So you want to drive an EV across the Nullarbor?

Clearly the quicker (and possibly cheaper) option is to travel across Australia on a commercial jet, so if you’re not sure you have the patience and planning skills take the airport option. For those more adventurous read on.

By late 2023 the WA state government will have enough fast DC chargers installed between Perth and Eucla to provide a fairly comfortable trip, once you get into South Australia its anyone’s guess, SA do have a charging rollout planned but it’s very Adelaide centric, so for the next 12 months or so most charging requires knowledge and patience.

To keep this a moderate length read I’ll focus on the drive between Port Augusta and Norseman, a distance of 1,670km. There is  already an article on TOCWA’s website discussing the Perth to Kalgoorlie section.

The road – It’s generally good the whole way with a long sections of chip seal surface that increases energy consumption. There are no overtaking lanes but considering it’s mostly flat and straight with good visibility overtaking is relatively easy. Despite the road being good I highly recommend you take a full size spare tyre and wheel combo, in the unlikely chance you get a tyre issue it will be a major one rather than a slow leak from a tech screw. Be aware Roadhouses don’t replace tyres, they sell fuel, food and drink.

What to do/take:

  • Make sure your cold tyre pressures are correct, keep monitoring those pressures throughout the journey.
  • Study Plugshare thoroughly before you leave, especially the comments. While charging during the journey check Plugshare for your next stop just in case there’s any late changes. Always check into Plugshare so other EV drivers on the Nullarbor can plan ahead.
  • Take the correct charging cable plus plan B and C cables. The correct cable is a 3 phase Juice Booster 2 or KHONS cable, the Tesla GEN2 UMC to 3 phase tail is a plan D and should NOT be used on Nullarbor 3 phase outlets unless you’re desperate.
  • I can not stress how important it is to follow the mantra of ALWAYS BE CHARGING, do not cut your charging session short at a working charge point because you think the next one is faster or cheaper.
  • Telstra is the only choice for any chance of phone reception (of course if you fit in your roaming Starlink dish you’re king of the Nullarbor).
  • Keep yourself busy and the charging time won’t appear so slow, Nullarboring is a term used by people with no imagination.
  • Have the BOM app on your phone – The air temp and wind direction can have a big effect on your range, plan ahead and add more charge than you require to be safe.
  • Take a relaxed attitude about the facilities, most of the infrastructure is pre 1976, it’s generally clean but worn out. Producing clean water, electricity and keeping everything operational is expensive due to being so far from a capital city so don’t expect much value for money. Take note that due to staff shortages most locations have cleared up the dishes, closed the bar and hopped off to bed far earlier than you expect.
  • Wear a Diplomatic hat – like much of the country, regional areas are struggling to find staff, those on site are working long hours, you are one of a hundred customers that day. Keep in mind by allowing EVs to charge Roadhouse management are doing you a favour rather than making a profit from selling electricity.
  • Understand that some new staff members have no idea the business has a charge point, it can be a interesting conversation.
  • Leave early arrive early, getting on to the road just before sunrise is a great way to start the day, plan your first charging stop for a late breakfast. Traffic is almost non existent in the early morning, visibility is good and it’s easier to spot wildlife. By late afternoon it’s best to be parked up with the car on charge while the rest of the tourists are frantically racing to their next destination while driving into a blazing sunset with no hope of seeing a Roo about to smash the headlights.
  • Take into account as you drive east you’ll lose an average of 15 minutes of daylight every 400kms, on the drive west you’ll gain 15 minutes.
  • Be very aware of the change in time zones as the Nullarbor also has its own AWCT time from Cocklebiddy to the WA border, you may roll up to a Roadhouse thinking its 6.30pm when it’s actually 7.15pm and the staff have locked up for the evening.

What not to do:

  • Do not plug in without seeking permission, if you have a passenger get them to go seek out a staff member while the driver parks up and gets the cable ready.
  • Do not Hypermile, it’s not necessary with the biggest gap between chargers being 200kms. It may be okay to drive slower in the early hours of the morning when the roads are virtually free of traffic but during daylight hours anything less than 90kmh has the potential to aggravate other road users.
  • During overnight stops don’t try and charge too fast if you don’t need to, plan to have your car finish charging just before expected departure. If you charge at the highest rate and the breaker trips during the night you may not realize and could end up wasting time in the morning.
  • Do not turn off the air conditioner on warm afternoons, a warm interior reduces driver concentration, set the aircon to 22.5C and all will be fine.
  • Do not drive fast through the RH car parks, most are Limestone and can be in poor condition with cavernous potholes that are difficult to see, on most occasions it’s less than walking pace or you may end up rattled.
  • Don’t plan to drive too far in one day especially if you’ve booked accommodation in advance.

