How far can an electric car actually make it in Australia?

Map of Australia's Highway 1 (highlighted in red)

So this is a common thing that I see said all the time on Australian car forums is “Yeah, but Australia is BIG, an Electric car can’t really go a long way in Australia, and it’s useless for really long road trips!”

However, I would like to respectfully disagree with that, and for this, I would love to use some facts about Electric Cars available in the market today (We’re keeping our secrets secret for now, but just remember, we aim to be competitive, and the bar is pretty high was it is already)

Now, according to Budget Direct:

The average vehicle travelled 13,301 km per year, or 36.4 km per day

https://www.budgetdirect.com.au/car-insurance/research/average-kilometers-driven.html

So this means that the average Australian will travel around ‭254.8‬km per week, which when you think about it, is around the same as driving from Sydney to Canberra, which comes in at 284km.

Wow, that’s a lot, the average person drives from Sydney to Canberra and back every fortnight? That seems like a lot, and that seems like you would need to plug in a lot. However, in reality, it can’t be further from the truth.

Let’s take a look at some range data for a number of in-market consumer battery electric vehicles today:

Vehicle Battery Size (kWh) Range (km) kW/km Charges/week
Tesla Model 3755180.1450.497
Hyundai Kona644500.1420.566
Jaguar iPace904700.1910.542
Nissan Leaf301350.2221.88
Hundai IONIQ282800.10.91
BMW i342.22460.1711.03
Mercedes-Benz EQC803540.2250.719

So as you can see, the average owner of most of the vehicles listed above would need to charge their vehicle on average once per week, with the exceptions being the Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3, however when you compare the size of their batteries and the kW/km efficiency of these vehicles, they do perform rather poorly. However of note, I have used either EPA, WLTP, NEDC or Manufacturer Stated Ranges, how these are calculated can vary quite wildly, however real world tests of all of the vehicles in Australia have not been consistently conducted, so the baseline may vary.

Also, one thing that I’d like to point out is that a LOT of chargers going in are in places where you would go once a week, like Shopping Centres, and spend an hour, or two, or more, like doing the shopping, I know my wife can drag me to the shops and make a 2 hour adventure at the Mall out of it. If that mall allows me to charge my car for FREE and I’m spending that time looking at shoes and handbags, then I’m all for this kind of trip. After all, with the cost of fuel going through the roof in a lot of areas, just that weekly commute to work and back can cost an absolute fortune.

Plus, with the cost of solar panels for your roof coming down, and the cost of Battery Storage in the home also coming down, it’s getting more and more affordable to throw a couple of solar panels on the roof and charge your car overnight while you sleep, and any excess energy is getting dumped back into the grid, with your petrol savings and the extra money you make back off the grid feed in, you’ll be sleeping pretty in a couple of years when you have money to burn over your work colleagues who are still paying through the nose for petrol.

But what about my yearly trip to the in-laws?

What about it? Do you really need that trouble in your life? Yes? Ahh, ok then, so this is that unavoidable once a year Christmas Trip across the country.

For this next part, I would like to introduce you to an absolutely awesome tool called PlugShare, which is a free service you can use to look up chargers:

Now, using PlugShare we are going to do our trip from Sydney to Brisbane, and have a look at how many chargers are along the way, so according to Google Maps this is a 916km journey that will take 9 Hours and 51 Minutes if you wanted to jump in your car and smash it out in one hit (We really don’t recommend this, fatigue is a real thing, and the average person is not an interstate truck driver)

Now, from here we are going to use our range chart above and use the average across all the vehicles currently sold in Australia for range, and that gives us a range of around the 350km mark, which funnily enough is beyond what a number of high profile motoring organisations say the average person should drive in one stint (Which is around the 2 hour mark, which at 110km/h on the freeway equates to around 220km)

So using this data, once we head across to PlugShare, we can use their nifty trip planner to work out that we can make it from Sydney to a beautiful spot called Nabiac Park where there is a 50kW fast charger installed.

Oh, that’s right, I forgot, let’s quickly get our average battery capacity to work out charge times, so we’re looking at around the 58kWh range, so our theoretical car with 58kWh and 350km of range will use 0.1657kWh/km and therefore the distance travelled is 285km for 47.2245kWh of energy.

