Will a Solar Specific Charger Save You Money?

The short answer is it’s often unlikely but it’s not always about the money so please read on.

To clarify a solar specific charger is a device that detects home solar input and can be set so an EVs charging amps will not be higher than the excess solar available, for instance if the sky becomes cloudy and solar input reduces so will the EVs charge input.

If you have a neighbour that loves calling your Tesla a “Coal burner” there’s no better way to shut down the claim than by charging 100% from solar power, a solar specific charger is a good way of achieving this. As your neighbour is already too thick to understand electric motor efficiency they won’t be wise enough to work out you’re not saving any money by charging via a sometimes expensive piece of equipment.

Perth is the sunniest capital city in Australia – Yep, even sunnier than Brisbane in the sunshine state. During daylight hours the sun shines on average two thirds of the time in the Perth area so installing a device that only allows solar to charge an EV is redundant for two thirds of the time.

Combined Installation and unit cost – This varies by a large margin so it’s best left to a case by case basis, what is important is to get an accurate dollar figure on the difference between a fully installed solar specific charger and a fully installed “dumb” (generic) unit that continues charging at the same amps. For instance if Tesla have provided you with a free Gen2 UMC that you plan to plug in to an existing 10/15amp wall socket your installation plus unit cost is zero dollars. If you’re considering a $750 Tesla destination charger (HPWC) with a $750 installation cost your total cost is $1500. Keep in mind $750 is an example as installation costs are wide ranging.

Now as an example if you get a quote of $2000 for the solar specific charger plus $750 installation the extra upfront cost to charge directly from solar is between $1250 and $2750.

How long will the payback on investment be?

Once you have a fixed and trustworthy quote and you also have a firm understanding on how many kilometres you plan to drive per day using home charging use the below chart to do some calculations. If you’re not sure about driving kilometres yet a good guide is this, the average passenger car travels 38kms per day in Australia.

I’ve factored in a unit cost of 30 cents from the grid and the 2023 feed in the tariff of 3 cents per unit, this provides a potential saving of 27 cents for every kWh of solar going direct to the car. Keep in mind that In Perth across a whole year the sun is shining 2/3s of the time anyway.

The decision to install a solar specific charger is up to you, just think through these questions:

  • Do you drive enough distance per day to justify it?
  • Do you plan to charge from home during the day on an almost daily basis?
  • Do you have enough excess solar?
  • And does the units warranty period match your expectations?

Happy New Year – January Casual Meetup

Happy new year from WA!

Our next casual meetup is Wednesday 4 January 2023 at 6:30pm at:

Como Hotel – 243 Canning Hwy, Como

https://www.comohotel.com.au/

Casual meetups are open to everyone including those who have never seen a Tesla before.

It’s an ideal opportunity to meet club members and to see the cars in the flesh which we are all passionate about.

It’s also a great way for new owners to learn more about their cars and to share in the vast pool of knowledge gained by other members.

We hope to see you there and look forward to chatting about all things Tesla.

December Casual Meetup

Our next casual meetup is Sunday 4 December 2022 at 11:00am at:

King Road Brewing Co, 796 King Rd, Oldbury

Casual meetups are open to everyone including those who have never seen a Tesla before.

It’s an ideal opportunity to meet club members and to see the cars in the flesh which we are all passionate about.

It’s also a great way for new owners to learn more about their cars and to share in the vast pool of knowledge gained by other members.

We hope to see you there and look forward to chatting about all things Tesla.

