Big Lap in an electric car? Don’t hold your breath!

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Electric vehicles in Australia for grey nomads
More charging stations are slowly arriving in Australia. PIC: RiotAct

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!

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15 Responses to Big Lap in an electric car? Don’t hold your breath!

  1. the way it’s going with the solar on houses the electricity company’s now want to charge you for putting power back into the grid and turn your solar off when they want . It shows they will most likely do something similar for cars as well

  2. Don’t see where the problem will be. Generator running on the caravan draw bar will keep those jolly old batteries full to the brim as you cruise along. And you wont even need to stop to charge em :):): And to think some don’t even like generators 😉

  3. Bob said
    Travelling on a NT Highway at 60kmp is an absolute traffic hazard lucky a road train didn’t run over him .

  4. What about a wind turbine or generator turned by the wheels. The options are only limited by one’s imagination.

  5. Too right Bob..!

  6. The question of range and refueling in reasonable time rings in the hydrogen – bigger range, lighter vehicle, and 5 minutes to refuel. What did I miss, here? – oh, and no battery banks to replace….

  7. ….That’s a most interesting account…however, l think l will have left this earth over the next 20 years before an electric car can tow a caravan across the Simpson desert. Serious battery cost?…Thus far around $25,000.00, every ten years.

    Report earlier this week from the UK. Quote ” not petrol tax, exercise with an electic car..how is the government going to bridge that loss in tax revenue..? Answer…The UK government is going to charge electric car owners a charge / consumption tax for every mile they drive.

    BIG Lap roughly, 20,000 Ks. over 12 months. ? .The registration / mileage tax costs / car use for an electric car that year would be HUGE…

    I love the smell of petrol in the morning.

  8. From Canberra to Moruya in Tesla 3 used 40% of the batteries. Plugged into 240v household outlet for 14 hours bought it up to 90%. If it was viable to provide refilling stations without Joe average having to subsidise them they would be going up all over the place.

  9. My next car would be an EV without a doubt – if I could afford it. EVs deliver masses of torque from a standstill. No problems for towing. Range anxiety will be overcome when EVs get to more than (say) 5% of the fleet. As said above, there are always generators to get you across any gaps between charging stations.

  10. To recharge a battery with a generator is not viable, A 4000w one will take 24hrs to recharge one. ATM they are not viable for anything but metro and main highway travel. In any case they are heavily subsidised and if people think they are cheap to run, I ask who pays for the electricity used to charge them and how is it generated when there is no wind or sunshine. They are not “green” cars at all and are only a stop gap solution to satisfy a pollution metro crowd until we can find something that truely is green and does not need subsidies to make it attractive

  11. Nope! No way am I ever going to buy an electric vehicle, I just flat out am not in any position to shell out the massive amount of $$$ to buy these things. $3000 subsidy is a laugh ! How about $30,000 subsidy if the Govt wants me to drive one ? Only then I might think about replacing my wife’s 2009 i30 with a HYBRID EV !

  12. EV is not the way of the future. It’s nitrogen or similar. By the way, when you travel in remote areas there is no grid, no solar, just diesel powered towns/villages. Is that GREEN? I like the gennie idea – more sensible than those who think that turning off your power switches for an hour once a year will save the planet. How long does it take to fire up a coal or hydro power station? Think greenies, think.

  13. EVs are a greenie pipe dream.. They had their day way back before IC engines were powerful and reliable.. Might be OK for a trip to the supermarket maybe. No pollution..? What about all the pollution from the power stations..? Out of sight out of mind..

  14. Say a metro charging station standing costs (Lease of property, cost of installation, insurances, cleaning, maintenance, etc.) for 10 outlets was $3,000 per day, the cost for each outlet just standing there would be $25 per hour, based on 12 hours per day. (stupidly low estimate)
    Certainly the large EV’s would have plenty of towing power, but I don’t think they would get out of sight towing a fully laden van uphill before running out of juice. We’d need need to wallpaper our highways with power outlets – I just can’t see it happening.
    Can we imagine the countless billions of dollars to supply high capacity grids to our highways, secondary roads & the back roads that we love.
    Mercedes Benz announced recently that it has discontinued its development of Hydrogen powered vehicles as “Not viable”. I think the utopian dreams of green powered road transport will pass, but at what cost.

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