The climate in the southern half of Western Australia is near perfect for a Tesla, warm and dry most of the time and winters where the temperature only drops below 5C for a few hours on the occasionally early morning, if you enjoy getting good Wh/km efficiency WA is the place to achieve it.
On the downside is the long hot summer of constant intense sunlight and high temperatures, this doesn’t generally harm the Wh/km figures recorded during longer drives but does put a serious dent in efficiency for those driving short (less than 15km) trips after being parked in an exposed area for even a short period during the day. Every time you drive off in a car with a hot interior the aircon is working hard to reduce the temperature, depending on conditions that could take anything from 10 to 30kms.
Teslas have an excellent feature known as cabin overheat protection, even on a 30C day this will consume up to 4% of the battery over 9 hours, personally I’ll happily accept a 4% loss each day over Summer but anyone who is not is free to turn cabin overheat protection off. Of course if car park designers who have a fetish for destroying trees allocated funds for solar panel canopies car parks wouldn’t be so hot.
So are all these hot Summer days killing your range? Not really, it’s consuming far more energy between each charge but as this is caused by short drives and long parking sessions it’s not relevant unless you’re buying expensive electricity. Range is only a factor on very long drives away from reliable fast charging. When you go on a long drive the heat will have little effect on your Wh/km efficiency (it helps if you pre-cool the interior while plugged into shore power before departure).
Hot tips for a cool interior Try to park in the shade even if it’s a 200 metre walk to your destination. Get interior shades up, especially over the black dashboard. Pre-cool the interior using the phone app about 5 minutes before arriving at your car. If only parking for 45 minutes or less put the car in “keep” mode, this leaves the air-conditioner on and does not use any more energy than letting the car heat up then cooling it down again.
A word of caution first, despite being continually maintained by the shires of Dundas and Kondinin any medium to heavy rain could make this road difficult to navigate in a couple of sections. Always check the yellow road condition signs before planning any departure. The weight limit is 5 tonnes although you will likely see some heavy haulage servicing the handful of mines along the road.
Officially the drive is 297kms but it’s best to use the distance of 299kms between the Norseman and Hyden DC chargers.
Is it worth taking this route? Although this direct route is 88kms shorter than driving the sealed road via Coolgardie and Merredin the total driving time will be no more than 10 minutes difference, driving the Norseman-Hyden road is more of an adventure plus a break from the constant flow of fuel tankers and over size mining equipment travelling being Perth and Kalgoorlie.
When to drive it? This is an early morning road, firstly there’s almost no other traffic, secondly it’s cooler when you stop for photo opportunities, thirdly if an issue arises you have a full day of daylight ahead to sort it out.
What to carry? The normal common sense equipment including plenty of water. A spare tyre is a must, if you depart Norseman or Hyden with anything less then you’re taking an unnecessary risk that will end up costing you a lot of wasted time and money.
To cover the 299kms with the focus on enjoying the scenery rather than constantly monitoring efficiency I recommend a standard range Tesla charge to 98% and a long range Tesla charge to 90%. Unsealed roads consume more energy than sealed roads at the same speeds, on our recent trip our Model Y consumed 45kWh at an average speed of 75kmh.
On departure from Norseman Tesla navigation will direct you to drive north towards Coolgardie for approximately 8kms before taking a left hand turn towards Hyden, a better option is to drive south from the DC charger towards the Norseman town centre, turn west on to Ramsey Street which then continues on to become Mort Haslett Drive, this takes you across Lake Cowan via a gravel causeway, thus providing some excellent photo opportunities. Continuing on for another 15kms will join you up with the Hyden Road via a T-Junction.
At the 103km mark is a handy stop called Lake Johnston, this location has basic toilets, picnic benches and shady trees, up until now the only other traffic you’ll likely see is the shire of Dundas employees maintaining the road. This first 103km section we comfortably sat on 70kmh keeping in mind there were still some early morning Roos on the road.
