PlugShare is Critical in Charger Challenged Western Australia

If the majority of your driving is in the metro area PlugShare is a useful app but not essential, the moment you plan a longer trip away from the safety of home charging the Plugshare app becomes an important tool in reaching your destination with the minimum of fuss. Let me be very clear on this, PlugShare is the format used by the early adopters of electric vehicles in Western Australia while exploring the roads north, east and south of Perth, the information available is far superior to anything supplied by the RAC, Better Route Planner or any other system including the Tesla car maps. Don’t completely dismiss Better Route Planner or Tesla maps, but when cross referencing PlugShare is likely to be more up to date.

To get the best out of PlugShare try the following advice:

Remove all filters – If you have the filter options ticked there’s a good chance you’ll miss useful charging stations, there’s not a lot of location pins in regional WA so make sure every charging option is visible, trust your common sense to individually filter out the options available.

Be patient with the app – give PlugShare time to load correctly then zoom in and out of the location slowly until you’re sure all pins are visible.

Zoom in all the way – Often the better charging point is hidden by a less useful location due to the pins being so close together, the  Lake Grace DC charger is a good example.

Always read comments – Not just the previous charging comments but the location comments, often the critical information can’t be seen unless the location comments are read to the end. Taking 2 minutes to read the comments correctly will likely save hours of wasted time.

Use the message option on PlugShare – if you’re not sure about a location message the previous user before departure.

Check through the photos – there’s some handy photos showing the exact location of the charge point, two minutes scanning photos will often save 15 minutes quizzing locals that may not even know a EV charger exists.

Always be charging – EV charging points in regional WA are few and far between, it doesn’t matter how confident you are that the next charging location is operational, if your car is happily charging at a reasonable rate don’t be in a hurry to unplug and dash to the next location, to do this is possibly setting yourself up to fail, at they end of the day you won’t get to your final destination any quicker, be patient and enjoy the journey.

Happy travels, Rob

Why Tesla Superchargers should not be located in Perth

No one would benefit more from a Perth Supercharger than myself, I live 70kms from the Perth GPO, make the return trip at least 50 times per year and have free supercharging for life, what’s not to like? Read on.

The two questions I get asked the most when discussing Tesla: How long does it take to charge? and When will Superchargers be installed in Perth? The second question is usually asked by people looking at buying a Tesla but won’t make the move until a Perth Supercharger is installed. This sounds like a poor excuse as most owners can easily charge at home in Western Australia, but unfortunately the media continually promoting the misconception of DC fast charging being the be all and end all of owning an electric car has completely misinformed the public.

Superchargers are intended for placement on highways between built up areas. In extremely high population regions in Europe and Asia they’re also placed in city areas due to the lack of home charging, WA barely has that problem. Yes, there are a small handful of Perth drivers with no access to home charging, but there’s also no shortage of AC charging outlets at shopping and recreation areas.

The Official opening of the Western Australia Supercharger in Eaton.

At the moment the one and only Supercharger site in WA is the bank of 6 near the Eaton shopping complex 170kms south of Perth, this is well chosen location that provides a link to many towns all the way to Augusta. The second Supercharger site planned for Williams will provide far better access to Albany, Hopetoun and Esperance. When Tesla install more at a later date the most useful locations would be approximately halfway to Geraldton and on the way to Kalgoorlie, this is where drivers need charging that only requires a 15-20 minute stop rather than the 2-3 hours it currently takes.

So, are there any other reasons not to install Superchargers in Perth? Yes, one reason that has raised its ugly head in other parts of the world from time to time and is starting to happen on the East coast of Australia is a handful of Tesla owners that don’t understand (or by some reports don’t care) about supercharger etiquette, these owners paid for a Tesla and will use a supercharger when they have a carport and charge point at home only 5kms down the road. There are also a handful of owners that park in a supercharger bay without even plugging in just so they can secure a prime parking spot while shopping, this sort of behaviour soon spoils the EV experience for those visiting the area that genuinely need to charge.

Parked front in, no intention of charging.

If Tesla do install supercharger sites close to Perth, it is areas next to the highway near Joondalup, Mundaring and the Baldivis service stops that would offer a solution which will benefit all drivers.

Solar versus Superannuation as an Investment

I was discussing solar with a friend recently, as usual it focused on: how low the cost is in 2020; how short the payback period is; how cheap it is per kWh of electricity produced. As an investment how does it stack up compared to superannuation we quizzed. On the way home I had a thought, if the power bill savings are invested wisely what’s the possible dividends?

I did my calculations based on the most common system now being purchased for homes in Western Australia, the 6.6kw of panels connected to a 5kw inverter, this allows the maximum solar production without losing the low but still available feed in tariff, I avoided including the old 48 cents feed in tariff (FIT) as within 18 months that will be obsolete. In late 2020 the WA FIT for new installations is changing to 3 cents before 3.00pm & 10 cents after 3.00pm, as most new installs will likely face north-west or west to take advantage of the late afternoon sun the new installations FIT will probably average 5 cents per kWh across a full year.

Although a complete 6.6kw solar panel installation in Western Australia can be purchased and installed for some hard to believe low prices I based the calculations on a price of $4000, that’s very close to the average for Western Australia in March 2020. it’s important to remember that’s a full payment on delivery cost, not solar via a finance package.

Firstly, unless you’ve recently given up smoking or gambling the $4000 is not spare cash, it has some investment value or has to be borrowed, so how much return could you expect from that $4000 if invested via the bank or via superannuation.

Interests rates are very low or non existent at the moment so that $4000 would do well to attract 3% interest, you may end up with $7230 after 20 years, good luck getting 3% in 2020. If you could manage to get the $4000 into your super that averages 8% pa over 20 years and suddenly the resulting $18,650 is looking fairly useful, even at 6% the figure is reasonable at $12,830.

As an alternative what if the $4000 is invested in a 6.6kw solar system and you reinvest the power bill savings over the 20 year expected lifespan of the solar system.

Every household uses electricity differently but those with plentiful solar generation and a seemingly poor West Australian feed in tariff soon learn to consume from the panels rather than the grid. Of course, unless the house has a battery, purchasing power from the grid at 28 cents per kWh is unavoidable at night so for this exercise I going to use these figures:

  • Average daily solar production 24kWh
  • Average daily consumption of 19kWh split into 11kWh from solar and 8kWh from the grid, leaving 13kWh being fed back into the grid, over 365 days this would result in average power bill reduction of $1361 based on above mentioned kWh purchase price and feed in tariff.

Now imagine after the 3 year pay back period that $1361 was invested every year for the next 17 years, what are the possible returns?

  • Superannuation at 6%: $40,000+
  • Superannuation at 8%: $49,600+

As you can see if you invest in solar initially then roll the savings into super the returns can be very handy, now consider the possibilities if you made far better use of the solar electricity being generated on the roof. With a 100% electric powered home including heating, cooking and a heat pump hot water system powered from daytime solar, as well as of course charging an EV, the savings from avoiding the purchase of gas could also be rolled into superannuation, the end result will be well worth the effort.

Thanks to Peter Petrovsky for your advice and input on this article.

Rob Dean