Driving the Norseman to Hyden Unsealed Road

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.

Check out the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail for more information on the route.

Is it Cheaper to Drive an EV Across the Nullarbor? Yes, but there’s a catch.

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.

Nullarbor Roadhouse Fuel bowsers.

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.

WA EV Network & RAA of SA chargers currently cost 60c per unit.

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.

Using the Delta chargers across the Nullarbor

The four Delta 22kW DC chargers located between Norseman and Ceduna were crowd funded by the Australian EV community in two stages, the first two in early 2022 and the recent two in December 2023. Although nowhere near as fast as the hard wired DC chargers at locations such as Norseman and Streaky Bay in SA the Delta DC chargers are a reliable solution until government funded fast DC is rolled out from late 2024 onwards.

Despite proving to be very reliable the Delta chargers require patience and methodical following of the instructions or users will find themselves wasting valuable time. I’ve used these four chargers a combined total of 18 times in less than 2 years, heed my advice to save yourself a lot of frustration.

1. Only plug in when the charger LED screens displays “connect to EV”, plug in firmly and don’t have a stretched cable.
2. Check charging has started, if the car displays “charging stopped” unplug, close the charging port and reconnect when the charger displays “connect to EV”.
3. Once charging has clearly started check back in after 5 minutes, if charging stops it’s highly likely to be in the first 5 minutes. I’ve never had a charging session stop after 5 minutes but that’s not to say it won’t happen, if you have phone coverage use the app to check every 30 minutes or so.
4. Don’t sit in the car with the aircon running while connected to 22kW or slower charging, it consumes valuable power that should be charging the cars battery, if you want aircon comfort sit in the Roadhouse Cafe.
5. Be thoughtful how you park, all 4 locations are in areas with other activities going on, look around and consider if you may be blocking access and potentially getting your car scratched by a room service trolley.
6. If you’re planning to stay overnight DO NOT leave your car plugged into the charger ready for the morning, there’s only one charging option at each location, leave the charger accessible for other EVs.

Balladonia
If you’re wise you would have charged to at least 98% at the Norseman 150kW DC charger (if driving east), every 6 minutes at Norseman saves you 30 minutes at Balladonia, and a few dollars.
To speed up the process at Balladonia get the passenger to jog in to the Roadhouse Cafe and ask for the EV charger key while the driver parks around the back. Once the key switches on the charger the start up process takes approximately 90 seconds, a good opportunity to get shade on the car.
At the end of the charging session and just before charging stops use your phone to take a photo of the kWh consumed on the Delta LCD screen, make sure the photo is readable for the Roadhouse staff. Don’t forget to return the key when paying for charging.

Madura Pass
Park in front of the rusty vintage car and request EV charging in the fuel shop, a staff member will wheel the charger in to position and instruct you where to park, if you’ve parked in front of the vintage car you’ll only need to reverse up a few metres. Payment is to the RFDS in the fuel shop. Opening hours are strictly 7.00am to 5.00pm AWCT.

Mundrabilla Roadhouse
The Delta charger is located inside the accommodation compound on the western side of the Roadhouse building, in the middle of the day parking is easy but before 8.00am and after 3.00pm you’re likely to have to deal with vehicles parked in front of the rooms, it’s wise to reverse park so you won’t get blocked in. This charger is switched on ready for immediate use.

Nullarbor Roadhouse
The Delta charger is at the rear of the laundry on the western side of the building, reverse parking with the black water tank on your passenger side will provide morning shade as well as not block the laundry ramp. This charger is currently kept switched on so connection to the car is almost immediate. At the time of writing a fixed payment is made at the cash register and your receipt must be clearly displayed on the car dashboard whilst charging.

I hope this information assists you to have smooth and happy travels whilst crossing the Nullarbor.

What a difference a DC charger makes, the WA EV Network has just crossed the halfway mark.

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:

https://www.wa.gov.au/government/premier-and-cabinet-ministers/reece-whitby

https://www.reecewhitby.com.au/

https://x.com/ReeceWhitby

https://www.facebook.com/ReeceWhitbyMLA/

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

Perth to Shark Bay is now an EV Cruise.

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.

Northampton WA EV Network DC charger

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.

Little Lagoon Shark Bay

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.

Driving Tasmania is EV Heaven

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.

Accommodation

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

Getting Meals

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.

The Roads

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.

The EV Charging Bottleneck Soon to Arrive on the Nullarbor

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.

The gap:

Considering the last DC charger east will be Ceduna and from the west Mundrabilla Roadhouse this leaves a gap of 558kms, not a problem for 3 or 4 cars per week as there’s currently 3 phase charging at Penong, the Nullarbor Roadhouse and Border Village, but when there are multiple cars per day the capacity of those outlets won’t be anywhere near enough. To add insult to injury the RAA of SA plan to install no more than a type 2 32amp single phase charger at Border Village, Nullarbor and Yalata, in effect two of the locations will be downgraded by a factor of 3. To look at it another way at Ceduna the RAA will have a rapid DC charger capable of charging at least 3 cars per hour, at the Nullarbor Roadhouse it will take 1 car 8 hours to charge.

Who is providing a solution?

A team of volunteer EV owners led by Jon Edwards who was the designer, builder and driving force of the Caiguna Biofil  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-17/first-fast-charger-for-electric-vehicles-installed-on-nullarbor/100762138  is both raising money and making every attempt to install at least one and hopefully two low power DC chargers in the 558km gap between Ceduna and Mundrabilla. Yet again, it’s the volunteers stepping up when business groups who receive taxpayer funds to build charging infrastructure are too slow to act. You can donate to the cause at TOCEVA Racing.

Who could provide a solution?

Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen likes to talk a good game, continual media releases, Facebook posts and Tweets promoting EVs. He’s certainly one of the reasons for a rapid increase in EV sales over the past year, perhaps he could step in and prompt the fast tracking of one or two DC chargers at Penong, Yalata or the Nullarbor Roadhouse.

The RAA of South Australia could seriously reconsider the decision to place a low powered single phase outlet at the Nullarbor Roadhouse. The RAA don’t mind a bit of publicity, 5 or 6 EVs queuing up at an RAA branded trickle charger in the harsh environment of the Nullarbor Plain is not the good publicity they think it is. C’mon RAA, install something useful and everyone’s a winner.

The NRMA are keen for new members, there’s no better way to promote their business and show how committed they are to current and future members by installing a similar DC charger to the one recently installed at Erldunda Roadhouse  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-10-11/electric-car-tesla-charging-prototype-outback-stuart-highway/102953618  in central Australia. Of course the best action is to install one before there’s a bottleneck rather than “coming soon” media releases.

The last and seemingly easiest action that would ease the bottleneck rather than fix it would be for Ampol  https://ampcharge.ampol.com.au/find-a-charging-station  to install a 75kw or larger DC charger at the Ampol service station in the small town of Penong. Below is Ampol’s mission statement, there would be no better way to back that statement than engaging with the Australian EV community that wish to drive across the country. “Powering better journeys, today and tomorrow. Our company has always been about more than fuel. Fuel may be the foundation of our business, but our motivation and purpose comes from the people, businesses, industries and communities we engage with.”

This is no longer a case of build it and they will come, it’s important that it’s built before they arrive.

A Tale of Two Motors

Test Number 2

After seeing the results from test number 1, How much do 19 inch tyres and wheels improve the performance of a Tesla Model Y, it was decided to do a second 272 km test (along the same route) between the same Model Y Performance with 19 inch Gemini wheels and tyres and a Standard Model Y with exactly the same wheel and tyre set-up.