From Lake Johnston onwards the road has straight sections far into the distance, 80kmh was easily maintained right through to Marvel Loch-Forrestania cross road, don’t forget to keep heading west at this point. You’ll notice new power lines for the nearby mine site plus some large areas of cleared scrub acting as a fire break, from this point on the Norseman-Hyden road becomes some of the best quality unsealed surface you’re ever likely to see. Approximately 63kms from Hyden the sealed road begins, continuing all the way to the Hyden DC charger.
Our recent drive took us just over 4 hours with a few short stops along the way, potentially it could be driven faster than that but it’s better to allocate 5 hours and enjoy a 20 minute visit to Lake Johnson plus a few 5 minute photo stops on the way.
There has been a fair bit of discussion lately about the cost of recharging an Electric Vehicle compared to the cost of refueling a petrol/diesel vehicle on road trips. There is nothing like taking a set of near matching petrol and electric BMWs with a combined drive away price of $600,000 to prove that the petrol version is $14 cheaper to drive from Melbourne to Sydney. To be fair the energy consumption figures, energy prices and math couldn’t be faulted, I also commend those running the trial for getting out from behind the desk and conducting a physical test.
On the other hand the Climate Council put out a report claiming that road trip bills in Australia could be reduced by a 1/4 to a 1/5 driving an EV instead of a petrol car, now if “COULD” was in block letters with a disclaimer saying *EV must be driven within 300kms of home solar I could accept that, but no they double down by claiming Melbourne motorists looking to explore the Nullarbor Plain could save $594 by driving a battery-electric vehicle on holidays rather than an average petrol car. How accurate is that?
Despite the average DC charging cost between Melbourne and Perth being a very reasonable 65 cents per unit and fuel prices being high between (and including) the Nullarbor Roadhouse and Norseman (905kms), an electric car will be approximately 10% to 20% cheaper to fuel over the whole 3420km trip, that’s a $60 to $120 saving depending on the vehicles involved, the capacity of the petrol tank and how savvy the petrol car driver is. I think it’s best the Climate Council EV experts get out from behind their desk and go for a long drive to see how the real world lives.
So why is there a catch? I have said this a number of times previously: Under most scenarios the fastest and cheapest way to get across the Nullarbor is to fly on a commercial jet, the whole event from home to hotel on the other side of the country is less than 6 hours, even in a petrol car a fast trip takes 2 full days. If you’re concerned about petrol or electricity costs you should also consider money spent on other items during your journey, such as food and drink and opportunistic purchases.
Always remember driving across the Nullarbor is an adventure not a money saving venture.
In September of 2019, a few days after our long-awaited Model 3 arrived on top of a tilt tray truck in our driveway, we took the pristine Tesla on a 360 km family road trip from Perth to Hyden.
Although we had been a two PHEV family since April of 2016, this was the first time we owned an electric-only vehicle, also known as a BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) or PEV (Pure Electric Vehicle). With no internal combustion engine generator to rely on anymore, we had our first experience of ‘range anxiety’ when the car began warning me to plan my next charge because “all known charging locations will be out of range soon.”
Not long after the car began prompting me to “stay below 105 km/h to reach destination”. Being a new car, I was not only keen to test it out and to see what would happen if I ignored the warning but I was also curious about this ‘range anxiety’ phenomena that was often cited in EV articles and YouTube videos at the time. I kept Autopilot set to 110 km/h and not long after the warning changed to prompting me to stay below 100 km/h and then to below 95 km/h.
When the projection chart showed we’d get to Hyden with just 2%, much to my wife’s and I think the kids’ relief, I lost my nerve and I put the car into Chill Mode and slowed right down to 90 km/h.
We ended up getting to Hyden with 4% or 20 km of range and immediately after arriving I plugged the car into a 10A socket at the Hyden Tennis Club.
I didn’t have much luck with getting access to the 3-phase 32A socket at the closed Visitor Centre and I couldn’t get through on the phone either, but I managed to find a 15A socket in the shed on our friend’s property where we were staying. As I was keen to show off the car and took our hosts along for a test drive, when it came time to go back home, we couldn’t leave until after 2 PM as we had to wait for the car to finish trickle charging on the 15A socket in the shed. Being a Performance (Stealth) Model 3, with roughly 73.5kWh of usable battery capacity, it takes approximately 30 hours to charge from 0-100% on a 10A socket and about 20 hours using a 15A plug.
What a difference one proper DC charger makes
Fast forward to December 2023 and Hyden has just become the 26th location to be commissioned on the WA EV Network. It means that we’re now in the back half of the rollout because when complete in early to mid next year, the network will consist of 49 much-needed EV charging locations averaging approximately 200 km apart all the way along the coast from the Northern Territory border to the South Australian border and also to Kalgoorlie.
With the WA EV Network marking it’s halfway milestone, I couldn’t resist taking the same car, this time four years older and with over 110,000km on the odometer, on the same Perth to Hyden road trip. Perhaps still traumatised from the last experience, my wife and the kids were more than happy to leave me to my own devices so I set out on my own this time and about four hours later I arrived in Hyden with 9% and plugged into the freshly commissioned Hyden 150kW Kempower unit (I was aiming for 10%). Only half an hour later I had gained about 300 km of range which would have been enough to allow me to head back with a top-up at Williams but I got chatting and before I knew it, another 20 minutes went past and the car was already charged to 100%. (Once the Brookton charger is commissioned next year, a 20 to 30 minute charge in Hyden will be enough to get to Brookton for a quick top up on the way to Perth.)
Four years earlier, we had no choice but to trickle charge for 20 to 30 hours, which is a little like pouring petrol through a clogged-up straw. Comparing the two experiences is night and day, it is like comparing a rabbit to a tortoise. In other words, it’s just not comparable. Think about it this way, compare going to the beach for 20 to 30 minutes versus 20 to 30 hours or going to the shops for 20 to 30 minutes compared to 20 to 30 hours or popping into work for 20 to 30 minutes as opposed to a marathon 20 to 30 hour shift. Doesn’t matter how you look at it, the two time frames aren’t even in the same ball park.
In case you’re wondering, even though Tesla may be starting to roll out 1 megawatt (1,000kW) V4 Superchargers or Megachargers to service its Semis, the power of most DC (direct current) chargers these days will range between approximately 50kW and 350kW, putting the 150kW Kempower unit a little below the middle of that pack. Although some of the newest EV models, such as the recently delivered Cybertrucks are capable of charging at 350kW it doesn’t mean that a 350kW charger would be more than twice as fast as a 150kW unit. The limiting factor is the current generation of EVs, which in Tesla’s case, top out anywhere between approximately 190kW and about 250kW, depending on the model and its corresponding battery chemistry.
For those who think that a 20-to-40-minute time period to recharge a car is still too long, I’d like to point out something that I discovered on my 17-day trip around Australia in the Model Y RWD, the slowest and shortest-range car that Tesla makes. While I was charging at the various roadhouses, as suggested by TOCWA (The Tesla Owners Club of Western Australia) Chairman Rob Dean, I began to observe other people refuelling their ICE cars. I can tell you that the notion that people refuel their ICE car in 5 to 7 minutes on a long road trip is a fallacy. Granted, while it is possible, it happens very rarely and while most people may stand by their car with their hand on the bowser nozzle for six or so minutes, they will very rarely hop straight back behind the wheel to drive for another four hours. Instead, they will repark the car and they’ll use the restrooms, grab something to eat or drink and stretch their legs for a while. It means that an average roadhouse stop takes 20 to 30 minutes which is about as long as a Tesla Supercharger takes to recharge a Tesla. In fact, when my brother and I together with both families drove two Teslas along the 900 km route between Melbourne and Sydney earlier this year, we only needed to stop twice and both times our cars were charged to 100% before our food even came out. (By the way, as illustrated in this article, the last 20% of an EVs range takes the longest to charge and is often unnecessary.)
As an aside, for those reading this article who don’t yet own an EV or for the single EV families who are thinking about replacing their second car, it may be worthwhile to note that we no longer manufacture the Falcons and Commodores in Australia and hence we have no choice but to buy what the rest of the world sells and whether by legislation or market forces, the whole world is going electric. It, therefore, won’t be long before there won’t be much of a choice. That said, with ICE cars representing old technology what do you think a second-hand ICE car will be worth in 5 or 10 year’s time? Probably as much as a Walkman or DVD player is worth today. It’s old technology and when the world moves on, the old technology that’s left behind always plummets in value.