Supercharger tips

The most recent Tesla Superchargers in Karrinyup, Williams and Margaret River are V3, the 2017 built Eaton Superchargers are V2. Those who’ve charged at Eaton will have noticed each charging stall has two cables, the second cable is a retrofitted CCS2, that’s the one 99.9% of WA Tesla owners will use. V3 chargers are vastly superior as each stall is capable of delivering up to 250kw depending on the vehicle battery type and size, starting percentage and battery temperature. The V2 stalls at Eaton have a maximum output of 145kw for each pair of stalls (1A&B, 2A&B, 3A&B), meaning if you plug into stall 1B not long after a car has plugged into 1A your initial charging speed will be very slow. The trick is to avoid parking next to another car if possible. The slower charging speeds at Eaton are only a nuisance on busy Saturday mornings on a long weekend. To get the best charging speed set navigate to the Supercharger and the car will automatically preheat the battery pack before arrival, on cool days this makes a significant difference to the starting charge rate. A second tip for the fastest charge rate is to arrive with approximately 10% range and depart with 60-80% depending on the distance to the next chargers. Arriving with only 10% is advice I would never give with any other type of charge point in Australia, the fact is Tesla Superchargers are vastly more reliable than any other DC chargers in this country.

Eaton Supercharger cables.

Why not charge to 100%?

Basically 80 to 100% takes longer than charging from 10 to 60%, wasting time defeats the main purpose of a Supercharger. Be aware that when a Supercharger gets busy charging may get limited to 80%, the phone app will provide a notification, if charging past 80% is absolutely necessary it can be overridden. You can read more here: Charging to 100% is a waste of time.

Don’t overstay you visit- Once your car has completed charging you have 5 minutes grace to move the car, failure to do so will result in a backdated per minute surcharge added to your Supercharger account, as the phone app will pre warn you there’s no excuse.

Driving Perth to Shark Bay in a Tesla

Hopefully by late 2023 this article is barely relevant due to Synergy’s installation of fast DC chargers in Jurien Bay, Northampton, Billabong and the Overlander Roadhouse. In the meantime the trip is comfortable if you plan correctly and show some patience.

Perth-Geraldton, 410kms

This section is energy hungry and can catch out first timers. A long range Tesla can normally make this section on one charge, a performance model maybe if conditions are favourable but unfortunately unless you get a howling tail wind and a warm road a standard range Tesla will need to to stop and top up charge at the Lancelin type 2 AC charger or the Jurien Bay 40kw DC charger. There is a Tesla destination charger in Cervantes but at the time of writing that unit was reported as having an issue, check Plugshare before venturing in to Cervantes.

Geraldton

If you’re passing through the far quickest option is the TOCWA DC charger at the West End. No cable is required but you’ll need the Smartcharge app. For those planning to stay overnight there are 3 different Hotel/Motels with Tesla destination chargers.

Geraldton to Denham/Monkey Mia, 432kms

No matter which Tesla you have it is wise to plan a charging stop, Northampton has a Tesla destination charger, toilets, a good bakery, an IGA and a few other close by shops but is only 52kms from Geraldton, more of a handy stop on the return trip.

The best option is the Billabong Homestead that has supported EV charging since early 2016, there’s a Tesla destination charger next to the self contained rooms (transportables) and a 32amp 3 phase outlet in the caravan park for those that wish to camp. To get safely through to Monkey Mia 1 to 2 hours of charging is required at this location, the good news is the sit down food is fairly good, it has a bar and there’s satellite TV.

Play safe at Billabong and add more charge than the car calculates, when you turn west towards Shark Bay a strong sea breeze can eat into the remaining range very fast and give you a nervous last 100kms.

Denham/Monkey Mia

It’s highly likely you’ve planned at least a two night stay so 10amp trickle charging (portable UMC) will do the trick. For something a little faster the RAC resort in Monkey Mia has a type 2 outlet, to use this you require a BYO type 2 to type 2 cable.

As per usual I highly recommend making full use of the Plugshare app, be sure to browse recent comments at each location you plan to use.

Carry a KHONS 3 phase cable or EVSE as a back up, you will notice many Tesla destination chargers in regional areas have a 5 pin 3 phase outlet nearby, so if the Tesla charger fails drivers have a plan B.

Pro-tips

Add in an extra day or two and make a side trip on the way back via Kalbarri, Port Gregory and Horrocks, we’ve stayed overnight at all 3 of these locations with 10amp trickle charging easy to find.

No matter how hot the forecast is for Shark Bay take a jacket, the afternoon south-westerly can get fairly cool by sunset.

Overall just plan correctly, take your time and enjoy the drive.

