Supercharger tips

The most recent Tesla Superchargers in Karrinyup, Williams and Margaret River are V3, the 2017 built Eaton Superchargers are V2. Those who’ve charged at Eaton will have noticed each charging stall has two cables, the second cable is a retrofitted CCS2, that’s the one 99.9% of WA Tesla owners will use. V3 chargers are vastly superior as each stall is capable of delivering up to 250kw depending on the vehicle battery type and size, starting percentage and battery temperature. The V2 stalls at Eaton have a maximum output of 145kw for each pair of stalls (1A&B, 2A&B, 3A&B), meaning if you plug into stall 1B not long after a car has plugged into 1A your initial charging speed will be very slow. The trick is to avoid parking next to another car if possible. The slower charging speeds at Eaton are only a nuisance on busy Saturday mornings on a long weekend. To get the best charging speed set navigate to the Supercharger and the car will automatically preheat the battery pack before arrival, on cool days this makes a significant difference to the starting charge rate. A second tip for the fastest charge rate is to arrive with approximately 10% range and depart with 60-80% depending on the distance to the next chargers. Arriving with only 10% is advice I would never give with any other type of charge point in Australia, the fact is Tesla Superchargers are vastly more reliable than any other DC chargers in this country.

Eaton Supercharger cables.

Why not charge to 100%?

Basically 80 to 100% takes longer than charging from 10 to 60%, wasting time defeats the main purpose of a Supercharger. Be aware that when a Supercharger gets busy charging may get limited to 80%, the phone app will provide a notification, if charging past 80% is absolutely necessary it can be overridden. You can read more here: Charging to 100% is a waste of time.

Don’t overstay you visit- Once your car has completed charging you have 5 minutes grace to move the car, failure to do so will result in a backdated per minute surcharge added to your Supercharger account, as the phone app will pre warn you there’s no excuse.

Tesla Dominate EV Sales Figures, But Why?

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.

Driving Perth to Shark Bay in a Tesla

Hopefully by late 2023 this article is barely relevant due to Synergy’s installation of fast DC chargers in Jurien Bay, Northampton, Billabong and the Overlander Roadhouse. In the meantime the trip is comfortable if you plan correctly and show some patience.

Perth-Geraldton, 410kms

This section is energy hungry and can catch out first timers. A long range Tesla can normally make this section on one charge, a performance model maybe if conditions are favourable but unfortunately unless you get a howling tail wind and a warm road a standard range Tesla will need to to stop and top up charge at the Lancelin type 2 AC charger or the Jurien Bay 40kw DC charger. There is a Tesla destination charger in Cervantes but at the time of writing that unit was reported as having an issue, check Plugshare before venturing in to Cervantes.

Geraldton

If you’re passing through the far quickest option is the TOCWA DC charger at the West End. No cable is required but you’ll need the Smartcharge app. For those planning to stay overnight there are 3 different Hotel/Motels with Tesla destination chargers.

Geraldton to Denham/Monkey Mia, 432kms

No matter which Tesla you have it is wise to plan a charging stop, Northampton has a Tesla destination charger, toilets, a good bakery, an IGA and a few other close by shops but is only 52kms from Geraldton, more of a handy stop on the return trip.

The best option is the Billabong Homestead that has supported EV charging since early 2016, there’s a Tesla destination charger next to the self contained rooms (transportables) and a 32amp 3 phase outlet in the caravan park for those that wish to camp. To get safely through to Monkey Mia 1 to 2 hours of charging is required at this location, the good news is the sit down food is fairly good, it has a bar and there’s satellite TV.

Play safe at Billabong and add more charge than the car calculates, when you turn west towards Shark Bay a strong sea breeze can eat into the remaining range very fast and give you a nervous last 100kms.

Denham/Monkey Mia

It’s highly likely you’ve planned at least a two night stay so 10amp trickle charging (portable UMC) will do the trick. For something a little faster the RAC resort in Monkey Mia has a type 2 outlet, to use this you require a BYO type 2 to type 2 cable.

As per usual I highly recommend making full use of the Plugshare app, be sure to browse recent comments at each location you plan to use.

Carry a KHONS 3 phase cable or EVSE as a back up, you will notice many Tesla destination chargers in regional areas have a 5 pin 3 phase outlet nearby, so if the Tesla charger fails drivers have a plan B.

Pro-tips

Add in an extra day or two and make a side trip on the way back via Kalbarri, Port Gregory and Horrocks, we’ve stayed overnight at all 3 of these locations with 10amp trickle charging easy to find.

No matter how hot the forecast is for Shark Bay take a jacket, the afternoon south-westerly can get fairly cool by sunset.

Overall just plan correctly, take your time and enjoy the drive.

The Downsides to Road Tripping with a Tesla Gen2 UMC plus Tail

The Tesla UMC Gen 2 (mobile connector) was introduced into Australia in mid 2019, all Tesla’s ordered before July 9th 2022 were provided with this charging cable for free, any buyers who ordered cars after that time have the option of purchasing from Tesla for $550 or looking for an aftermarket alternative. Many choose to stick with the Tesla product as it’s still one of the lower priced cables available.

Most owners make use of the included 10amp or 15amp plug. For home charging this provides enough charge for drivers that average up to 120kms per day, keeping in mind that the average Australian car of any fuel type travels only 38kms per day.

A common practice among Tesla owners is to purchase what is known as the Tesla UMC to 3 phase tail (approximately $150). This is a well made adaptor that connects straight into a 5 pin 3 phase outlet, this increases the potential power available to 32amp single phase, very handy for home charging if the electrician installing the 3 phase socket gives it the all clear. A Tesla owner could then add up to 300kms a day while parked at home.

Despite its low price and versatility at home the 3 phase tail has an Achilles Heel when used in regional areas on long trips- it’s NOT 3 phase, it’s only single phase.

The downsides:

  • A Tesla model 3 or Y have an 11kw 3 phase onboard charger, 11kw is only possible when the car is connected to a power source with a minimum of 3x 16amps, most 3 phase outlets in regional areas are 20amp or 32amp so that’s not an issue, the issue is the Tesla Gen2 UMC plus tail is limited to 32amp single phase, that’s 7.4kw from a 32amp outlet, or 5kw from a 20amp outlet. A prime example of how crippling this can be is at Border Village in South Australia, where the power outlet is limited to 20amp 3 phase. A Tesla using the correct 3 phase cable can charge at 2.4 times the speed as a Tesla using the Gen2 UMC. Border Village is one of the better roadhouses but hanging out there for many hours longer than necessary should be avoided.
  • A correct 3 phase cable (also known as an EVSE) drawing 16amps from each 20 or 32amp wire is unlikely to trip the breaker even over a long charging session, drawing 32amps through one phase for hours on end adds to the possibility of tripping a breaker, that’s not a situation you need while asleep or away from phone connection.
  • Lastly, drawing 32amps single phase on a site with low generating capacity at certain times of the day can cause the maintenance chief to get a bit agitated, a reliable electricity supply is critical to regional locations, at least one regional roadhouse that I know of has now barred EVs from charging after 7 years of goodwill.

What cables are best:

There are a number of 3 phase EVSE cables available including the high priced but extremely tough Juice Booster 2, the Kwik Mode 2 EV charger or the KHONS 3 phase charger. All have type 2 plugs on the car end and are easy to operate and store.

Over the past 7 years I’ve plugged into the vast majority of official Plugshare 3 phase outlets across Australia, I can confidently say if you use the correct equipment your journey will be smooth, if you try and save a few dollars you’ll soon regret it.

Events Committee

The Tesla Owners Club of Western Australia host or attend on average 20 events per year. Many are club events, but we are also very happy to accept invites to display Teslas’ at festivals, field days, sustainability shows and much more. The Tesla owners attending these events have a wealth of knowledge and are happy to talk to the public. The WA Tesla community have provided this service since 2015.

The events committee consist of:

  • Jared Hawke – Jaredhawke@bigpond.com 0487 362 111
  • Paul Vianna
  • Sharlene Mavor
  • Alex Davis

If have an event you would like our club to attend, please get in contact.