Getting back to the WA EV Network, yes, we all wish the WA State government made available a larger sum of money so that, similar to NSW, we could have had a network with an average uptime of 99.95% with ‘chargers that just work’. In case you’re wondering, yes, you guessed it, I am talking about none other than the Tesla Superchargers.
That said, I think I echo the sentiment of most of the WA EV community, when I say that we are very thankful for this much needed and critical public infrastructure. Although, as mentioned, we would all have preferred a slightly larger sum of money but we are nevertheless not only thankful for the $21.6 million but we’re thankful for Synergy and Horizon Power listening to TOCWA (The Tesla Owners Club of Western Australia) and the wider EV community when it came to the design of the network. As a result, it means we have a fantastic network which is fit for purpose.
By exclusively utilising only the Combined Charging System standard using only CCS2 cables and Type 2 charging points instead of the discontinued and obsolete CHAdeMO connectors, we’ll have a network that is built for the present and the future instead of the past. It means we have reliable and much faster 150kW Kempower chargers on the grid-tied portion of the network rather than the 50kW alternative. It means that with AC backup chargers every location can charge a minimum of three EVs at a time. It means we have idle fees to stop EV drivers treating the EV charging bays as EV parking bays, we have a credit card payment solution, we have a resilient system than can operate in emergency situations when the mobile network goes down, we have some but admittedly not enough drive-through locations allowing for EVs towing trailers, caravans or horse floats to charge without unhitching. We have a great network.
We have a world class network second only to Tesla’s Supercharger network and once completed, the state government will have provided most of the backbone of this critical public infrastructure for the private sector to backfill, but there is one glaring omission and that’s the inland Perth to Port Hedland route along the Great Northern Highway.
As TOCWA Secretary Harald Murphy has identified, it doesn’t make sense to have a road network that only services some towns and not others it doesn’t make sense to have an EV highway that leaves out major towns and regional centres. It’s a matter of equity, it’s a matter of access, it’s about tourism and it’s just not right to ignore and forget about places like Mount Magnet, Meekatharra or Newman to name just a few. With the WA EV Network having reached its halfway point yesterday, and with the retirement of Bill Johnston, (who said “I’m not saying no” to the proposed addition), the incoming State Energy Minister Reece Whitby has an ideal opportunity to announce the extension to the network.
It should be noted that the blueprints for the WA EV Network came from University of Western Australia Professor Thomas Braunl’s 2018 report which proposed three options for the network. All three options, included the Perth to Port Hedland route along the Great Northern Highway and the projected cost was estimated at $18.9 million, $23.6 million and $28.9 million for the Minimal, Proposed and Extended options respectively. (These were 2018 figures, therefore, if adjusted for WA inflation (All Groups) these numbers would be approximately 20% higher at $22.4M, $27.98M and $34.27M.) For reference the WA State Government has invested $21.6M into the WA EV Network.
The inland route from Perth to Port Hedland will cost less than $5 million and it needs to be announced now while we have the processes and the human and other resources in place rather than starting again from scratch in one or two years’ time. (To put the $5 million figure into perspective, just one freeway onramp costs about $20 million. To put it another way, there are 137 local governments or councils in Western Australia and some of them spend $20 million on just landscaping in one year alone, whereas the WA EV Network is critical public infrastructure that will benefit hopefully all Western Australians for not just one year but for 5, 10 or many more years into the future.)
Please join TOCWA, AEVA and the wider EV community in calling on Minister Whitby and the WA State Government to finish what they started and to complete the WA EV Network thereby making EVs accessible to all Western Australians, irrespective of where they live.
The minister can be contacted on the following links:
Please note, this article was edited on 21 December 2023. The changes consisted of the inclusion of the paragraph quoting Professor Thomas Braunl and the accompanying map, which were inadvertently left out of the original version.
