You’d be forgiven if you listened to media reports that said you would struggle to travel around Melbourne and Sydney with an electric car, never mind traverse outback Queensland and the Northern Territory without fossil fuel.
I am confident that you can drive an electric vehicle anywhere in Australia.
Here are some tips to help you take your EV out of the ordinary.
The key to gaining access to electricity is figuring it out.
PlugShare is a website and app that tracks charging stations around the world. Imagine it as TripAdvisor, complete with user reviews, photos, and tips.
The holy grail for EV charging is a charger that can deliver 50-100kW or even up to 350kW.
The faster an EV is theoretically able to charge, the more power it can provide (although other factors are also involved).
There are still large areas without dedicated chargers once you leave the main coastal highways.
Three-phase plugs are the next best choice.
Industrial equipment, commercial refrigerators, and machinery are all powered by three-phase. They are found in factories, supermarkets and fast-food outlets, caravan parks, and some hotels.
The three-phase plug can produce up to 22kW, almost ten times the power of a standard wall outlet. This can add up to 100km per hour of charging.
Using three-phase electricity does require additional hardware. To accommodate the three different plug types, you need a charger that has other “tails” or adapter plugs. You can use the Giger and Juice Booster to charge your device using any three-phase outlet.
You should also bring a three-phase extension cord, as there may not be a power outlet near the car.
You can adjust your speed needs.
The speed at which you drive can have a big impact on how far an electric car will go.
Electric cars are best used in urban areas where regenerative brakes can be used to capture energy for later reuse.
Aerodynamics plays a role in their performance at higher speeds. The Northern Territory has higher speed limits, which makes it more difficult.
Driving at 130km/h will reduce your range by up to 36% compared to driving at 70km/h.
It’s not much fun to drive 70km/h down a seemingly endless, straight road.
Your speed is often dictated by the next time you plug in. You may save time by charging more often.
When to pull the plug
You shouldn’t take power from a power outlet just because it can provide a certain amount.
This is a lesson that I learned from the Larrimah Pink Panther Hotel. A caravan park with three-phase outlets is located next to the pink panther giant and (live) crocodile.
After a few minutes of plugging in, I had tripped power for every traveler within shouting range. It’s not a great way to get along with the grey nomads.
In this case, I decided to cancel the charging because there were more outlets nearby. The worst-case scenario would be to slow down the charging from a regular plug. This is a viable option if you are staying overnight.
This is a good reminder to use electricity wherever you can. It’s not always possible to use a three-phase option just because it’s available.
Plan and offer to pay
PlugShare isn’t everything. If you’re planning to drive from Mount Isa, for example, to Birdsville like I did, you’ll have to do your homework beforehand.
Google Maps is a great tool for finding businesses with three-phase electricity.
Calling around for charging options can be a great way to find out about the many different options available, from roadhouses and workshops to cattle stations in the middle of nowhere. The caravan parks have powered sites, which is a great feature.
I would always offer to pay for their electricity and even pay more than the cost of doing so. Even at twice the average price of electricity, it still costs about half as much for an EV to roam the outback compared to a petrol vehicle.
It’s important not to underestimate the challenges of driving an EV in Australia’s outback. It requires some planning. I started a spreadsheet before turning the steering wheel. At some points, it can take time to charge using slower outlets.
It’s not a bad idea to take your time if you want to see the sights and discover parts of the country few people know about.