://twitter.com/crudeoilpeak/status/1458311075716239361

          I’d suggest energy self-reliance is the only solution for Australia to any military conflicts near Australia’s liquid fuel supply routes, or for an inevitable declining petroleum fuel supply world.

          Per the ABS, there were 20.1 million registered motor vehicles as at 31 January 2021. Diesel vehicles increased to 26.4% of the national fleet, up from 20.9% in 2016. There were 23,000 electric vehicle registrations. EV registrations increased by 62.3% from the previous year. The average age of vehicles across Australia increased to 10.6 years.
          https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/industry/tourism-and-transport/motor-vehicle-census-australia/latest-release

          For the full calendar year 2020, a total of 916,968 vehicles were sold, down 13.7 per cent on calendar year 2019 when 1,062,867 vehicles were sold.
          https://www.fcai.com.au/sales

          In simplistic terms, it would take roughly 22 years to replace the entire existing fleet of registered vehicles in Australia at the current rate of replacement with new vehicle sales. What if global petroleum fuel supplies fail to meet the operational demands of Australia’s current & future fleet of ICEVs within this decade?

          • George Kaplan says

            Geoff, for once we actually have some ground in common – try not to collapse in shock! : )

            Energy self reliance for Australia is a growing issue given Beijing’s growing militarism, and the risks involved with single points of failure e.g. Singapore going into total lockdown due to China Flu or some other pandemic. America’s decision to tap their strategic reserve to control prices is a strategic risk taken in the hope to avoid political pain. I remain an EV skeptic – as far as I’m aware they simply aren’t an option given my needs, but I can see the argument that Australia can ‘fuel’ EVs whereas it has to import petrol for ICEVs. Of course this is predicated on having a stable reliable energy system. What would happen if a few major power plants were put out of commission? EV owners in California for instance lost their transport when electricity was lost whilst ICEVs could still function. True an apocalypse proof\off grid system would avoid this problem, but even SQ discourage that, for now.

            Your point about it taking 22 years to switch from ICEV to EV assuming no change in new vehicle rate, and all future sales being EV simply demonstrates the skepticism Australians have towards EVs – far too expensive, too short of range etc.

            Peter, perhaps it depends on the sort of road trip you’re taking? Major motorways aside you don’t see ‘roadhouses’. And yes perhaps some folk do park there for an extended period to eat, drink, visit the loo etc, but how common is that compared to the proportion that choose roads less travelled? I actually do agree that the future could see fuel stations abolished and car parks treated more akin to metered ones – simply pay for your time and the electricity you take. You could even take this a step further – Westfields or other large shopping centres replacing free parking with individual pay to use and charge spots. Instead of anonymous shopping ‘Big Shopping’ could even move to a trackable valued customer system and offer cheaper deals for members – similar to Flybuys or Costco etc.

          • Geoff Miell says

            George Kaplan,
            Your point about it taking 22 years to switch from ICEV to EV assuming no change in new vehicle rate, and all future sales being EV simply demonstrates the skepticism Australians have towards EVs – far too expensive, too short of range etc.

            Nearly all Australians alive today have only ever known petroleum fuels being affordable and plentiful. I’d suggest most people are relying on the assumption that past performance is indicative of future performance. The accumulating indicators I see suggest that era is about to end – some may argue it has ended already – and many people are perhaps in for a very rude shock soon.

            With likely rapidly rising petroleum fuel prices, and perhaps petroleum supply scarcity added to the mix, BEVs would become a ‘no brainer’.

            The big problem I see is the currently inadequate supply of BEVs won’t be anywhere near able to keep up with an overwhelming demand when many people begin to realise they can no longer afford, or perhaps won’t have adequate fuel supplies, to operate their ICEVs.

            George, what are you going to do when petroleum fuels inevitably become unaffordable for you to operate your ICEV? Do you think that can’t happen?

        • George Kaplan:
          “Peter, perhaps it depends on the sort of road trip you’re taking? Major motorways aside you don’t see ‘roadhouses’. And yes perhaps some folk do park there for an extended period to eat, drink, visit the loo etc, but how common is that compared to the proportion that choose roads less travelled?”
          Yes, it does depend on the sort of road trip, but major motorways exist because that is where many people most often want to go. Current EVs aren’t going to be viable for 100% of people 100% of the time, but that is no reason to not encourage them. They are already viable for most people doing their daily commute/shopping/school drop offs etc where the distance is low & they can charge at home overnight. They are already viable on major highways with a bit of planning & I would expect that to improve quickly. I don’t expect an EV to be used to cross a desert or tow a caravan through the outback anytime soon, but how many people do that regularly? I am sure 80% of family cars could be EVs without any dramas & those people who frequently travel in remote areas or tow big loads can stick with ICEs. Why give up on the benefits of EVs just because they can’t replace every single ICE?

