A tale of (driving between) two cities (in an EV)

August 29, 2023
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Chargefox CEO John Sullivan recently drove his Tesla from Melbourne to Adelaide and back.

For at least the last 15 years, I have worked for or led product companies. I love knowing that my daily efforts solve real-life problems, help people have a better life or improve the world. Leading Chargefox provides that platform for me in spades! Everyone here wants vehicles to be fueled with electricity and remove carbon emissions to improve the world for us and our families.

Since I worked at my first product company, I quickly understood that customers or users of your product are the only trustworthy source of knowing what you should develop, what functions are helpful, what will work and what won’t. So, I have always ensured my teams “Eat our own dog food”, myself included.

People buying an EV question their viability with a question like: “I don’t think I can drive long distances!”. I have never had that concern, but people are genuinely concerned. A benefit of running a national company is that I can travel around Australia and talk to customers, visit charging sites, and talk to drivers. A couple of weeks ago, I drove to Adelaide from Melbourne. It’s the first of many long drives I’m taking in an EV, and I wanted to write down my experiences, looking to dispel people’s concerns, hopefully!  

Google Maps notes that Melbourne to Adelaide for me is a ~740 km drive and should take about eight and a half hours. I drive a Tesla Model Y that, at 90% charge, has a range of about four hundred Kilometers. To make the trip, I needed to charge twice mid-drive. My first experience was planning to locate at least two stops to recharge. To be safe, I added a third possible location. I have never felt comfortable that a car’s displayed range can be reached as there are just too many variables: headwinds, temperature, battery health, tyre pressure, traffic, etc. Finding a route that included stops was easy. For my journey, Chargefox has enough options; Plugshare and A Better Routeplanner will show you others, and there are multiple other networks with chargers along the way. Any fears that I would be stranded disappeared within 2 minutes of looking. Although my overconfidence almost brought me unstuck on the first leg!

I started at 6:30 am with a top-up at Bayside City Council, Sandringham, my local charging location, Charged to 100%. The first leg was Bayside to Horsham, a 313km drive of 3hrs 40 minutes, and the car showed arriving with 34% charge left. The screen also revealed that it was 6deg and didn’t show a roaring headwind! I drove the first leg without cruise control in a t-shirt and shorts with a cozy 21 deg heater setting. As I went along, the charge at arrival dropped quickly. At 20Km to go, the car showed a 1% charge at the destination.

I made it, and when reversing into charge, I had 7km left! To say that my confidence was wavering a tad over the last 10Kms is an understatement. The Tesla was very good at informing me that I must find a charger NOW for the previous 10Km! Temperature makes a considerable difference to an EVs range. The battery is less efficient at low temperatures, and there is a charge cost to keep a car and battery heated. One should dress appropriately and not wear shorts and a tshirt in winter! Check out this article to read more on how temperature can impact EV range.

At Horsham, I used one of the Chargefox network’s 350kW chargers owned by RACV, which took roughly 45 minutes to charge and cost $35. Whilst I charged, I walked to the main street of Horsham, a 5-minute walk, bought a coffee, made a few phone calls, and did a rapid-fire interview with a journalist. Both the car and I were then recharged and ready for the next leg of the trip.  

From Horsham, I drove to Keith, a 220 km drive along the A8 Western Highway. This time, I used cruise control to see if that helped with range. By the time I arrived in Keith During the drive, the outside temperature steadily increased to a balmy 22 degrees. My choice of attire finally paid off!  At Keith, I put the car on the NRMA 350kWH charger, walked into the roadhouse, introduced myself and asked what was good for lunch. I had the best steak sandwich for lunch; thanks for the suggestion.  I had the car on the charger for 40 minutes, costing 25 Dollars.

Cruise control and the temperature increase kept the vehicle in a more predictable range, and once I was 100 km out of Horsham, I didn’t look at the range anymore, as it was pretty stable.

Side note – I can’t find any articles or data to back the statement that Cruise Control increases range. There are equal amounts of data for and against using it to increase range. I am a typical European assertive driver, and CC smoothes out the acceleration I would typically do if I were driving, so it works for me.  

With both the car and myself adequately refueled again, I drove straight to Adelaide CBD, roughly a 220km journey.  After about 150km, I passed Murray Bridge, which has another NRMA 350kWh charging station. I had enough range to make it to Adelaide, so I continued. I arrived in Adelaide at 4:30 pm, roughly ten hours of traveling, and the car was left with ~100km of range. If you add the time taken to recharge the EV to the time Google predicted the whole journey, Google was correct in predicting 8-and-a-half hours of driving.

The journey back from Adelaide to Melbourne was plain sailing. I stopped off at Murray Bridge on the first leg out of Adelaide, just over a hundred kilometers. I got there early in the morning and used the NRMA 350kW chargers. I grabbed a coffee from a shop around the corner; they had just opened up for the day and were happy to have a chat.  I stopped again at Keith; this time, it was way too early for another steak sandwich, so I just charged and practiced my pitching in the grass behind the charger.  I often practice golf whilst charging; my game can use as much practice as I can give it. Horsham, on the return leg, was busy with two other cars charging and one just finishing as I turned up. So this time, I used the 50kW charger, talked to the other drivers at the chargers, walked to town for 5 minutes, and sat down to eat a sandwich. I arrived home with 45Km range left.

So, if someone was concerned about the ability to drive long distances in an EV, what would I say now, on a sample size of doing one round trip to Adelaide?

  • Between Melbourne and Adelaide there are enough chargers from several companies, meaning you don’t have to concern yourself with being stranded. You have to spend a few minutes planning your route based on chargers, but it’s 5 or 10 minutes of effort at most.
  • Refrain from trusting the range in the car.  Overplan the chargers you could use. I wanted at least one extra stop as a backup. If you are traveling more extensively than I did, add more charging locations.
  • If I were driving my Golf Wagon petrol car, it would take at least a tank and a half of petrol and cost at least $170. Using public charging cost me $80-$90. So, fuel costs, for me, were halved when driving an EV long distances compared to my petrol car.
  • Lastly, the journey travelling from one location to another used to be part of the overall experience. In today’s world, it has become a task, an annoyance; it’s all about getting there quickly and enjoying one’s time at the destination. When driving an EV, you have to take your time; you get to experience places along your journey, even if it is only for that steak sandwich, a laid-back chat in a coffee shop, or practicing golf.

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