Why do my tyres wear faster than another Tesla’s tyres?

First up there is a myth that EVs wear tyres faster than a similar size petrol vehicle due to the extra weight. There has not been a detailed study on this and to be clear if there was a widespread study with dozens of vehicles over many years and large distances the far smoother accelerating and braking of an EV would offset tyre wear from the extra weight. The problem is the myth has a strong foothold so many EV owners use it as an excuse for their excessive tyre wear.

Tyres have a large amount of information moulded on to the sidewall.  As well as the sizing there’s also the speed index, weight index and tyre wear rating, a number normally between 200 and 500. A higher number suggests a longer lasting tyre but there is a possibility that a small amount of grip could be sacrificed so think carefully before changing from the tyres fitted in the factory by Tesla, especially the performance models.

So even after considering the tyre wear rating you’re still getting far less distance from the same tyre/vehicle combo as another Tesla owner, why could this be?

Poorly maintained tyre pressures – Stick to the cold pressures recommended by Tesla and check them on a regular basis. Keep in mind to check during the first few hundred metres of a drive before the tyres heat up.

A high amount of driving on coarse chip seal country roads.

A high amount of driving in built up areas with stops signs, traffic lights and most of all roundabouts.

Failing to rotate the tyres.

Possible misalignment due to a family member hitting a kerb or a pothole and not owning up to it.

And lastly, your driving style. No one wants to hear this but the combination of low centre of gravity and lack of engine noise lulls EV drivers into thinking they’re driving slower than they really are, but in reality your cornering faster, accelerating faster and generally putting the tyres under more pressure than you would in most petrol cars, continually driving like this scrubs the tyres out in no time at all.

Charging an EV at Caravan Parks

Over the past 7 years we have stayed in every state and territory of Australia and charged overnight at well over 100 different caravan parks, cabins and other accommodation that fall under the category of tourist parks.

There are some great sites, many over the top with attractions that never existed 30 years ago. Some are dusty, run down, patched together and best described as rustic. Some owners and managers are very EV friendly, others spend too much time watching Sky After Dark and will grudgingly let you plug in only to provide a running commentary on why EVs are City cars (even though you’re at a site 1200kms from Darwin). The one constant is getting a charge is always possible and, although slow, extremely convenient while you’re  relaxing.

The majority of locations have enough power to supply a full park of Caravans or RVs on a hot afternoon. However be aware that some have issues due the business expanding faster than expected, they are pushing their luck and eventually come unstuck just before dinner time on a hot day when the power shuts off. This shouldn’t be happening with a correctly built power system but on the rare occasion it does. Generally the power outage forces all the Grey Nomads to shut off their air-conditioners and venture outside thus easing the load when power is restored. A second issue to look out for are power outlets in poor condition due to having a hard life from careless tourists and a harsh coastal climate. If you think the power outlet looks dodgy find a better one, always take the safe option.

Tourist Parks factor in the cost of electricity to any site fees, a powered site is normally $8 to $15 more than an unpowered site. That does not mean you have full rights to plug in and charge for 20 hours straight, random power consumption of non EVs has been factored in not an EV potentially consuming 60kwh on one nights tariff. On most occasions I would suggest you offer to pay extra to charge the car, especially at a smaller privately owned business, very often the reception will refuse payment because you asked politely. Remember to wear your diplomatic hat for the benefit of you and the following EV owners.

Tips when plugging in:

Avoid using extension cords when possible. The only time I’ve needed one is when using a Tesla Gen2 UMC with the flat plug, these are difficult to fit it to many power bollards. If you do require an extension cord use the shortest 15amp possible.

Avoid making your charging cable a tripping hazard, keep some slack on the ground under the charge port and tape the cable to the lower section of the bollard so charging doesn’t get interrupted by someones foot on a dark evening.

If you have plenty of time to get enough charge required for the next leg of your journey set the amps lower and charge slower for longer, this way there’s less chance of any charging interruptions that could delay your morning departure.

Don’t be concerned about charging in the rain but do keep the charging unit off the ground in low lying areas as most tourist parks have firm ground with poor drainage.

