Full Self Driving Testing

Tesla has begun rolling out FSD betas to specific testers from the official owners club community.

John Stringer from Tesla Owners Silicon Valley is one of the first and posted a couple of short videos on Twitter

Installing DC fast chargers across the Nullarbor

When people discuss driving from coast to coast in Australia they often say we’re driving the Nullarbor. Before the road was completely sealed in the mid 1970s it was at best a challenging experience, at worst a mighty test of patience for those who didn’t plan for tyre and suspension issues along the way. These days the road is fairly good, the biggest challenges are rapid temperature changes, the often relentless wind and the flies.

As a matter of reference the Nullarbor Plain is an area located between the towns of Norseman and Ceduna, these two towns are 1200kms apart by road although the true treeless part (that still has a random small tree along the way) is mostly between the West Australian border and the Nullarbor roadhouse in South Australia, for this exercise an across the Nullarbor drive is between Perth and Adelaide via the shortest route of 2724kms.

Nullarbor Plain

The first time I drove across the Nullarbor was in 1992, in the past 3 years we’ve driven it 3 times in an electric vehicle. It’s an interesting adventure charging from 3 phase outlets and answering questions from curious tourists, the journey is not difficult at all, it just takes planning and patience. Driving these long distance trips with charging downtime also provides plenty of opportunity to think of the possibilities of where to install DC chargers and what charging speeds would be best. The installation of equipment that reduce charging time from multiple hours down to 15-20 minutes is now essential, EV owners are no longer just the early adopters who enjoy a challenge, EVs are now being purchased by Australians that require the best possible experience from day one.

So where to place the chargers with regards to spacing? By good fortune this is fairly easy if all the locations get on board EV charging, the average distance between charge locations is 182kms with largest gap being 241kms on the Balladonia-Cocklebiddy leg a road that is reasonably flat and easy on driving range. Of the 14 most versatile charging locations only 4 are privately operated off grid sites, the remaining 10 are gazetted towns, the amount of electricity available at each site is a relevant but separate issue that you can read about here, chargers need to be placed where there are toilets, water and shelter.

There are two obvious exclusions from this list, one is the mid-sized coastal town of Ceduna, on that section of road Penong and Poochera have more useful spacing, no doubt Ceduna will get DC charging as some stage. The second location is Border Village 12kms from Eucla, despite being more active with tourists Border Village has a privately operated and at this stage very weak electricity supply compared to Eucla. I wouldn’t rule Border Village out as eventually competition will see both locations having DC chargers. You will note I have included both Mundrabilla RH and Eucla, which only has a gap of 65kms. Unfortunately this is only alternative without having a gap of at least 262kms, it’s also the section of road that has consistently strong winds.

Heading back across the paddock.

How powerful would the Chargers need to be? From a marketing exercise 350kw would appear to be the first choice, drivers looking to switch from petrol to electric often still have the mindset that 5 minute refills are essential, in theory a 350kw charger could provide 182kms of range in 6 minutes, in reality very few drivers will need it. Personally I see 150kw chargers as being the better choice for at least a few years, 150kw would provide 182kms of range in approximately 15 minutes, to me that’s a far better use of equipment while barely adding much time to the overall trip.

To summarize: installing DC chargers across the Nullarbor is nowhere near the impossible task many believe it to be, it’s certainly a challenge but nothing like the challenge that has gone into building the roads and oil based fueling infrastructure already in place across this isolated part of Australia. Up until now it hasn’t been necessary as very few electric vehicle owners need to make the trip, but as electric transportation rapidly becomes mainstream in the same countries that build Australia’s car it’s now become a matter of urgency to change the mind sets and car buying habits of many Australians.

Australian Tesla Online Shop

After some wait, and a few intital hiccups with payments, the Australian Tesla Online Shop is now open for business.

You can now buy cables, apparel and other accessories in Australia

Highlights include the Model 3 fob, not previously available here, as well as a full complement of floormats for all models.