Como Rotary Car Show

Western Australian Tesla’s represented for the 8th year at the annual Como Rotary Car Show. Come along for a chat and talk to some experienced Tesla owners including event committee members Jared (0487 362 111), Paul and Alex (0428 994 832). If you are keen on finding out about charging cables, there will be plenty on hand with owners willing to provide the correct information on how and where to use them. Hope to see you this Sunday 2nd October 2022 any time between 9am and 3pm.

How to find Free Charging, some Hot Tips from a long term EV owner.

To be very clear if you purchased a $70k+ vehicle and saving money on refueling is the only focus you’ve missed the point, lower long term servicing and repair plus the far longer lifespan of a Tesla are just as important. Throw in the high safety rating and the additional storage a Tesla provides and ownership is a broad package.

Without doubt the best EV charging is at home, even 30 cents a unit grid power is at least half the price per distance driven than a similar size and performance petrol car. If you charge off peak, even cheaper. Those using home solar are reducing their fuel cost by up to a factor of 8. Best of all parking at home is safe, no door dings from lazy parking, no stray shopping trolleys, there’s big savings to be made from avoiding the panel beaters.

What about all those free Tesla destination chargers? These are not free, they’re complimentary, almost all Tesla destination chargers are owned by a local business that have installed them to support EV owners. The electricity is not paid for by Tesla, it’s paid for by the small business that would prefer you drop in and buy a product rather than you sitting in your car watching Netflix.

Is there an app that shows all the free chargers? I get asked this question often in public and the answer is “not specifically”, the best way to find them is to log on to Plugshare, find the busiest and always in use chargers in the metro area and its a sure bet they’re free.

So what is the best free charger in WA? The one at your home, it’s never ICED, it doesn’t require an app, you won’t get panel damage and best of all it’s free to use any time you like.

While on the subject of free, TOCWA have a free loan of charging cables and spare tyres for members, membership is $20 per year via this link.

So you want to drive an EV across the Nullarbor?

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

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

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

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

What to do/take:

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

What not to do:

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

Port Augusta

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

Kimba

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

Poochera

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

Ceduna East-West Motel

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

Penong Caravan Park

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

The Nullarbor Roadhouse

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

Border Village

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

Eucla

This site is no longer allowing EV charging.

Mundrabilla

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

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

Madura Pass

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

Cocklebiddy

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

Caiguna Roadhouse

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

Balladonia

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

Norseman

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

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

Driving a Tesla from Perth to Kalgoorlie

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

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

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

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

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

Merredin Visitors Centre

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

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

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

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

Buying a used EV: without the FUD

Guest post by TOCWA member Matt Kocaj

The influx of new electric vehicle models (EVs) and especially the recent arrival of the Tesla Model Y, heralds a rush of EV owners listing their “old” EVs for sale as they swap or upgrade to the new hotness.

I then saw this recent article by a well respected publisher in the Western Australian automotive community. It really ground my gears! “grinded my gears”? Who knows!? 🤷‍♂️ I was frustrated.

The article is a problem in my opinion because it might leave a used EV buyer to have misinformed expectations about electric vehicles and their batteries. So to set the record straight, I’m going to quote a few sections from said article, and correct the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). Hopefully those who care for the details, and getting an EV with as much range remaining as possible, will appreciate the following explanations.

EV Batteries degrade like your phone. But much slower.

Degradation is the natural chemical process that an EV battery undergoes as it’s used. As energy goes in and out of the battery many many times, it loses the ability to retain the same amount of energy as it did when it was new.

Various studies, and Tesla’s own data, suggests the average degradation is around 1 per cent of the original capacity per year.

It doesn’t work like this, firstly because degradation isn’t a function of time, but closer to a function of kilometres (km) driven. The more energy in and out of the battery (its “cycles”) the more degradation. Lithium based batteries have a finite lifetime. This is why your phone battery won’t last as long 2 years in, compared to when it was new.

Tesla battery degradation
This image was taken from an article on electrek.co which uses Tesla data.

As you can see the degradation is mostly linear after about 50,000 km. But in the first part of the EVs life the capacity drops a little faster. In the case of a Tesla we know that some vehicles have well over 90% of the original capacity after many 100s of thousands of km. Other vehicles may be closer to 80% like mine (~2.5y old and 116,000k on the odometer/ODO).