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 and a year later a Model Y RWD which two days later Pete drove around Australia in 17 days. In his spare time, Pete also runs the ‘Tesla Ahead of the Curve’ YouTube channel and is also a long-term Tesla shareholder. Pete can be reached on X @Ahead_of_Curve
Now that the WA EV Network DC charger at the Overlander Roadhouse is available to the public the biggest gap between DC charging on the Perth to Shark Bay drive is 228 kms, once the Billabong Homestead DC charger goes live that gap reduces to 182 kms. This makes the 848 km drive (to Monkey Mia) a comfortable one day drive during the daylight hours of winter, it also means a standard range model Y could drive that trip at the speed limit while keeping the battery level between 20% and 85%. Take note, there’s no harm to the battery by going below 20% the potential issue could be queuing at a regional DC charger with no sentry mode available.
Below is a suggested plan for those in a standard range vehicle, if you have a LR or Performance use the same plan but with a lower charge percentage when departing each charging stop. Plan for 9 hours of driving plus 90 minutes of charging spread over 3 or 4 charging sessions.
Jurien Bay, peak charge speed 115 Kw. If your trip is on the weekend or holiday period depart early. Although this trip can be done in daylight hours a 6.00am departure will pay dividends at the first charging stop in Jurien Bay. Why? Because humans are ruled by their stomachs, it’s a sure bet that on a Saturday morning or School holidays the Jurien Bay chargers will have a queue while the passengers stretch out morning tea. Trust me, you really don’t want to get stuck behind a couple of short range legacy EVs trickle charging to 100%. Get going early and get ahead of the grazing sheep.
Geraldton and/or Northampton, peak charge rate 115 Kw. The next charging stop is Geraldton so 80% is plenty to cover the 200 kms. Once you get close to Geraldton you have a decision to make, do you bypass Geraldton and push on another 52 kms to Northampton DC charger thus avoiding some of the Geraldton traffic or play it safe and “Always Be Charging”? This is up to you depending on how busy you think Northampton could be, keep in mind Geraldton has the capacity to charge 4 EVs at once, Northampton it’s only a 2 EV site.
The drive from Northampton to the Overlander Roadhouse is the biggest gap of 228 kms, even at 110 kmh in poor conditions a standard range could still drive this on 65% battery but the trick here is to keep charging until the charging rate drops below 45 Kw, this will generally be at approximately 85% on a standard range battery pack. Why is 45 Kw important? That’s the average charging rate you’ll get at the Overlander on the WA EV Network 50 Kw DC charger.
The drive between Overlander and Monkey Mia may only be 154 kms but has caught out many impatient EV drivers in the past, it’s a sure bet that sometime after lunch a strong westerly will blow significantly reducing range, don’t get caught short, add 154 kms of range plus a 20% buffer so your not hypermiling into Shark Bay after dark.
Foot note: Lancelin has both Tesla Superchargers and a WA EV Network charger, this is an optional stop on the way north on potentially busy days or if you’re not in a hurry and don’t mind the total 13km detour. Be aware that if you take this option and bypass Jurien Bay you’ll need to add enough charge to drive 303kms to Geraldton.
Back in 2019 we drove a Model S around Tasmania for 9 days as part of a complete around Australia trip, at that time DC charging was almost non-existent, maybe 2 locations in the whole state, not that we used one as distances are short and there was enough AC charging outlets to get us by with a little bit of forward planning.
Fast forward to our most recent 17 day trip early this October. The Apple Isle has the excellent Electric Highway of Tasmania DC Network wisely spaced across the state, no cherry-picking locations in capital cities rather DC chargers placed that will assist the wider EV community. It should be no surprise that the Electric Highway of Tasmania is influenced by long term AEVA Tasmania members, it is a DC charger network for the people by the people. There is no longer planning needed to keep an EV charged, freeing up time to enjoy the twisty, hilly roads that fit well with the huge torque and regenerative braking of an Electric Vehicle.
You don’t need a Tesla to do this trip, a BYD, MG or Polestar will find the charging just as easy and roads a joy to drive.
Getting to Tasmania
This all depends on the EV you currently own and where you live, for some it is worth investigating flying directly to Hobart and hiring an EV. Much of the extra money you spend on airfares and car hire will be offset by the saving in food, accommodation and time on the mainland journey to and from the Geelong boat departure point. If you do not have a lot of spare holidays I recommend flying and hiring, if you have the spare time and are adventurous drive your own EV via the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry.