Last of all don’t forget to turn off your air conditioner while charging, if you don’t plan for this extra consumption the charge percentage the next morning will be far less than expected.

The Downsides to Road Tripping with a Tesla Gen2 UMC plus Tail

The Tesla UMC Gen 2 (mobile connector) was introduced into Australia in mid 2019, all Tesla’s ordered before July 9th 2022 were provided with this charging cable for free, any buyers who ordered cars after that time have the option of purchasing from Tesla for $550 or looking for an aftermarket alternative. Many choose to stick with the Tesla product as it’s still one of the lower priced cables available.

Most owners make use of the included 10amp or 15amp plug. For home charging this provides enough charge for drivers that average up to 120kms per day, keeping in mind that the average Australian car of any fuel type travels only 38kms per day.

A common practice among Tesla owners is to purchase what is known as the Tesla UMC to 3 phase tail (approximately $150). This is a well made adaptor that connects straight into a 5 pin 3 phase outlet, this increases the potential power available to 32amp single phase, very handy for home charging if the electrician installing the 3 phase socket gives it the all clear. A Tesla owner could then add up to 300kms a day while parked at home.

Despite its low price and versatility at home the 3 phase tail has an Achilles Heel when used in regional areas on long trips- it’s NOT 3 phase, it’s only single phase.

The downsides:

  • A Tesla model 3 or Y have an 11kw 3 phase onboard charger, 11kw is only possible when the car is connected to a power source with a minimum of 3x 16amps, most 3 phase outlets in regional areas are 20amp or 32amp so that’s not an issue, the issue is the Tesla Gen2 UMC plus tail is limited to 32amp single phase, that’s 7.4kw from a 32amp outlet, or 5kw from a 20amp outlet. A prime example of how crippling this can be is at Border Village in South Australia, where the power outlet is limited to 20amp 3 phase. A Tesla using the correct 3 phase cable can charge at 2.4 times the speed as a Tesla using the Gen2 UMC. Border Village is one of the better roadhouses but hanging out there for many hours longer than necessary should be avoided.
  • A correct 3 phase cable (also known as an EVSE) drawing 16amps from each 20 or 32amp wire is unlikely to trip the breaker even over a long charging session, drawing 32amps through one phase for hours on end adds to the possibility of tripping a breaker, that’s not a situation you need while asleep or away from phone connection.
  • Lastly, drawing 32amps single phase on a site with low generating capacity at certain times of the day can cause the maintenance chief to get a bit agitated, a reliable electricity supply is critical to regional locations, at least one regional roadhouse that I know of has now barred EVs from charging after 7 years of goodwill.

What cables are best:

There are a number of 3 phase EVSE cables available including the high priced but extremely tough Juice Booster 2, the Kwik Mode 2 EV charger or the KHONS 3 phase charger. All have type 2 plugs on the car end and are easy to operate and store.

Over the past 7 years I’ve plugged into the vast majority of official Plugshare 3 phase outlets across Australia, I can confidently say if you use the correct equipment your journey will be smooth, if you try and save a few dollars you’ll soon regret it.

Events Committee

The Tesla Owners Club of Western Australia host or attend on average 20 events per year. Many are club events, but we are also very happy to accept invites to display Teslas’ at festivals, field days, sustainability shows and much more. The Tesla owners attending these events have a wealth of knowledge and are happy to talk to the public. The WA Tesla community have provided this service since 2015.

The events committee consist of:

  • Jared Hawke – Jaredhawke@bigpond.com 0487 362 111
  • Paul Vianna
  • Sharlene Mavor
  • Alex Davis

If have an event you would like our club to attend, please get in contact.

Como Rotary Car Show

Western Australian Tesla’s represented for the 8th year at the annual Como Rotary Car Show. Come along for a chat and talk to some experienced Tesla owners including event committee members Jared (0487 362 111), Paul and Alex (0428 994 832). If you are keen on finding out about charging cables, there will be plenty on hand with owners willing to provide the correct information on how and where to use them. Hope to see you this Sunday 2nd October 2022 any time between 9am and 3pm.