Go check it out at https://shop.tesla.com/en_au/

You can also still buy TOCWA merchandise at our shop

Large scale off grid EV charging

It often gets asked on social media forums and at electric vehicle displays why off grid EV charging is not being built. The answer is: it will be eventually, it’s not technology holding it up, nor lack of renewable energy available, it’s frequency although not in terms of electricity but in terms of traffic flow.

Many EV drivers are already charging at home from off grid electricity systems, this is cost effective because of two important points; firstly they’re sharing the power generation equipment with general household usage thus sharing the equipment cost; also they are only using around 20% of the vehicles battery per day, 50% at most, this means they can delay charging until excess electricity is available.

With home charging it really isn’t that difficult to install a suitable off grid electricity system without too much overbuild, for a commercial site on a country road it’s vastly different. The random nature of traffic flow makes sizing a suitable generation system without massively overbuilding very difficult. On an average day in 2022 a regional roadhouse may get 4 electric vehicles stop to charge, that is zero to one car some days and 10 cars on other days, add in long weekends and school holidays and the EV traffic flow could be far higher. It’s not too difficult to install enough chargers for the busiest day but having enough electricity production and storage to charge those EVs would require a generation and storage system that would spend the best part of a week completely under utilized, it’s near impossible to make a business case from that.

Here is a very rough example to show why: On the busiest day 16 EVs stop to charge over a 24 hour period, if each EV consumes an average of 45kWh including charging losses, to provide 720kWh would require a minimum of 180kw of solar panels with the smallest battery set up of approximately 600kWh, and there sits the first issue. Batteries are currently too expensive to be only partly used 5 or 6 days per week, solar is cheap but having such a large solar array that’s producing vast amounts of unused power for most of the week is a waste of resources.

Mundrabilla Roadhouse – Nullabor Plain

So this is what needs to happen over the next few years;

  • 1. Battery prices need to fall significantly: this is not as big an ask as it seems as off grid batteries don’t have to be Lithium based, off grid locations have no shortage of room, energy density is not important, the best battery is one that provides the best cost per kWh over its guaranteed lifetime in an often harsh environment.
  • 2. One electricity generation system for everything: a shared off grid system is better value for money, but not only a shared system but a smart system where power consumption is carefully managed during busy time periods, water desalination and hot water systems can operate at times of low demand.
  • 3. Charging cost: EV owners will openly say they have no problem paying 45 cents a kWh in country areas but make it 60 cents at peak times and 30 cents when excess power is available and charging habits will change, most Australian drivers are already accustomed to being fleeced by fuel companies on long weekends at least this way they have a chance at cheaper energy.
  • 4. More electric vehicles need to be purchased in Australia: the bigger the flow of traffic in country areas the better the business case for building off grid charging facilities.

What is the short term solution?

A hybrid system of renewables and Diesel: as much as I dislike Diesel being used in passenger cars and pretend 4 wheel drives that never leave the suburbs it still has its place in country areas for another decade. Having a Diesel back up that covers the very busy days but only produces 10-15% of the overall electricity is a far better solution than the one Australia currently has. Most off grid roadhouses are powered close to 100% by fossil fuel (some have a few dozen solar panels) fueling up 99% of the vehicles that stop in with fossil fuels, a step in the right direction is better than no step at all.

Avoid Extension Cords Where Possible

There are three reasons to use an extension cord:

1) to avoid driving across a manicured lawn or soft brick paving.

2) to avoid stretching out your charging cable and making it a tripping hazard.

3) the third reason is not so obvious until you arrive at a charging site, especially tourist parks and other accommodation, many 10 and 15amp single phase outlets are positioned in such a way that the gen 2 UMC plugs can’t fit in the outlet due to the pins being positioned at right angles to the cable, the first solution many drivers take is to add an extension cord with a standard inline plug, this solution often creates another problem.