  2. Range anxiety is largely an irrational fear now. But I have a different kind of phobia. Shit house road stops.

    While the charging infrastructure will grow and become more dense, one of the issues which does need consideration is the quality of the services centres at those stops.

    This is going to matter much more when the stop is extended as it will be with an EV. Just because the EV tells me there is a charge station coming up, doesn’t mean it’s somewhere I want to stay for any longer than absolutely necessary.

    Most of the highway service centres are, let’s be honest, pretty bloody crap. Some are downright disgusting. Stop only if you absolutely must.

    If you are stopping for a quick pee, a drink, maybe even fill the car then hanging about for a few minutes is no big deal. Most of them are splash and dash joints at best.

    But if I have to wait for 30-60 minutes in some of these places, honestly I’d rather self harm. The toilets are often abysmal and there is little choice in many cases. Before lockdowns I regularly travelled the major highways up and down NSW and VIC and so many service centres are just bloody awful. Blokes mostly cope with crappy loos. But when the wife or mum or MIL is with you…

  3. With regards to solar car batteries, I would like to know what is the life span of the batteries? What is the purchase cost of replacement? What is the cost of replacement fitting? What percentage of the batteries are recyclable?

  4. Terry McCracken says

    Hi,
    You could have gotten some charge at that dodgy motel simply by turning down the charge rate in the app, even a few amps makes a difference overnight.

    • Agreed. Unfortunately – when this was shot – 5 months ago – the Tesla App did not yet have that feature.

      • Randy WESTER says

        Did Australian cars not have the capability of limiting the charge rate from the car console? Our first 4 months were done using a 125 volt house circuit at 13 amps, or less.

        We just got the updated app in Canada, and it is mighty nice to be able to crank the charge rate up or down from the app, as our feed in tariff is 1/3 the usage price so we want to adjust the rate to the amount of sunshine.

        • Great question – it is entirely possible that this was possible from the car and I didn’t realise!

          • Randy Wester says

            It’s entirely possible that the wiring wasn’t up to supplying any extra power, at any rate.

            We have similar challenges here, although every hotel parking lot here will have engine heater plugs for use in subzero weather, they weren’t designed with the expectation of 1500 watt continuous loads on each plug, as most car engine heaters are only 250 to 400 watts.

            Access to charging is improving rapidly, there are at least twice the number of chargers there were three years ago when we got our Model 3. And hotel desk staff now usually know whether they have a charger, or not!

  5. Shane Hanson says

    ONE of the things about all this wanky high tech electric cars that perpetually suck on the tit of the super chargers, is that

    a) None of them come as super light weight cars that depending upon the distances etc., they come with enough glued on solar cells, to keep themselves recharged, with say 2 or 3 hours of driving, which includes 8 hours in the sun light…

    b) And there is the humble BYO tent and a 15A extension lead or similar for running power from a camp site / caravan and or hotel / motel room.

  6. I believe there will always be a need for ICEs in Australia because of the long distances we travel in fairly isolated locations where the infrastructure for battery recharging is going to be a challenge.

    Adapting to climate change should not be an adversarial sport and those of a green persuasion should understand that there will need to be compromise along the way .

    I suspect that in the near term families will probably have both an EV and ICE in their garages.

    • Paul,
      You state: “I believe there will always be a need for ICEs in Australia because of the long distances we travel…

      Not if fuels for ICEVs become prohibitively expensive (or scarce/unavailable).
      https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Options-Traders-Are-Betting-On-300-Oil.html

      You state: “Adapting to climate change should not be an adversarial sport and those of a green persuasion should understand that there will need to be compromise along the way .

      Humans cannot adapt to 60 °C ambient air temperatures. In locations like Western Sydney, that’s what could be likely experienced during summer heatwaves in a world at +4 °C global mean warming (relative to Holocene Epoch pre-industrial age). People would be dropping like flies in the streets.