Distance Travelled Leg: 285km
Energy Used: 47.2245kWh
Leg Time: 3 Hours, 12 Minutes
Estimated Charge Time: 56 Minutes

So, as you can see, after 3 Hours, 12 Minutes of driving, a good break to stretch the legs, have a walk, check out the scenery would likely be good for you. This is just the charger I picked, there’s a few more on the route that you could choose from.

Ok, from here we are going to push on 189km more, using 31.3173kWh of charge up the highway until we get to the River Street Car Park at Macksville. This well appointed charger is a 22kW 3 Phase Charger with a BYO cable to suit your vehicle, which means that:

Distance Travelled Leg: 189km
Energy Used: 31.3173kWh
Leg Time: 1 Hour, 54 Minutes
Estimated Charge Time: 1 Hour, 25 Minutes

Now I know this is a shorter leg in kilometres, but there is Dining, Lodging, Grocery, Shopping, Park, Restrooms at this charging location, so it’s possible to take a good decent break here, especially if travelling with kids, you’ve already been travelling what for some people is a good days drive. But given your battery size, there is the option to push on further, again, I selected this charge point because of the amenities, when I go on holiday, I like to plan to stop and see the sights. There’s no need to spend the whole day in the car, you get to the other end tired, stiff, sore and grumpy.

So anyways, your break here is done, you’ve grabbed a feed, grabbed a few groceries for the rest of the road trip, taken a few happy snaps, seen the sights, and you’re back on your way, next stop would be the awesome 50kW charger located at the Byron Bay Library.

Distance Travelled: 294km
Energy Used: 48.7158kWh
Leg Time: 3 Hours, 33 Minutes
Estimated Charging Time: 58 Minutes

So again, this is a 1 hour stop, and who could resist Byron Bay, beaches, touristy stuff to see, some absolutely wicked cafe’s to visit, some awesome restaurants that you really need to check out, and all in all a great place to holiday, if you weren’t pushing on with your trip to Brisbane, it’s almost worth stopping here and just having the holiday now.

But alas, the show must go on, and we need to keep pushing time, our next stop will be…..Wait, Brisbane….oh yeah!

The Eagle Street Pier is a great place to stop with an 11kW charger in the centre of Brisbane, and only 165km from Byron Bay, you’re at your destination and ready to deal with the family! So at this point, you have the distraction to keep from the car charging, but we all know you want to give her a full fill before going off to see the sights around Brisbane, so therefore:

Distance Travelled: 165km
Energy Used: 27.3405
Leg Time: 1 Hour, 52 Minutes
Estimated Charging Time: 2 Hours, 29 Minutes

So from leaving Sydney, to exploring Brisbane you have:

Time Driving: 10 Hours, 36 Minutes
Time Charging: 5 Hours, 50 Minutes
Total Trip Time: 16 Hours, 26 Minutes

Now, having done this exact trip in a Diesel Powered Car, and doing a bit of the touristy stuff along the way, I can attest that I did the exact same trip in around about the 13-14 hour mark from leaving Sydney to arriving in Brisbane, and at that time in my life, my day job was as an Interstate Truck Driver, so I was used to the big legs, and even then, I didn’t want to drive them, and my dogs in the back didn’t want to sit there for that long (I can imagine kids are the same in needing to pee every 100km)

Plus the time above does look a little blown out, however remember, there’s a full 2 Hours, 29 Minutes added at the end when you reach Brisbane to charge off the battery to 100% before continuing. You may not necessarily need to charge that much once you get there if your family lives in the South of Brisbane, like Slacks Creek, or if they live in the North such as Morayfield, you may need a bit more. But we went centre of Sydney to Centre of Brisbane, and I picked the chargers that I liked the look of along the route. The calculator is easily viewable at https://www.plugshare.com/ for you to have a play with yourself and plot your own trip.

If you want to actually view the trip including the charging stops, you can do so by clicking this link.

But hopefully this helps to dispel some of the myths that electric cars are not really useful in Australia, as you can see, even some very long trips between capital cities are now easily doable, and I’d also like to point out some of my favorite charging points available at destinations around country areas:

Plus hundreds, literally hundreds more chargers around Australia already, and I bety a lot of people would be surprised at where chargers actually are, because you just have to take a look at some chargers, such as this one at the University of Southern Queensland Charger located in Springfield, Queensland to see that some chargers just blend right in.

Image courtesy of Plugshare at https://www.plugshare.com/location/133855

Hopefully this has opened a lot of peoples eyes to the density of chargers, and the range that Electric Vehicles in Australia now have!

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