The first option is to try and avoid using an extension cord, longer cords have a significant voltage drop when charging from single phase, on an overnight charge that could result in 15 to 20kms less range in the same charging time. This voltage drop also means unnecessary heat in the cable that could shorten it’s useful life. The other issue in using an extension cable is it’s highly likely to add another tripping hazard unless it’s used wisely. As much as possible avoid using a 25 metre cable to cover a less than 5 metre span.

So what is the best solution?

Plan A is to always get the car’s charge port as close to the charging outlet without causing damage or inconvenience to the property owners, also the less distance between the car and the outlet the less chance someone will walk through the gap and trip over the charging cord.

If parking close is not possible or the outlet needs an extension cord with an inline plug use the shortest extension cord possible, if it’s a 15amp outlet make sure you use a 15amp cord even if your only charging at 10amps or less, I carry a 10 metre 15amp extension cord that has always covered the task.

A few more tips:

If the outlet is accessible to the public make sure it can’t be accidentally knocked out by someone else using the same power board, especially with outlets that face downwards.

Keep the cord as flat and straight between the car and charging outlet but add a half coil at the base of each end, that way if someone catches the cord with their foot there’s a shock absorber at the car end but most importantly at the power point end.

If you’ve used the shortest cable possible and still have plenty of excess don’t leave in a pile on the floor, lay it out carefully along the edge of a wall or somewhere else where clumsy feet can’t get to it.

Happy motoring.

Tesla Perth moving to Osborne Park

Contracts have been signed for the Perth Tesla location in the old Renault/Peugeot Dealership on Main Street and Scarborough Beach Roads. Test Drives begin soon from that location, but the service centre may take a little longer to move over.

Australind/Treendale Chargefox Location

The new ultra-rapid charging location at Australind/Treeton is nearing completion.

This location will have a pair of 350kW Tritium chargers which will be some of the fastest in WA – Older Teslas are unlikely to see much value over the nearby Supercharger, but Model 3 owners will certainly see better rates here.

WA to get a Big Battery

Expected to be Australia’s second biggest battery, the proposed 100MW, 200MWh big battery will be bigger than 20 tennis courts, side-by-side, and have the capacity to power 160,000 homes for two hours, and to be housed at the decommissioned Kwinana Power Station.

WA’s energy sector is experiencing a rapid transformation, with a major uptake of largescale renewables and rooftop solar. One in three households have rooftop solar panels and this is expected to rise to 50 per cent of households by 2030.

Increased pressure on WA’s electricity system and inaction could result in significant blackouts in coming years.

The big battery will support integration of more renewable energy and improve grid security. It can be charged during the day, when the sun is shining and energy is plentiful, and discharge this energy when it is most needed during the afternoon and evening peak.

Batteries will help the wider electricity system and the market by ‘smoothing’ demand issues, such as low load, which is encountered when customer solar generation is high but power demand is low.

October 4th Casual Meetup – Rotary Como Car Show

Our October Casual Meetup will be at the annual Rotary Como Car Show at Wesley College, South Perth. We have a few owners showing their cars, including the Targa-conquering Model 3.

This year the show is on Sunday October 4th, from 10am, Public entry $10 adult, $8 conc., gold coin under 18 – all proceeds to Rotary and Wesley charities.

Feel free to pop past any time for a chat, and also to chat with the many interested members of the public that come along. It’d be great if you’re happy to stay for a bit, and give those owners bringing their cars a break to go get a coffee!

So, you want to drive to Esperance?

Now that the Lake Grace DC charger is installed and operational the Perth to Esperance drive has become so much easier. I’ve completed the 700km trip in a Model S three times since early 2017 using the slow but reliable 3 phase AC charging.