Spirit of Tasmania, Devonport
Going via the Ferry
The Spirit of Tasmania Ferry service with 2 adults and a car varies between good value and great value depending on the time of year. I recommend booking a day trip one way and night trip the other, if you do, I’d also recommend paying extra for your own cabin during the night trip. Make sure you book the return journey before leaving home if not you will end up on the growing list of mainlanders stuck in Tasmania for weeks longer than they expected. The Spirit of Tasmania website is easy to negotiate for those that want to experiment with the availability and costs of return journeys at different times of the year. If you’re not too sure about a 10 hour trip across the often unsettled Bass Straight it’s worth it all when you drive your own EV off the boat and into a great adventure.
The Best Time to Visit is when Others are not
Most Australians visit Tasmania during the Summer, resulting in higher prices on the Ferry crossing, far busier roads, less accommodation, crowded walking trails, higher vehicle rental costs and generally a feeling that you are on the mainland rather than remote, tranquil Tasmania. I would recommend October or March/April/May, the weather is cool but not unbearable and most organised tourist events are still open.
We mixed it up with a combination of using a King Swag at tourist parks or booking a cabin or cottage. In October these were easy to book at short notice and were good value for money compared to mainland Australia. Just note that I said King Swag and not tent, some parts of Tasmania can be very cold and windy at all times of the year, a canvas swag will handle this, most tents won’t.
Mount Field National Park
If you like your food and are not to fussed, I won’t spoil the adventure for you, folks who do their research won’t be disappointed. For the lazy grazers almost every regional town has an old pub with meals and an IGA store, the bigger locations such as Devonport, Burnie and Sorell have Coles and Woolworths. You will not go hungry or broke in Tasmania if you plan ahead.
You will not be bored driving between locations, in fact you’d better be wide awake; major roads signposted 100kmh with 15kmh hairpin bends, steep climbs followed by steep descents, with large trees on one side and a rock face on the other. These are not rat runs like on the mainland, these are often the only road access between towns.
Must Do Locations
Leven Canyon Queenstown Wilderness train Wadamanna power station museum Mount Field National Park Lake Dobson (carefully and with the correct tyres) Maria Island boat tour with Maria Island Cruises (Oct- May) St Columba Falls
Locations Well Worth the Visit
Sheffield Cradle Mountain Lake Barrington Dip Falls Stanley Zeehan Strahan Queenstown Lake St Clair The Wall Miena Oaklands town and Callington Mill Salamanca Markets, Hobart Cockle Creek Richmond Port Arthur Triabunna St Helen’s
I apologise in advance to any Tasmanians for any interesting locations I may have missed, I’m sure you’ll give them a plug in the comments.
And speaking of plugs, the AEVA National AGM and EV Expo is being held in Hobart on the first weekend of November 2024, start planning now for an Apple Isle adventure.
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 last and seemingly easiest action that would ease the bottleneck rather than fix it would be for Ampolhttps://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.
The inland road is called the Great Northern Highway, it’s sealed all the way until it joins the North-West Coastal Highway approximately 60kms South of Port Hedland, for the most part it’s in reasonable condition. All year round this is a major heavy haulage transport route that although not as busy as the Coastal highway will on occasions carry some massive low loaders with over width mining equipment, fortunately the highway is fairly straight with plenty of room to pull over and allow wide vehicles to keep their tyres on the sealed section. Tourists generally avoid this road with the exception of August-September when Caravan and RV traffic increases significantly due to some spectacular Wildflower blooms. I would not recommend travelling before mid April due to the heat and also the small chance of flash flooding that may cut road access for up to a week. From mid April onwards the days are generally dry and warm with nights getting cooler as each week ticks towards July, when clear nights can be close to freezing.
Is there much to see? Not a lot but there are a few unique sights, the small towns of Mount Magnet, Cue and Meekatharra still carry the wide roads and beautiful Stone buildings from the late 1890s. Newman started life in the late 1960s so isn’t the prettiest of towns but the tour of the Mount Whaleback Iron Ore Mine is well worth the time.