Port Augusta

It’s difficult to understand why PA doesn’t have DC chargers considering its on a T junction of 3 busy highways. There’s two AC charging options in town, we prefer to use the Majestic Apartments that are centrally located and very secure. The accommodation is very nice with washing machines and dryers in the rooms. Although it’s not necessary to be a guest to use the Tesla HPWC it’s wise to ring at least half a day in advance, ask permission and provide an accurate arrival time, that way the staff will place a witches hat in front of the car charger and open the security gates when they see you pull up. Reception normally refuse payment, a big thank you and some quality chocolate won’t go amiss though. Coles, Woolworths and Big W are all within 200 metres so you can stock up before heading west.

Kimba

Milton tyres has been generously offering EV charging since May 2016, they recently upgraded to a 32amp three phase outlet that makes charging even easier. Payment is dependent on the length of stay. Keep in mind that unless prior arrangements are made this service is only available during business hours Monday to Friday.

Poochera

This town is almost deserted but it has gem of a little old country pub with a 3 phase 32amp outlet that’s easy to access. The bad news is the Pub doesn’t open to 4.00pm, the good news is you can ring ahead and arrange payment via BSB. Jeff and Karen have kindly offered this service since May 2016 after a visit by WA Tesla owners Matt and David.

Ceduna East-West Motel

There’s two Tesla HPWCs with handy parking, payment is currently $25 at reception before plugging in. I highly recommend you take the 10 minute walk to the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel for a meal.

Penong Caravan Park

This location has handy 32amp 3 phase outlet located in the centre of the Caravan Park, payment is a $10 service fee plus 40cents a kWh, the service fee includes the use of the facilities such as showers and camp kitchen. Penong is another example of friendly South Australian country people making up for the lack of government support emanating from Adelaide.

The Nullarbor Roadhouse

The 3 phase outlet is on the rear of the main building to the left hand side as you look from the road, payment is $30 via the Cafeteria. Add plenty of extra charge at this location as a coastal headwind driving west could leave you struggling to get the next charge point.

Border Village

As you may see from Plugshare comments Trevor is the go to person at this location, ask for him at reception and he’ll guide you around to the rear workshop. Charging is strictly limited to 20amp 3 phase, that’s okay if you have a model 3 or Y drawing 3 x 16amps but it’s also where the Tesla Gen2 UMC to 3 phase tail comes unstuck, charging at 20amps single phase is unnecessarily slow. Charging is complimentary in the hope that you’ll sit down for a meal or stay overnight.

Eucla

This site is no longer allowing EV charging.

Mundrabilla

This site has a 32amp 3 phase outside one of the motel rooms, payment is $40 all you can charge but management would much prefer charging in daylight hours or at least avoided between 9.00pm and 6.00am due to the electricity system they have in place.

Pro tip- Stand just inside the roadhouse doorway to gain Telstra reception.

Madura Pass

The good news is Madura has a crowd funded 22kw DC charger in the old garage next to the fuel bowsers, the bad news is that due to staff shortages the garage door is only open from 7.00am until 5.00pm. I would advise not to arrive in the late afternoon as at 5.00pm the power is switched off, the doors closed and the fuel attendant rushes off to serve food in the bar, such is life on the Nullarbor currently. Be aware that all but one of the staff at Madura are extremely friendly, unfortunately one has an allergy to Electric Cars and is best left alone. Payment is a donation to the RFDS.

Cocklebiddy

An easy 32amp 3 phase to find, right next to the large Eagles cage with a sign that says TV outlet. The sit down meals here are always worth a try.  RFDS donation for payment.

Caiguna Roadhouse

This location has the famous Biofil DC charger that was installed in January 2022, this 50kw unit is powered by a converted diesel generator that consumes used cooking oil from the roadhouse kitchen. Despite some difficulties with solidified fuel on cold winter mornings the Vegpod has served its purpose by encouraging the WA state government to extend the DC charger network across to the WA border. Payment is a $50 service fee plus cost for energy used, staff are required to start to unit. Update 5/11/2022: Nullarbor Roadhouses are still struggling to find staff, Caiguna employees are extremely busy and will start the generator if you contact them well ahead. My suggestion is to avoid stopping here for a DC charge until their circumstances improve. By all means stop in and grab some food and drink or charge from 15 amp overnight.