      Livestock and crops that we depend on for our sustenance cannot adapt to those temperatures either. Global food security will become increasingly and exponentially compromised above the +1.5 °C global mean warming threshold, likely crossed BEFORE 2030.
      https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/dor

      • A couple of thoughts I have, I’m a solar and battery fan. I have home solar n battery due to SA gov being so supportive.
        I wanted to go ev a couple of years ago when buying a new car but $$$ and wife reluctance due to living in rural towns prior to Adelaide

        Distance is a challenge for ev, if you live in Mt Isa (pop 20k) and had to travel to Townsville (pop 100k plus) that’s 1000ks and in summer it’s 40 plus all summer. Hanging out in Hughenden or Richmond to charge up will not be a fun time (choose that example so you can do some googling 😁)

        The other is, where are the ev buses in the city ? Or trains ? Should that not be a priority for state governments etc ? Or is the 24/7 or high runtimes nature of some transport modes where ev will fail or struggle due redundancy, recharging cycle times or doubling fleet sizes plus capital outlay or lack of budgets and $$$

        I would love to travel to work on a ebus instead of the noisy diesel bus, hurry up SA metro

      • Randy Wester says

        People in Sydney will have days when they can’t go outside because the weather is dangerous? I can’t imagine what that might be like. No, wait, maybe I can:

        https://weather.gc.ca/city/pages/ns-31_metric_e.html

        Seriously though, highly reflective rooftops, thermal mass, water features, pools, irrigation, hybrid solar panels, and ground-source rather than air-source air conditioning and heat pumps, can all help make the interior more livable.

        Building resilience in the developed world along with lower CO2 emissions, is our best hope, as it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the coal emissions of the developing world are going to soon just… stop. Even if they did, the CO2 levels won’t drop to 1850 levels, and Earth was not universally a comfortable Paradise back then, either.

        • Randy Wester,
          Seriously though, highly reflective rooftops, thermal mass, water features, pools, irrigation, hybrid solar panels, and ground-source rather than air-source air conditioning and heat pumps, can all help make the interior more livable.

          You can always wear more thermal insulation in extreme cold – there are only so many clothes you can take off in extreme heat conditions. With a power failure during an extreme heatwave, how long do you think you would survive?

          Randy, what do you propose to protect your food supply with rising global temperatures? How do you protect crops and livestock, that you depend upon for your ongoing sustenance, from increasing heat stress and consequent declining yields/supplies?

          Risks of simultaneous crop failure, however, do increase disproportionately between 1.5 and 2 °C, so surpassing the 1.5 °C threshold will represent a threat to global food security. For maize, risks of multiple breadbasket failures increase the most, from 6% to 40% at 1.5 to 54% at 2 °C warming. In relative terms, the highest simultaneous climate risk increase between the two warming scenarios was found for wheat (40%), followed by maize (35%) and soybean (23%). Looking at the impacts on agricultural production, we show that limiting global warming to 1.5 °C would avoid production losses of up to 2753 million (161,000, 265,000) tonnes maize (wheat, soybean) in the global breadbaskets and would reduce the risk of simultaneous crop failure by 26%, 28% and 19% respectively.

          https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308521X18307674
          https://www.climaterealitycheck.net/video

  7. Norbert Reni says

    I have two queries regarding EV’s. First is how fast is a “fast charge”? Is it longer than I take to fill my 60 litre petrol tank? And second how accurate is the gauge that tells how much charge is left in the car? Is it as accurate as the one in my petrol tank?

    • Randy Wester says

      A Tesla Model 3 can add up to 25 KM of range per minute for about the first 40 to 50% of the charge, then it starts to gradually slow down as the battery fills, until it’s adding about 3 or 4 km a minute for the last 10%.

      Normally you would just charge for as long as it takes for a bathroom break and maybe a refreshment, then get back on the road.

      How does it compare to petroleum fuel? No car charger yet available could possibly transfer the amount of energy contained in 60 litres of petroleum fuel, in just a few minutes. At the best vehicle engines’ efficiency of just 50% of gasoline wasted as heat, 60 litres is 0.31 megawatt-hours of useful energy, so a 5 minute fill is a transfer rate of up to 3.7 megawatts. At worst, it’s about half of that for a non-hybrid gasoline car.

      On the other hand, there is no service available that will refuel your petroleum powered vehicle overnight in your garage, or top up your car’s fuel tank while you’re sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, or while you’re enjoying a meal at your hotel, and at as low a cost as for electricity.

      • Norbert Reni says

        Thanks for the detailed response. As someone who lives outside the metro area and does a lot of country driving at this stage even if I could afford one, based on what you posted, EV’s are not for me.

  8. Peter Vardos says

    Michael … if you think that traveling from Adelaide to Cobram and back will take you to places that you would describe as ‘the middle of nowhere’, then I’m afraid to say you’ve been nowhere in this great southern land! We’ve got a hell of a long way to go in this country before the range anxiety of people who do not live in metropolitan Australia can be assuaged.

Speak Your Mind

Please keep the SolarQuotes blog constructive and useful with these 4 rules:

1. Real names are preferred - you should be happy to put your name to your comments.
2. Put down your weapons.
3. Assume positive intention.
4. If you are in the solar industry - try to get to the truth, not the sale.
5. Please stay on topic.

GET THE SOLARQUOTES WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
%d bloggers like this: