Before I continue let me make something very clear, if you want to travel between Perth and the East Coast in the fastest, safest and often cheapest manner book an airline flight and get it over with, driving the Nullarbor is not for you.
Last week my wife and I completed our 7th trip across across the southern part of the country in an EV. By carrying the correct charging cables, studying Plugshare, having a flexible plan for overnight stops and not attempting to drive unrealistic distances in one day the journey is reasonably straight forward, it’s a trip many other EV owners make without any issues, in fact some of the staff at various locations along the route are guessing that 3-4 EVs pass through every week, that’s manageable on the current charging infrastructure but not for very much longer.
The Nullarbor Roadhouse three phase plug on the wall behind has been used to charge EVs more that 180 times.
The near future
From the West a series of fast DC chargers are now open (Merredin, Southern Cross) or within days of being open to the public (Coolgardie and Norseman). These WA EV Network chargers cover 722kms and could easily handle 5 to 6 cars in a one hour window, that’ll be sufficient for the next 2 or 3 years of EV growth. Through to mid 2024 WA EV Network DC fast chargers will continue being installed towards the east before stopping 78kms from the WA/SA border. This is a commitment the WA Government made in 2022 and appears to be on schedule.
From the East the RAA of SA are installing fast DC chargers at Port Augusta, Kimba, Wudinna, Streaky Bay and Ceduna, on our recent trip we noticed a few of the these chargers appear ready to be switched on for public use, they’ve been a long time “coming soon” and will make a massive difference driving between Port Augusta and Ceduna, 2 to 4 hour charging stops every 250kms will be reduced to 15-20 minutes every 200-250kms. Once the DC chargers east of Perth and west of Port Augusta are open to the public the number of EVs travelling across the country will rapidly increase from 3 to 4 per week to 3 to 4 per day at the very least. Not every EV owner wants to drive across the country but the many who do have often said they’ll do it when a few more DC chargers get installed, I’m confident the floodgates are about to open.
A number of these “Coming Soon” pins on Plugshare are weeks away from going live. Filtered to DC charging only.
Considering the last DC charger east will be Ceduna and from the west Mundrabilla Roadhouse this leaves a gap of 558kms, not a problem for 3 or 4 cars per week as there’s currently 3 phase charging at Penong, the Nullarbor Roadhouse and Border Village, but when there are multiple cars per day the capacity of those outlets won’t be anywhere near enough. To add insult to injury the RAA of SA plan to install no more than a type 2 32amp single phase charger at Border Village, Nullarbor and Yalata, in effect two of the locations will be downgraded by a factor of 3. To look at it another way at Ceduna the RAA will have a rapid DC charger capable of charging at least 3 cars per hour, at the Nullarbor Roadhouse it will take 1 car 8 hours to charge.
Who is providing a solution?
A team of volunteer EV owners led by Jon Edwards who was the designer, builder and driving force of the Caiguna Biofil https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-17/first-fast-charger-for-electric-vehicles-installed-on-nullarbor/100762138 is both raising money and making every attempt to install at least one and hopefully two low power DC chargers in the 558km gap between Ceduna and Mundrabilla. Yet again, it’s the volunteers stepping up when business groups who receive taxpayer funds to build charging infrastructure are too slow to act. You can donate to the cause at TOCEVA Racing.
Who could provide a solution?
Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen likes to talk a good game, continual media releases, Facebook posts and Tweets promoting EVs. He’s certainly one of the reasons for a rapid increase in EV sales over the past year, perhaps he could step in and prompt the fast tracking of one or two DC chargers at Penong, Yalata or the Nullarbor Roadhouse.
The RAA of South Australia could seriously reconsider the decision to place a low powered single phase outlet at the Nullarbor Roadhouse. The RAA don’t mind a bit of publicity, 5 or 6 EVs queuing up at an RAA branded trickle charger in the harsh environment of the Nullarbor Plain is not the good publicity they think it is. C’mon RAA, install something useful and everyone’s a winner.
The NRMA are keen for new members, there’s no better way to promote their business and show how committed they are to current and future members by installing a similar DC charger to the one recently installed at Erldunda Roadhouse https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-10-11/electric-car-tesla-charging-prototype-outback-stuart-highway/102953618 in central Australia. Of course the best action is to install one before there’s a bottleneck rather than “coming soon” media releases.
The last and seemingly easiest action that would ease the bottleneck rather than fix it would be for Ampol https://ampcharge.ampol.com.au/find-a-charging-station to install a 75kw or larger DC charger at the Ampol service station in the small town of Penong. Below is Ampol’s mission statement, there would be no better way to back that statement than engaging with the Australian EV community that wish to drive across the country. “Powering better journeys, today and tomorrow. Our company has always been about more than fuel. Fuel may be the foundation of our business, but our motivation and purpose comes from the people, businesses, industries and communities we engage with.”
This is no longer a case of build it and they will come, it’s important that it’s built before they arrive.