Balladonia

At the rear of the western side of the main building is another crowd funded 22kw DC charger, the payment is $1.00 per unit as recorded on the DC chargers screen. You will need to go into reception first to get a key. Be patient and follow the instructions exactly or the whole 2 minute process will have to repeated. Be warned, don’t skimp on charging here because it’s $1 a unit and the next location is a flat fee for all you can charge, that method may leave you short of range and possibly stranded.

Norseman

Ring at least half a day ahead during shire office hours and arrange the $37 payment via BSB or dropping into reception (a 7 minute walk from the 3 phase outlet at the oval). Make sure you provide contact details and your number plate as one or two greedy EV owners have plugged in without prior arrangement. If you walk for 4-5 minutes directly east from the oval you’ll locate some public toilets and a laundry.

Rob and Robin have crossed the Nullarbor 5 times in their Tesla Model S and charged at each location multiple times.

Driving a Tesla from Perth to Kalgoorlie

The drive towards Kalgoorlie is generally a little more difficult than the return journey due to Kalgoorlie being 450 metres higher above sea level than Perth. The extra 15-20kms range your car will consume heading east requires a bit of extra charging time along the way, not much but it should be factored in. Of course a strong tail wind or head wind will reduce or increase charging times. We know that by late 2023 Synergy will have installed multiple fast DC chargers at 2 or 3 sites along this route making the journey far more comfortable, until then it’s AC charging all the way.

The road – The highway between Perth and Kalgoorlie is mostly in reasonable condition but considering the importance of the Goldfields to the WA economy I believe it should be better. There are still a few sections lacking overtaking lanes and a few areas with poor drainage that create potholes easily, there are not many but keep a sharp out each side of Merredin. Don’t drive slow on this highway as you’ll just aggravate other drivers, 95 in a 100 zone is okay, keep in mind that most vehicles on this road are part of a business and don’t have time to sit behind a Tesla that didn’t charge enough at the last stop.

Perth GPO to Kalgoorlie is 593kms with 3 useful (and reliable) AC charging stops along the way, Merredin, Southern Cross and Koora Retreat. Most vehicles could get by with one stop at Merredin although I suggest you stop at all three to break up the journey. The overall trip will take the same time as AC charging speeds are all equal. Merredin is a friendly little town for a first time visitor but eventually you’ll want to keep moving. On the return trip to Perth I 100% recommend you charge at all 3, you’ll be none too pleased if you bypass a perfectly good charging option to find the next one being used by another EV.

If you’ve never driven this trip before I highly suggest you leave home early to arrive early, this way any unplanned hurdles won’t leave you crawling into Kalgoorlie after dark, hungry and tired. If you can get through Midland and into Mundaring before morning peak traffic you’ll set yourself up for a comfortable day, the end game is to be in Kalgoorlie before Sunset with your car on charge while you enjoy a well earned drink.

Merredin has two different useful charging locations, the most convenient one is the Tesla destination chargers behind the visitors centre, these are currently complimentary, don’t forget to pop in to the VC and thank the lady behind the counter for making a charger available.

Merredin Visitors Centre

Southern Cross has a very robust 3 phase 5 pin outlet at the Oval, it’s currently available 24/7 and free to use. You will require a 3 phase cable such as a Juice Booster 2 or KHONS cable. A Gen2 UMC with 3 phase tail will work but only through 1 phase restricting your charge rate, these are okay for home use but personally I think they’re a very poor option for country areas. I’ve never known Southern Cross to be ICED or broken but still plan to arrive here with at least 100kms of range remaining, there’s currently no other 3 phase options in town.

Koora Retreat installed one of the states first Tesla destination chargers as a way of helping the EV community, the original owners have moved on due to ill health but the new owner is keen to continue helping EVs. Payment is a very reasonable 50 cents a unit via BSB, follow the instructions on the paperwork inside the charging cabinet and be generous, without these charging options very few EVs would have visited Kalgoorlie in the past 6 years. Be aware phone connection often drops out near Koora Retreat, combined with the lack of signs and difficult to spot entry it requires a sharp eye to locate. The best guide I can provide is the entrance is 69.5kms east of Southern Cross.