Charging: We drove through this area up to Tom Price and back across to Marble Bar in April 2018, there’s a number of locations with 5 pin 3 phase outlets capable of charging a Model 3 or Y at 11kW (3x16amps) the problem is most of the ones we used weren’t suitable for regular use due to access issues. Despite a number of years of thumb twiddling the shire councils in the area are finally realising that being omitted from the state governments EV charging network requires them to change from procrastinating to progressive, hopefully a few of the shire owned and convenient 3 phase outlets will be accessible sooner rather than later, until then the trusty 15amp caravan socket is the plan B and not as bad as you would think when a trip is planned wisely.
Dalwallinu– 245kms from Perth, the Old Convent has a 32amp three phase, it’s best to ring ahead for good will. It’s very likely you’ll charge for approximately 3 hours as the next useful charging stop is over 300kms north. If 3 hours in Dalwallinu is a bit too much to bear a stop in New Norcia or Moora while charging from 3 phase will add some different scenery without adding more than a few minutes to the journey.
Paynes Find– the old roadhouse has a small dusty campground out the back with 15amp caravan sockets, these are untested but if they run an RVs aircon they’ll charge an EV.
Mount Magnet tourist park- 317kms from Dalwallinu. This is a good overnight stop with some grass sites, a secure location and not too much traffic noise after 8.00pm. If you arrive before 6.00pm and plug straight into 15amps it’s possible to add a genuine 280kms of range by 8.00am the next morning. This location does have a 32amp three phase wired in and ready to go, it’s just waiting for the shire to approve its use.
Cue – 80kms from Mount Magnet and well worth a walk around the townsite. Stop in at the Queen of the Murchison for a coffee and more.
Meekatharra – 115kms from Cue. The shire are currently on the look out for a easy to access 3 phase in the meantime the caravan park is secure with a few 15amp options.
Karalundi – 60kms from Meekatharra. This location offers a shady campground with powered sites. Amongst the dry scrub Karalundi is an oasis due to a useful underground water supply, the caravan park is a side gig for the boarding school, my choice would be to stay overnight here rather than Meekatharra so as to shorten the drive to Newman.
Kumarina Roadhouse – this is a small roadhouse and campground 232kms north of Meekatharra that’s a welcome stop for a takeaway meal. The Camp ground has a number of usable 10/15amp sockets.
Newman – 367km from Karalundi, 190kms from Kumarina RH. This town has 3 phase but once again access is difficult, hopefully now that nearby Tom Price and Paraburdoo both have DC chargers the East Pilbara shire may show more interest in EV charging. In the short term 15amp overnight will do the job.
Tom Price – 277kms from Newman. This is a tidy little town that’s worth the detour, it’s also a good base for visiting Karijini. Tom Price has a near new 25kw DC charger that’s a real bonus for visitors.
Paraburdoo – 81kms south of Tom Price, this little town has a 50kw DC charger which is handy for anyone deciding to head back to Perth via the Nanutarra roadhouse and Carnarvon.
A few tips:
Carry a full size spare tyre.
Try and avoid driving after dusk
Drive with caution during the day as most roads north of Mount Magnet are unfenced with plenty of stray Cattle.
Don’t plug in without asking and always offer to pay for charging.
The recently released EV sales figures by the EV Council of Australia provides a stark reminder of how poor the generic (non-Tesla) charging infrastructure is in this country.
The EVCs figures show that 3.39% of all light vehicles sales for Q1,2,3 2022 were electric, this includes Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV). When those figures are broken down it also shows that two vehicles dominated EV sales, the Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model Y, these two variants alone made up 53.2% of EV market share, the other 46.8% was from a combination of 93 variants. If you remove the 35 PHEV variants from the figures Tesla has a 64% share, it also shows that despite the Electric Vehicle Council highlighting a figure of 3.39% the reality is removing Tesla and PHEVs from the sales figures reduces this to 1.007%, in effect the 58 variants of pure EV that do not have a Tesla badge make up just 1% of the light vehicle market. This large difference in sales between Tesla and the remainder is made even more interesting when you consider Tesla do not spend money on advertising.
