Planning a long distance trip away from DC chargers

If you’re keen to drive you’re Tesla north of Geraldton or east past Merredin it can be done safely as long as you have patience and prepare correctly. If you treat the journey as an adventure you’ll enjoy the trip, treat it as a task that needs to be completed ASAP and you’ll wish you stayed at home.

What will you need to carry?

You don’t need a large variety of charging cables but you do need charging plans A, B and C.

  • Plan A is the Tesla destination chargers located around the state, so far most of these have been reliable and most also have a 5 pin three phase outlet nearby as a backup.
  • Plan B is a 3 phase mobile connector such as a juice booster or KHONS charging cable that plugs into the dozens of 3 phase 5 pin outlets located all over Western Australia, this will generally provide the same charging speed as a Tesla 3 phase destination charger. Unless you’re planning many long distance trips I suggest you borrow a KHONS cable from TOCWA, paying over $800 for a cable you may only use a handful of times is not good value.
  • Plan C is the UMC that is delivered with the car, it’s the one in the square black bag. You may never use this cable but you must carry it, if everything else fails this will get you home, slowly but eventually.

North of Geraldton and east of Kalgoorlie you’ll need a spare tyre, jack and associated equipment. Puncture repair kits are a handy plan B but won’t get you out of trouble if the tyre damage is severe, besides you don’t want to be hanging around some outback town for 3 days while a spare tyre gets transported in. Keep in mind the best way to reduce tyre issues on a long trip is depart home with plenty of tread depth. A spare tyre and wheel combo is available to loan from TOCWA.

The Plugshare app is critical, make sure all fields are open so you don’t miss any charging options. Before departing to the next charging location it’s important you read not just the  location details but also previous comments, this may well save you a lot of time and frustration on arrival. Don’t forget to log in and if necessary leave a tip for the following drivers, it’s a great way to support the EV community.

Charging tips.

At some stage in the future virtually all locations in Western Australia will have fast DC charging until then the following tips will make any trip far easier.

  • Charging from AC will provide the same power transfer and charging speed no matter the battery state of charge right up to approximately 97% so there’s no time saving in adding the bare minimum charge to get to the next location, this is where the saying “Always Be Charging” comes in, take the charge where its available, the next charge location may only be 200kms along the highway but if it doesn’t work you could be spending the next 15 hours charging from a caravan park socket rather than the lunchtime stop you expected. Arriving with 40% state of charge is far wiser than arriving with less than 10%.
  • Don’t try and charge too fast if you don’t need to, especially overnight on three phase. If the Plugshare comments say the breaker trips off with extended high amp charging go to the touchscreen settings and drop the amps down a small amount so the car completes charging just before you plan to depart, slower charging is better than no charging.
  • Cool the car interior just before departure while still charging, this reduces the energy consumption from the battery needed to cool the car down once back on the highway.
  • Ask permission to charge before you plug in. Many of the charge locations in regional WA are provided through the good will of the local business, it’s important to return the favour with a friendly chat if possible. Take note that due to staff turnover the person behind the counter may not even know a chargepoint exists, check the exact location by browsing the plugshare photos beforehand.

General tips.

Get an early start each day and get off the road before dark – there’s far less traffic on the road in the early morning and it’s generally cooler. There’s still some wildlife hanging around the side of the road but it’s easier to see without a continual flow of headlights heading towards you. Early starts and early finish also provide some flexibility if your planned journey for the day takes longer than expected.

Don’t get too confident in quality accommodation being easily accessible, if you want the best possible overnight stay, ring well in advance, and make sure you arrange key collection. Many of the regional locations close up the front office by 6.00pm.

A number of TOCWA’s committee and members have completed long distance journeys throughout the state as well as around Australia, they are willing to share their experience with others so don’t be afraid to ask if you want more information.

Avoid switching off the air conditioner to save energy.

I’ve noticed a lot of drivers recently tell how they turn off the air conditioner to gain extra range, this stems from a misunderstanding of how much energy a Tesla HVAC system (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioner) consumes under various conditions. It’s only if you’re driving in areas north of Geraldton or east of Merredin that you should be concerned with energy consumption (or if you’re paying insanely high electricity prices). In the city and suburbs crank up the cooling or heating and enjoy that car.

As virtually all country areas in Western Australia that may require some energy conservation are warmer areas, I’ll stick to discussing HVAC cooling.

So why not turn off the HVAC cooling or open the windows?

Driving an aerodynamic vehicle with the windows open above 40-50kmh is a backward step, more energy will be consumed from poor aerodynamics than an air conditioner would normally consume, the faster you drive the bigger the difference.

Driving a long distance in a car with a hot interior is not worth it unless the situation is desperate, besides the safety risk of possibly losing concentration, you’re also reducing the enjoyment of driving a Tesla.

When cooling the amount of energy the HVAC consumes depends on a couple of factors; how low a temperature the HVAC is set too, the interior and outside air temperature and often lastly but often overlooked; how long the car has been sitting in the full sun before switching on the HVAC, a significant part of the heat absorbed by the cars bodywork will transfer through to the interior adding to the task of cooling the inside air.

How to get the best range while still using the HVAC cooling.

  • Try and park the car under shade before departure, this could save 10-15kms of range over a 350km trip.
  • Pre cool the interior whilst the car is still charging, on AC charging this may reduce the charge speed but getting extra distance covered is more important than the few extra minutes it may take.
  • Set the thermostat higher, you may enjoy being spoilt with a 20C interior around the city but 23C over a long drive is better than no cooling at all.
  • Drop 5kmh- If the choice is drive at 100kmh with no HVAC cooling or 95kmh with cooling the 95kmh journey is going to be far more enjoyable, besides driving at 95kmh only makes the 350km trip 11 minutes slower.

Over the long term as DC fast chargers are installed in WA country areas reducing most trips to below 250kms the above advice will no longer be applicable, but in the meantime stay cool and enjoy that car.

Tesla Destination Charger Problem Solving

On occasions you’ll plug into a destination charger that doesn’t appear to work, a small number of these public chargers are becoming unreliable mostly due to the cable getting mistreated, to add some confusion the same charger will not work for one car and then work first time for the following car on the same day, the Williams Woolshed destination charger is a great example.

To make the Tesla experience a bit easier here are the steps to work through that will hopefully get a Tesla destination unit to charge:

If there’s no Green or Red light strip light on the front check that power is switched on at the meter box, some premises keep it switched off for various reason, this will be often noted on the Plugshare app.

If you’ve established that the unit is powered up but a Red light is showing check that the cable is not twisted or stretched in any form, also check the cable is not pulled out from the bottom of the charging unit, that is you can see each individual colored cable rather than the black insulation.

Once the above steps are done locate the Red reset button on the side of the unit, using your thumb press it in and hold until all lights go off and wait until the Red/Orange light on the front turns Green, this will take between 5 and 30 seconds, if all goes to plan the Green light will start moving and the car will charge. If it doesn’t work the first time give it another go, also try unplugging and plugging back in before attempting a third reset, once again make sure the cable is not unduly stressed. If the charging doesn’t start after 4 resets the chances of it working at all on your car are very low.

If you do get charging started don’t rush off, hang around for a minute until the cars charging at full amps, if the unit has a fault it is likely to trip off within the first minute, if it does trip off it’s best to no longer attempt charging and report the issue. If you have no other choice and desperately need to charge try dropping the amps down via the cars touchscreen, keep in mind this is an absolute last resort. As an extra precaution if you walk away from the car to visit the shops or cafe check the phone app after 15 minutes, it’s very likely charging is still okay but there’s no harm making sure.