How to make the car charge faster? Go for a walk, be a tourist, have a long lunch, talk to people, download and edit some photos. Keep yourself occupied and it won’t be a drag.

Finally Plugshare is by far the best option for Western Australia, ABRP is just an extra assistance for those that may need it. And don’t forget: Always Be Charging, Always Bring Cables, Always Browse Comments and Always Be Considerate/Courteous.

Australian Y Tour – Two Brand New Model Ys around the country at once

TOCWA committee members, Harald Murphy and Pete Petrovsky took delivery of their brand new Model Y’s on the first day in Perth.

But why just take delivery when you can go on an epic road trip?

Becuase it hasn’t been done before, and what better away to raise awareness of both what’s possible, and what obstacles actually exist.

Pete Talks to Chris Vanderstock about the AUSYTour:

To follow the adventure, use this link

The Model Ys are coming

The first batch of Model Ys have arrived at Fremantle Port today in preparation for the first WA deliveries over the next few weeks.

Nearly 800 new Teslas so far this quarter

Casual Meetup 13 August

Everyone is invited to come along to the meetup at Valley Social (formally Elmar’s in the Valley) 8731 West Swan Rd, Henley Brook from 1.00PM onwards for a meal, drink and of course a chat about Tesla and EVs. Everyone is welcome regardless of the car you currently drive but EVs will get to park on the lawn behind the restaurant near the VIP Marquee seating. Please use the driveway around the left of the restaurant.

It’s an American BBQ inspired menu with lots of food and drink options. For those who are running low on electrons there will be limited free trickle charging available. 

The event is open to everyone including those who have never seen a Tesla before. Non-Teslans please ask nicely and a club member might just take you for a spin!

It’s a great 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.

August Casual Meetup

Our next casual meetup is Sunday 7 August 2022 at 11:00am at:

The Kewdale Tavern, 139 Kewdale Rd, Kewdale

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.

Casual Meetups are Back!

After a brief break to stay cautious, this month’s casual meetup is tonight, Wednesday 6 July 2022 at 6:30pm at:

The Mighty Quinn Tavern, 112 Wanneroo Road, Yokine

https://mightyquinnwa.com/

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.

What accessories do you need for your new Tesla? Don’t spend a single dollar until you read this.

The above question gets asked on a regular basis on Tesla forums and there’s no perfect answer, what I will say with certainty is an accessory that’s very useful for one Tesla owner could be completely useless for you and vice versa. As the Grail Knight says “Choose wisely”.

To focus this discussion I’ll break it down into 2 areas – Charging assistance and finally Exterior and Interior Accessories.

Charging assistance – Charging also breaks down in to two areas, Home charging and Public/Travel charging. The set up you need at home depends on the average distance you expect to drive per week and if you’re planning to make use of home solar or the Synergy EV plan that’s available between 11.00pm and 4.00am. If you wish to ask a question about a home charging set up on any TOCWA social media make sure you provide as many details as possible for a faster and more accurate answer. Public or travel charging accessories/cables is often determined by where you you expect to charge in public areas close to home and the locations and frequency you expect to drive in country areas. Sadly there is not yet one single charging cable to suit all occasions, the good news is TOCWA members get access to loan charging cables until you’re confident you know which cable suits you best.

Cables can be loaned or purchased outright from TOCWA.

Exterior and Interior accessories – There’s no shortage of businesses in Western Australia selling Tesla accessories such as after market wheels, paint protection, window tinting and much more, there’s also no shortage of Tesla owners who’ve used these services, the most obvious advice I can give you is meet up with one those Tesla owners that have had paint protection, window tinting or other product installed for more than 12 months, check the quality with a keen eye and ask lots of questions.

Some after market additions can be very useful over the life of the car, some can be a huge burden, take the time to make the correct decision.

Don’t forget TOCWA’s Ask Us Anything every Wednesday evening from 7.30pm for some useful advice on charging and accessories and/or check out some articles on this website.

Tesla Opens Model Y Reservations in Australia!

From the 14th of March 2019, the day Elon Musk unveiled his new Tesla sneakers and then the Model Y at the Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne California, Australians have been wondering when the car that is destined to become the world’s bestselling passenger vehicle will become available down under.