From State of Electric Vehicles October 2022 report
Despite claims of purchase price and lack of choice deterring Australians from buying an Electric Vehicle I have no doubt the biggest barrier is a fear of being unable to charge away from home, petrol and diesel vehicles have been extremely convenient in regional areas for decades and the buying public expect no compromises. For a Tesla owner who lives close to or between one of the 5 east coast mainland capital cities charging is reliable and convenient due to the Tesla Supercharger network, in the south west of the country Tesla owners have a similar convenience. Each location has a minimum 3 and sometimes 8 charging cables, the reliability rate is extremely good. On the other hand, non-Tesla EVs (legacy auto) must rely on a mix of different branded chargers with a variety of payment systems. These DC chargers are few and far between with only 1 or 2 units at each location and many being broken or out of operation for weeks at a time, the situation is shambolic and the EV buying public are becoming very aware of the problems. Tesla currently have only two variants of EV for sale in Australia with an average purchase cost of $80,000, price and lack of choice has very little bearing on a sale, a convenient and reliable charging infrastructure does.
Unfortunately, the Federal governments promised “DC chargers every 150kms” is just a talking point that will continue through to the next election. Every month of delay is crushing legacy auto while at the same time helping cement Tesla as the dominant sales leader for many years.
You cannot charge Electric Vehicles from media releases.
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.
Before I continue I want to make something very clear: If you aim to get across the country as quickly as possible in your EV it can only be done with planning and patience. Trying to rush will not gain you any time but it’s highly likely you will lose time by; unplugging too early, not reading the Plugshare comments, and lastly not respecting the opening and closing times clearly marked on the Plugshare description.
By early 2024 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. Edit: it has become very apparent that the number of EVs crossing the Nullarbor have increased significantly through November and December 2022, there is a chance you could arrive at a charge point that is already in use, it is in your best interest to plugshare your journey so other drivers can liaise with you. The simple 30 second task of checking into plugshare by yourself and other EV travelers could save you 3 or 4 hours of wasted time at the next charge stop.
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). Even carriers using the Telstra network do not work.
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.
Edit December 2023: Port Augusta now has a 200 kW DC charger located on the waterfront adjacent to the Majestic Oasis Apartments courtesy of RAA of South Australia.
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.
Edit November 2023: Kimba now had a 150 kW DC charger located at the Kimba Caravan Park on the Eyre Highway courtesy of the RAA of South Australia. There are also two 7 kW type 2 chargers at the Kimba Bowling Club next to the excellent free camp. Prior to these upgrades below is what the EV community relied on.
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.
As of November 2023 Wudinna has a 150 kW DC charger located at Wudinna Hall courtesy of the RAA of SA.
Thanks to Jeff and Karen for offering a charging service since May 2016 after a visit by WA Tesla owners Matt and David. Due to the opening of the Kimba, Wudinna and Streaky Bay DC chargers, from February 2024 the 3 phase is no longer available. The small caravan park is still available for bookings.
Ceduna East-West Motel / Streaky Bay
Edit November 2023: Streaky Bay is now an option with the installation of the 150 kW DC Charger at the Well Street carpark courtesy of RAA of SA.
Work on the Ceduna DC site has not commenced (under the contract the RAA of SA must have this installed by the end of February 2024, this is a critical piece of charging infrastructure), the East-West Motel is currently the best charging option in Ceduna. There are 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. A nice overnight stop.
The Nullarbor Roadhouse
Edit December 2023: There is now a 22 kW DC CCS2 charging unit in place.
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 approx $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.
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. Roadhouse hours allow you still order food as late as 8.30pm AWST.
This site is no longer allowing EV charging.
Edit December 2023: There is now a 22 kW DC CCS2 charging unit in place.
This charger is situated outside one of the motel rooms, payment is approx $25, 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.
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.
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.
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.
At the rear of the western side of the main building is another crowd funded 22kw DC charger, the payment is $2.00 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 $2 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.
Edit December 2023: The WA EV Network 150 kW DC charger is now available, this saves considerable time for those contemplating the Nullarbor drive. The nearby showers and toilets are unlocked between 8am and 6pm.
Rob and Robin have crossed the Nullarbor 5 times in their Tesla Model S and charged at each location multiple times.