It seems that the less “work” the car does in terms of demands on the battery, the longer it will last. Many EV owners are quite happy to share how their batteries have degraded after 1, 2, 3 or even 5 years of use.

It seems that how an OEM manages a battery has a huge role to play in the longevity of the battery and minimising degradation. I know someone with a gen1 Nissan Leaf who is down to 50% of the original capacity. These batteries are not liquid cooled like a Tesla and generally considered some of the worst cells on the used battery market because of the poor design.

You should definitely ask about the battery degradation

But don’t expect too much when it comes to your local “automotive workshop”. They probably won’t have a clue.

Most automotive workshops should be able to access this data by plugging into the onboard diagnostics (OBD2) port, or in some instances it could be relayed using remote connectivity.

In the case of a Tesla for example, the data you’re after isn’t accessible simply by plugging in a generic OBD2 link. Tesla also doesn’t make it easy to find on the vehicle’s user interface or in the mobile app. You will need a bit of DIY to install a relatively inexpensive adapter and download an app to connect to the car and capture the values.

Read on to see some tips on getting the exact figures from your seller.

Don’t try to reverse engineer estimated range into battery capacity

Between them it allows you to calculate the battery capacity and compare it to the original capacity.

No, it doesn’t.

Most EVs have a series of complex formulas, variables and historical driving data that form the “estimated range in km” displayed inside the vehicle. It’s for this reason that it’s often not useful to try to estimate battery degradation working back from these “range” numbers. The only reliable way to know is to extract the raw values from the car’s computer and use those. One example from a friends Tesla:

full pack when new: 52.4 kWh 
nominal full pack: 48.2 kWh

Therefore this battery has 91.9% of its original capacity remaining. That’s about 8% degradation. That’s pretty normal I’m finding for a 2020 model and 24,000 km on the clock.

EV km and ICE km are not the same

Everything in a car is going to wear and degrade over time and especially when it’s under load or working hard. The moving parts are especially important in an ICE vehicle (Internal Combustion Engine; a non-EV) and this is why it’s conventional to use the km on the ODO as a primary indicator of the wear and tear and a big input to one’s assessment of the value of a used vehicle.

With EVs, this is not as important as the battery degradation. Yes, it will in most cases, correlate strongly with the km driven. But not always. An older EV driven very gingerly may have far less degradation than a near new EV with a young driver who wants to drag everyone at the lights.

An EV battery may be covered under a specific warranty

Tesla for example, quote a very specific warranty for various models ensuring that over a given lifetime (in years), a known capacity is warranted.

Tesla battery warranty: AU capture, Aug 2022

If the battery falls below this remaining capacity inside the age (years) or km driven, then the battery can be claimed for replacement under said warranty. This is good news for used EV owners and supports the real-world data we have measured above. A 10-year old Tesla is not going to be “dead” as I continue to see speculated online. It just won’t get you as far as it would have when it was new. Much like your phone. These EVs will change hands in the used car market for some time.

Ask your seller what the battery degradation is. It’s more important than km

Ask the dealer or private seller what the remaining capacity is. If they don’t know or haven’t already printed it out for you, they may know someone who can help them capture it and give you the figures. Use the above chart as a rough guide to see if the remaining capacity is average for the km on the odometer. This should give you an idea of how much work the vehicle has been subject to in its life so far. Higher values (remaining capacity) are obviously better and will correlate with fewer km driven.

If you don’t feel like you’re getting the answers you want or your seller strikes you as the kind that doesn’t really have a good handle on the workings of batteries, then reach out to the folks here at TOCWA. We have a very friendly community of EV enthusiasts willing to lend a hand or share helpful advice.

Happy (informed) shopping.

Matt is an EV and battery enthusiast. He and his children enjoy pulling apart kids’ toys and “upgrading” them with recycled lithium batteries. Matt has been a Tesla owner since 2020 and is passionate about helping others cross the chasm into the new world. Matt has friends that ride horses purely for leisure. Soon his friends with ICE cars will be driving them purely for leisure too.

copy of the original referenced article can be found in the Wayback Machine in the event the source is updated after publishing.