Elon Musk sporting his new Tesla Nike sneakers at the Model Y unveiling at the Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne, California. Photo: mashable.com

It was great to see production begin in California’s Fremont factory in January of 2020 with deliveries following only a couple of months later on the 13th of March. We then had little choice but to spend almost the next year and a half eagerly watching YouTube videos of ecstatic new Model Y owners posting their reviews, and we were all buoyed when we saw right-hand drive orders open in countries like Hong Kong on 2nd of July 2021 and later in the UK on 15th of October last year. We were also glad to see the Model Y fully approved by Australian regulators in September 2021.

When the Australian order page briefly went live on 9th of April 2022, Aussie EV fans were on tenterhooks. Some Tesla enthusiasts such as TOCWA Chairman Rob Dean and his wife Robin got a chance to almost place an order before the reservation page was taken offline but not before they got a chance to take a screen shot. (As reported by The Driven, there was also at least one Australian who managed to pay a deposit that weekend, but their money was later refunded and the order cancelled.)

Rob and Robin Dean’s screenshot of the Tesla Model Y Order page on 9th of April 2022

Rumours and speculation ensued but finally this morning the well-worn ‘Stay Updated’ button was finally replaced with the long-awaited invitation to ‘Order Now’. So yes, it’s finally happening, Australians can now place their Model Y reservations!

 To begin with, Australians are being offered two variants. The entry level Rear-Wheel Drive (which used to also be referred to as the Standard Range Plus) but now known as simply the ‘Model Y’ and the top of the range Performance. Both versions will be made in Shanghai, and they’ll initially only be available in the 5-seat configuration.

The Model Y shares approximately three quarters of its parts with the Model 3 and to the superficial eye it looks almost identical but there are differences. Although both cars share the same platform and powertrains, being an SUV, the Model Y is heavier and bigger in all three dimensions. It is about 41mm wider, 56mm longer and 183mm taller with about 27mm more ground clearance at about 167mm. That said, the Performance with its 21’’ Überturbine wheels will ride a little lower.

Tesla Model Y and Model 3, dimensions comparison. Photo: Tesla Owners Online

As one would expect, the Model Y has more leg room and it’s easier to get in and out thanks to its higher seating positions. I found this to be a handy YouTube video with a real-world comparison between the rear seat leg room of the 3, the Y and the Model X. You can also refer to TOCWA’s very own Grumpy Old Man’s YouTube video at the 4’35” mark. Nigel is currently in the UK taking the Model Y through its paces.

There are also other differences, the most obvious being the Model Y’s hatchback versus the Model 3’s sedan boot design. Additionally, the Model Y’s three rear seats can recline into three positions, and they can also fold down individually compared to the 60:40 split in the M3. There’s also a handy button in the boot of the Model Y enabling the rear seats to automatically fold down and there’s also a hidden manual rear door release. The factory glass tinting on the Model Y is also different in that it runs all the way to the end while the Model 3 tapers off about 60cm from the bottom. Some of these features are demonstrated in this YouTube Video by Tesla Raj starting at the 9’35”mark.

Photo: Teslarati / Tesla Raj

The Model Y also has an additional smaller boot well or sub boot as can be seen in this video at the 5’30” mark and the front boot or frunk is about three inches deeper. There are also two side compartments in the boot as opposed to just the left one in the Model 3. As one would expect, the Model Y has considerable cargo volume, almost 50% more than the Model 3, with the M3 specified at 649 litres and the MY at 971 litres with 5 passengers, or 2,158 litres with just a driver and front passenger.

In terms of acceleration, the Model Y is only a little less lively at 3.7 seconds versus 3.3 seconds for a 0-100km/h sprint for the Performance models and 6.9 compared to 6.1 seconds for the entry level Rear Wheel Drive versions.

Being a larger and heavier car, the Model Y Performance is rated at 514km of WLTP range which is 33km less than the M3P. The Rear-Wheel Drive is rated at 36km less at 455km. When it comes to real world range, however, the EPA standard is a closer approximation with the MYP rated at 488km. Furthermore, this range will be reduced on rough country roads where there is little opportunity to use regenerative braking or when driving in the rain, in cold weather, going up hills, against a headwind or towing. Speaking of towing, the Model Y should be rated at 1.6 tonne braked or 750kg unbraked, as reported here by Bridie Schmidt in The Driven.