To make the journey as trouble free and relaxing as possible read on:

  • Perth to Esperance is 700kms via Williams and Ravensthorpe, the Perth to Lake Grace leg is 326kms, Lake Grace to Esperance 374kms.
  • On average you will lose 20 minutes of daylight driving East towards Esperance but gain an average 20 minutes on the return journey West, driving at dusk between Ravensthorpe and Esperance is not recommended so please take the above into consideration.
  • The Albany highway section of 168kms between Perth and Williams can get fairly busy, driving below 100kmh is not recommended or you’ll be very unpopular with the business people who use this road on a daily basis.
  • The Williams to Lake Grace section is flat and fairly good for range, take note if you’re driving into an easterly and factor that into the remaining range.
  • The 186km section between Lake Grace and Ravensthorpe is generally a low traffic road that can be driven a bit slower if needed. Be warned that at certain times of the year grain trucks are using this road, give them every opportunity to do their job as quickly and safely as possible.
  • The 188km section between Ravensthorpe and Esperance is not too busy but the traffic moves fast, it’s also a deceptive road, long sections of very good surface with random spots in need of repair from water damage, take note of the shire warning signs, it could very save you from tyre and rim damage.
  • Don’ be rigid in your trip plan, allow extra time for unexpected delays.
  • Spare tyre and jack, CARRY THESE ITEMS, although you are very unlikely to get a flat tyre, not having a spare when you need one will make it a very expensive and time consuming trip, not the type of memories you want while on holiday. Roadside repair kits are a plan C and are no substitute for a spare tyre in regional WA. Contact the TOCWA secretary regarding a loan spare and advice (free to TOWCA members).

When leaving from Perth I highly recommend you depart as early as possible; firstly there’s less traffic to deal with on the outskirts of town; secondly you have time up your sleeve to stop and take some photos; thirdly and most importantly it’s nice to arrive at your final destination, get the car on charge and relax with a drink before sunset.

How early? That’s up to you but sunrise is a great time to be on the road. If you don’t mind getting some driving done before breakfast the Williams Woolshed is a great first stop for a meal and a short top up charge using the Tesla HPWC, it may only be 11kw but as the saying goes “Always be charging”.

Lake Grace is your main charging stop and it’s likely that will take 50 to 80 minutes, if you’re a first time visitor it’s easy to use up that time going for a short walk and having some lunch. The DC charger is currently set to stop charging at 95%, this isn’t really an issue as by that stage the charge rate has likely dropped to a level where the Lake Grace DC charger has no advantage over the AC charging in Williams or Ravensthorpe.

Pro tip: There’s a good chance the moment you arrive a local will walk over and start asking about the car, make sure you plug in and confirm your car is charging before having a long conversation. Once again “Always be charging”.

Ravensthorpe is a small but lovely town that is well worth the stop even if you don’t need to charge, there’s an IGA supermarket on the hillside with a Cafe that provides a nice view. If you do need a top up charge Ravensthorpe’s Green Haven caravan park has a Tesla destination charger that cost the owners more to install than they’ll ever get back from the 50 cents per kWh charging fee. Back in 2017 when no one in Ravensthorpe had any interest in EV charging Claire at the caravan park stepped up. They also have some reasonable priced chalets if driving Perth to Esperance in one day is hard yakka.

Ravensthorpe IGA is a great spot to grab a coffee and check out the view.

Esperance is a great place to relax for a few days, there are two locations with Tesla destination chargers (Smith Street Holiday House and Comfort Inn Bay of Isles) plus the horizon power type 2 via the Chargefox app (BYO cable). There’s plenty to do within walking distance including the local museum which has much more to see than just the Skylab wreckage. If you have time to spare a 90km drive east to the Duke of Orleans Bay is worth the effort, as well as the beautiful white sand beaches there’s a gem of a pub in the village of Condingup that back in 2017 served a tasty lunch.

Duke of Orleans Bay.

For the return to Perth, if you want to be a bit more adventurous there are two options, via Jerramungup (Tesla HPWC) & Albany or North via Kalgoorlie. If you want alternate recommendations let me know.

Happy Travels, Rob