While the grey nomad dream of a fuel-bill-free Big Lap may eventually come true, the expert advice is a clear: ‘Don’t miss out on any trips while you’re waiting!’.
Yes, electric vehicles are becoming more popular; yes, more fast charging stations are emerging; and, yes, some adventurous souls have proved an Outback trip can be done in an electric car.
But – at least in Australia – it’s a torturously slow process.
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, battery-powered vehicles made up just 0.7% of Australia’s new car sales in 2020, while in the UK and European Union, the figure soared to more than 10%.
Industry experts point to the attitude of the Federal Government for the discrepancy. Its 2020 Technology Investment Roadmap issued a decidedly lukewarm ‘watching brief’ on battery, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars.
The chief executive officer of the Sydney-based Electric Vehicle Council, Behyad Jafari, told the SMH that Australia was a ‘uniquely hostile market’ for electric vehicle (EV) makers. He said national policies make Australians look like ‘a bunch of gas-guzzlers’, and is calling for subsidies for EV buyers like those in the UK and Europe.
“The lack of policy is the catalyst that causes all the other issues,” said Mr Jafari.
Indeed, global automakers are said to be delaying or skipping vehicle releases in Australia to supply markets that offer EV subsidies and have more aggressive emissions targets. Volkswagen AG, Europe’s largest automaker, has described Australia’s EV policies to those of a third world country.
The SMH reports that, at the end of last year, there were about 50 EV models on the Australian market, though only a handful cost less than their comparable fuel-powered models, government data show. Teslas start at $66,900 for a Model 3 and stretched to $189,990 for a high-end Model S. In the US, a Model 3 goes for $50,320.
And it all means there is less investment in infrastructure and innovation that would all bring the prospect of grey nomads towing caravans around Austrlia with an electric vehicle that bit closer.
Ironically, Prime Minister, Scott Morison, has previously used the fact that EVs can’t easily tow trailers and boats as a reason not to get excited about them. Electric cars, he said, would ‘end the weekend’.
The SMH reports that, with little policy certainty and so few EVs on the roads, Australian owners are left with comparatively few places to power up beyond the heavily populated eastern seaboard. It says Tasmania and the Northern Territory have only a few dozen charging stations in total.
Nonetheless, there are those who are ready to push the boundaries. EV owner Phil Smith is currently on a mission to drive around Australia in his Tesla Model 3. He has just driven the 550-kilometre plus journey from Tennant Creek to Mataranka in the Northern Territory in a vehicle that generally does about 400km on a charge! Mr Smith had to use a technique called ‘hypermiling’ which basically means driving very slowly and keeping the car’s energy consumption as low as possible.
“Just had the day filled with the experience of ‘hypermiling’ from Tennant Creek to Mataranka,” he wrote on social media. “Over 550 kilometres at 60 km/h … there is a lot of room for fast chargers in Oz!”
Apparently, while many roadhouses are happy to make three-phase power outlets available to electric road trippers, there are only 240-volt connections between Tennant Creek and Mataranka and that would take a whole day to recharge!