As one would also expect, the Model Y is more expensive, however, as I have touched on previously in this article, the Total Cost of Ownership is what is important rather than just the sticker price.

To check prices and delivery time frames see the Australian order page and if you like what you see don’t hesitate to reserve what in the next 3-5 years I’m tipping will become Australia’s bestselling car, first by revenue and then by volume. Considering that EVs account for only about 2% of Australia’s new car sales and the world is currently gripped by supply chain bottlenecks, I realise it’s a big call but to double down further and to be clear, I’m not saying it will just be the best-selling electric car, or the bestselling SUV, or the bestselling car in any other segment, I expect either the Model Y or the Cybertruck to become Australia’s best-selling car, period. With Australia accounting for less than a fraction of a percentage point of Tesla’s global sales volumes, the harder question is whether Tesla will have a global best seller before it tops the rankings in Australia or vice versa.

Pete Petrovsky is an active TOCWA (Tesla Owners Club of Western Australia) committee member and a long-time EV enthusiast. He placed a $6,000 deposit for a Model X (#39) in 2014 but when it came to taking delivery he couldn’t justify the cost, so instead, he and his wife decided to buy two PHEVs and wait for the Model 3. In March of 2016 they bought the Holden Volt and a couple of weeks later the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and on the day it was unveiled, Pete ordered the Model 3. After selling the Outlander, in September 2019, Pete received his long awaited first Tesla, a Model 3 Performance. Despite still loving their Volt, Pete and his wife took delivery of their second Model 3 in December 2021. In his spare time, Pete also runs the ‘Tesla Ahead of the Curve’ YouTube channel and is also a long-term Tesla shareholder.

(13 June’22: the range estimates in the 3rd last paragraph of this article were corrected to correctly reflect the figures as per the Tesla website.)

Rethinking the Design of EV Charger Configurations

Having recently come back from a 1,000km round trip, towing a trailer behind our Tesla Model 3, I’ve learned two things. Firstly, we need a denser network of reliable fast DC chargers in country Australia and secondly but equally importantly, we also need to rethink the design of electric vehicle (EV) charger configurations to allow EVs towing trailers to also be able to plug-in. We can refuel internal combustion engine (ICE) cars while towing a trailer, boat, caravan, or horse float, so why not an EV?

Plugging-in an EV while towing a trailer can lead to some creative manoeuvres under the existing reverse-park configurations

If EV demand figures are anything to go by, consumers love EVs, both around the world as well as in Australia and we also love towing our trailers, caravans, boats and even horse floats but how are we going to go combining the two? How are we going to go using our EVs for towing?

With EVs accounting for only about 8.3% of global new light car sales in 2021, there aren’t yet many two-EV households, therefore for the time being at least, when a two-car family buys an EV, it is mainly bought as a second city car, with an ICE four-wheel drive SUV or ute/truck usually the designated towing vehicle. As a result, most manufacturers have targeted their EV sales at this second car market but with EVs growing at a rapid pace, (the 8.3% global figure was a 108% increase on 2020 numbers), contrary to many projections, it may only be 3-4 years before one in every two cars sold around the world is an EV. Furthermore, with 89% of Tesla owners saying they’ll replace their car with another Tesla, many more two-EV households, such as ours, may not be that far away, which means at least one of the EVs may need to be a capable towing vehicle. To put it another way, as Tesla points out, “consumers do not buy cars that can meet most of their driving needs; they buy a car that meets all their driving needs.”

This fact is not lost on car makers several of whom have introduced impressive off-road and towing vehicles including the Rivian R1T, GMC Hummer EV, Ford F-150 Lightning, Tesla Cybertruck, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Hilux EV, Ram 1500, Lordstown Endurance, Bollinger B2, Fisker Ocean SUV, LDV Maxus New EV, Canoo EV Pickup and others.