The clear difference between these two vehicles is their drive units. The Performance Y has dual motors with a maximum of 393kW power, whereas the Standard Y has a single motor producing a maximum 194kW. The Performance Y is 88kg heavier than its standard range stable-mate due to a combination of different-sized battery packs (and chemistry difference) and the extra weight of its additional motor. The operating parameters of the two cars were identical with tyre pressures set to 42 psi cold, air conditioners set to 22°C and the same number of occupants in each car. You can read in the initial test all the steps taken to obtain an untainted result.

Model Y
Performance
19″ Gemini
Model Y
Standard
19″ Gemini
Leg 1
31km
206Wh/km198Wh/km
Leg 2
105km
164Wh/km165Wh/km
Leg 3
105km
153Wh/km156Wh/km
Leg 4
31km
98Wh/km105Wh/km
Total
272km
157Wh/km158Wh/km

Test start 9.05 am, completion 12.42 pm. Weather, clear skies temp 13 – 20°C. Moderate wind from the same direction for the whole test which reflects in the result for Legs 2 & 3.

Please note the Performance Y once again recorded a total trip of 271 km over a 272 km journey, the other two test cars both recorded 272 km.

Although the Performance Y is heavier than the Standard Y and also has a second drive unit which slightly adds to mechanical friction losses, these disadvantages are likely compensated for by it being about 14 mm closer to the ground. Since reduced ground clearance enhances efficiency at higher speeds, a test in stop/start city conditions would likely slightly favor the Standard Model Y.

Can an EV be charged between Perth and Newman? Yes, but negotiating skills help.

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.

Suggested itinerary:

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.

Charging an EV at Caravan Parks

Over the past 7 years we have stayed in every state and territory of Australia and charged overnight at well over 100 different caravan parks, cabins and other accommodation that fall under the category of tourist parks.

There are some great sites, many over the top with attractions that never existed 30 years ago. Some are dusty, run down, patched together and best described as rustic. Some owners and managers are very EV friendly, others spend too much time watching Sky After Dark and will grudgingly let you plug in only to provide a running commentary on why EVs are City cars (even though you’re at a site 1200kms from Darwin). The one constant is getting a charge is always possible and, although slow, extremely convenient while you’re  relaxing.

The majority of locations have enough power to supply a full park of Caravans or RVs on a hot afternoon. However be aware that some have issues due the business expanding faster than expected, they are pushing their luck and eventually come unstuck just before dinner time on a hot day when the power shuts off. This shouldn’t be happening with a correctly built power system but on the rare occasion it does. Generally the power outage forces all the Grey Nomads to shut off their air-conditioners and venture outside thus easing the load when power is restored. A second issue to look out for are power outlets in poor condition due to having a hard life from careless tourists and a harsh coastal climate. If you think the power outlet looks dodgy find a better one, always take the safe option.

Tourist Parks factor in the cost of electricity to any site fees, a powered site is normally $8 to $15 more than an unpowered site. That does not mean you have full rights to plug in and charge for 20 hours straight, random power consumption of non EVs has been factored in not an EV potentially consuming 60kwh on one nights tariff. On most occasions I would suggest you offer to pay extra to charge the car, especially at a smaller privately owned business, very often the reception will refuse payment because you asked politely. Remember to wear your diplomatic hat for the benefit of you and the following EV owners.

Tips when plugging in:

Avoid using extension cords when possible. The only time I’ve needed one is when using a Tesla Gen2 UMC with the flat plug, these are difficult to fit it to many power bollards. If you do require an extension cord use the shortest 15amp possible.

Avoid making your charging cable a tripping hazard, keep some slack on the ground under the charge port and tape the cable to the lower section of the bollard so charging doesn’t get interrupted by someones foot on a dark evening.

If you have plenty of time to get enough charge required for the next leg of your journey set the amps lower and charge slower for longer, this way there’s less chance of any charging interruptions that could delay your morning departure.

Don’t be concerned about charging in the rain but do keep the charging unit off the ground in low lying areas as most tourist parks have firm ground with poor drainage.

Last of all don’t forget to turn off your air conditioner while charging, if you don’t plan for this extra consumption the charge percentage the next morning will be far less than expected.