Whether we’ll see any of these models in Australia anytime soon remains to be seen, however, in the absence of a national EV policy and with Australia having become a dumping ground for dirty and inefficient EVs due to a lack of vehicle and fuel emission standards, it is no surprise that car manufacturers have been slow in introducing their EV models to our shores. We’re therefore limited to only a fraction of the models available in other markets. As an example, Europe has around 120 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and over 90 pure EV (PEV or BEV) models on the market. In contrast, with less than 30 models available in our market of which only about a dozen are fully electric, prospective Aussie EV owners are confined to about a quarter of the PHEV selection and less than a sixth of the PEV options. That said, however, with deliveries having already began in some right-hand drive markets, the arrival of the Tesla Model Y in Australia seems imminent. The Model Y should be able to tow up to 1,588kg on the 19” or 21” wheels and when the Cybetruck becomes available here, it may well become the ultimate towing vehicle with an unrivalled 6-tonne towing capability. In the meantime, the Model X is also capable of towing up to 2,300kg.

With so many towing capable EVs inevitably hitting the market, we need to ensure these cars can conveniently charge when towing. At the moment, the majority of EV chargers are mounted against a curb requiring most EVs to reverse up against the curb or some to drive-in forward. Neither method works if towing a trailer. There were technical and economic reasons why some sites were initially configured this way, but one can’t help think that many other sites were designed in this manner for no other reason other than because this is the way things have been done in the past. Five examples are pictured below.

12-stall South Lamar Boulevard Supercharger in Austin, Texas
12-stall Kemptthal Supercharger in Switzerland
6-stall Tesla Supercharger at Shanghai International Metropolis in Shanghai, China
6-stall Tesla Supercharger in Modi’in, Israel
6-stall Tesla Supercharger in Hartshead Moor, UK – Westbound

I can’t see the above configurations being any more cost effective than what I call a “drive-through” layout. A drive-through configuration as found in most petrol and gas stations doesn’t require the cars to reverse or forward park against a curb or wall but instead allows them to enter at one end and exit at the other while also allowing for EVs towing a trailer to plug-in.

Existing vs Tow Friendly Charger Configurations

As can be seen from the graphic above, in contrast to how the stalls are mostly configured now, there are numerous advantages to a ‘drive-through’ configuration. Apart from a more efficient design, a drive-through configuration makes for easier parking when towing while also giving non-towing cars a choice to either reverse-park as is the case now or forward park, particularly when two or more bays are free. If there is at least one towing vehicle being charged, the drive-through layout allows for more towing EVs as well as non-towing EVs to be charged simultaneously. As figure #2 shows, and as can be seen from the photos below, a car with even a small trailer needs to block-off four other charging bays in order to awkwardly manoeuvre into a position where an almost fully extended charging cable can reach the towing vehicle.

Tesla Model 3 towing a trailer awkwardly charging at Williams Woolshed Supercharger in Western Australia
Tesla Model 3 towing a trailer awkwardly charging at Eaton Fair Shopping Centre Supercharger in Western Australia
Eaton Fair Shopping Centre Tesla Supercharger with proposed location for future drive-through style chargers

As the photo above shows, had the Superchargers been installed at the location indicated by the red marking, the stalls could have been configured in a ‘drive-through’ formation. As the graphic illustrates, and as summarised in the table below, a drive-through configuration can accommodate the same number of non-towing EVs as the usual reverse park configuration shown in figures #1 and #2, however, while a reverse park configuration can only accommodate a maximum of one towing vehicle and two non-towing cars, a drive-through layout such as the one in figure #7, can accommodate up to four non-towing vehicles in addition to one towing vehicle.

Table comparing the simultaneous charging capacity of the three main charging stall configurations

While not as efficient as the drive-through design, a parallel park layout can still work for towing EVs. We were lucky to find one such charger in Nannup, Western Australia where we had a very convenient seamless charging experience.

Tesla Model 3 towing a trailer conveniently charging at the parallel park configured 50kW DC charger in Nannup, Western Australia

The reverse park, parallel park and the drive-through configurations constitute the three main layouts, however, these can be combined into numerous variations to suit a specific site, such as illustrated below.

Example of a charger stall configuration utilising a combination of layouts
Example of a charger stall configuration utilising a combination of parallel park and reverse park layouts at the Tesla Supercharger in Aiea, Hawaii

Naturally, one solution open to towing EVs is to unhitch the trailer, boat, caravan or horse float in a nearby parking space and to then drive the EV to the charger and plug-in as per normal. An ICE car towing a trailer doesn’t have to unhitch just to fill up with petrol or gas and an EV driver shouldn’t have to do so either, as there can be many disadvantages to this approach including the following:

  • It can be prohibitively inconvenient to unhitch a trailer,
  • it can be unnecessarily time-consuming to unhitch a trailer,
  • EVs that are towing will consume more energy resulting in a shorter range which means they’ll need to charge more often. This in itself can potentially be seen as a small inconvenience, so it doesn’t need to be further exacerbated with unnecessarily unhitching and hooking on the trailer at each charging station,
  • when a trailer is unhitched from a car and parked elsewhere it needs to be secured to prevent another car simply pulling up, attaching it to its tow bar and stealing the trailer, caravan, boat, or horse float,
  • it’s not uncommon for particularly older trailers to have no brakes requiring the wheels to be manually chocked on anything other than the most level surface which exacerbates the inconvenience of unnecessarily hitching up and unhitching a trailer,
  • the jockey wheel near the point of the A-frame of many trailers doesn’t reach low enough to attach to the towbar of some cars such as the Model 3 without an adapter, requiring a minimum of two people to hook-on or unhitch a trailer, 
  • it’s not uncommon for some trailers to have finicky electrical connections requiring extensive jiggling of the connection in order to get it to work properly, requiring at least two or three people to establish a stable working connection.

As outlined above, unhitching a trailer, boat, caravan or horse float just to charge, is unnecessarily time consuming and there are numerous impracticalities and inconveniences to this approach and as mentioned earlier, an ICE car towing a trailer doesn’t need to unhitch just to fill-up, therefore, neither should an EV.

A drive-through configuration such as that found in most petrol / gas stations is the logical solution having the following benefits:

  • It is designed to cater to electric vehicles towing a trailer, caravan, boat, horse float or anything else,
  • it is a more efficient design allowing more EVs to be charged simultaneously,
  • it is a more convenient design allowing particularly towing EVs but also non-towing EVs to get in and out of the charging bays faster and easier,
  • it doesn’t require unnecessarily fully extending the DC cable to reach the towing vehicle,
  • notwithstanding the fact that the Tesla Semi or other electric semitrailers will have their own dedicated charging networks and assuming they will have a plug that is backward compatible with CCS2 and perhaps also a Type2 (Mennekes) connection for trickle charging, a drive-through layout may be the only way these trucks will be able to charge at regular charging stations.

As noted earlier, due to economic constraints in augmenting the existing network infrastructure, and as not all sites are the same, naturally, every site won’t lend itself to a drive-through layout, however, in situations where it is possible to achieve a more logical, more efficient, user-friendly design at little or no additional cost, a better thought-out configuration such as the angled drive-through design should be considered.

Below are some examples of tow-friendly Tesla Supercharger configurations:

Tesla Supercharger in Hitra, Norway
12- stall Tesla Supercharger at Morongo Trail in Cabazon, California with dedicated charging stalls for towing EVs
16-stall Tesla Supercharger in Ystad, Sweden
10-stall Tesla Supercharger in Rudshøgda, Norway
20-stall Tesla Supercharger in Malung, Sweden
16-stall Tesla Supercharger in Fåvang, Norway

Most petrol and gas stations have a convenient drive-through design so why should EV owners have to reverse-park against a curb to plug-into an EV charger? From the perspective of an EV owner towing a trailer, the current reverse-park layout is a major oversight requiring immediate rectification.

This concludes part one of a two-part article. Part two can be found herehttps://www.tocwa.org.au/2022/04/20/major-parts-of-australia-in-desperate-need-of-reliable-fast-dc-chargers/

[This article was edited on 22nd of April 2022, to add the second (right) image of the Morongo Trail Cabazon Supercharger in California which better shows the dedicated charging stalls for towing EVs. Thank you to Steve @rexjamo for supplying this photo.]

Pete Petrovsky is an active TOCWA (Tesla Owners Club of Western Australia) committee member and a long-time EV enthusiast. He placed a $6,000 deposit for a Model X (#39) in 2014 but when it came to taking delivery he couldn’t justify the cost, so instead, he and his wife decided to buy two PHEVs and wait for the Model 3. In March of 2016 they bought the Holden Volt and a couple of weeks later the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and on the day it was unveiled, Pete ordered the Model 3. After selling the Outlander, in September 2019, Pete received his long awaited first Tesla, a Model 3 Performance. Despite still loving their Volt, Pete and his wife took delivery of their second Model 3 in December 2021. In his spare time, Pete also runs the ‘Tesla Ahead of the Curve’ YouTube channel and is also a long-term Tesla shareholder.