When our current PM made the, er, ‘interesting’ statement that ‘EVs would ruin the long weekend’, implying that they couldn’t get very far, or charge in enough time to get back in time for work on Monday, it was a matter of ‘challenge accepted’ for me.
As an owner of Hyundai Kona electric (one of the new breed of BEVs – Battery Electric Vehicles – with a long range and good AC and DC charging speeds), it had already become apparent to me that it was an enormous leap forward over the range and charging limitations inherent in my old 2011 Nissan Leaf.
But what about replacing an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle for a long weekend?
Well, in order to work out if my Kona was up to it (perhaps after all, Scott Morrison could be right??) I firstly had to define the question more accurately, and define some measurable metrics to prove its success or failure given the rather vaguely implied ones in the political statement.
After some thought, I came up with the following:
‘Could an EV (my Kona electric), with no inconvenience or compromise over an ICE vehicle, travel to the typical places and cover the typical distances taken for a countryside EV weekend trip?’
A high bar perhaps. Given DC fast-charger networks are still in the very early stages of rolling out, surely some inconvenience could be accepted?
Unfortunately, to the naysayers it seems that EVs need to be twice as good NOW to be seen as EVER being equal to a fossil fuelled car. So ‘no inconvenience or compromise’was going to have to do it.
Next I had to define just what sort of distances are covered in a long-weekend trip.
A long-weekend drive would not normally involve interstate travel, so as I live in Melbourne – that ruled out a return trip to Sydney or Adelaide.
And anyway, I had already disproved the comment made by former Labor minister Steven Conroy that “you couldn’t drive from Sydney to Melbourne, easily, on today’s technology.” (See my article: Guess what! Electric cars can drive from Melbourne to Sydney).
So where to go within Victoria for this trip?
That was hard. There are lots of common Victorian long weekend destinations, including:
- a Murray camping trip,
- high country/snowfields,
- far eastern Gippsland,
- central Victoria,
- the Western district or
- a weekend getaway to Geelong and beyond.
But which one should I choose, as there will always be a naysayer commenting “yes, you could go there – but you can’t do the distance to …. “ In the end, I decided to map out a circumnavigation route of Victoria, and set a one week timeframe to do it in.
My thinking was if I could do them all those destinations as part of a single tour, any one of them on a 3 to 4 day long-weekend would be a breeze.
Using a map of Victoria, I then mapped out the longest possible circumnavigation route of the state.
That gave me a distance of roughly 2500km, thereby defining a day’s drive for this rather extended long-weekend trip as 300 – 400km.
Given that is 5 to 6 hours driving time, and longer than I personally would do for a weekend trip away, that should prevent any naysayers suggesting it isn’t a realistic distance.
Next up: how to actually define ‘no inconvenience or compromise’.
Given there are almost no DC fast-chargers in a round-Victoria circumnavigation (and making a detour to reach one of them as, to my mind, an ‘inconvenience’) I decided to rule DC fast-charging out altogether.
The next level of charging down from there for a Kona electric is 7kW AC charging: so how about higher power AC EVSEs along the way?
After all, a Kona electric will do 50km charged/hr at a 7kW AC charger. One hour at 7kW would therefore add around 50km. Good for a lunch stop if one wanted to add some range.
Unfortunately, a quick look at PlugShare shows that a circumference route of Victoria is effectively a PlugShare desert.
No 7kW EVSEs, not even a simple 32A outlet listed. (I could after all take a 32A/7kW portable EVSE if needed: EVs have lots of ‘refuelling’ options).
Given a 10A power point only adds around 15km charged/hr – that WOULD be an inconvenience – so, OK, let’s delete any daytime top-ups and see what happens.
A further stricture to add would be if something did go wrong (just like running low on fuel in an ICE vehicle) I had to be able to adapt my plans easily.
So let’s see, to be ‘no inconvenience or compromise’, the trip has to include:
- a day’s driving as 300 – 400km;
- no DC charging on the trip;
- no planned stops anywhere during the day for AC charging and
- running low on charge would not be hard to solve and only involve a minor detour or stop.
Back to the Kona electric specifications and on paper, the Kona electric is still up for it.
With a 450km plus range around town, and a reliable 400 – 420 on the highway, the Kona electric theoretically wouldn’t need a top-up charge during the day. (Even if I ‘hoofed it’ like I did to Sydney, 380km was the worst I had ever seen on the range estimator).
OK: next step, can I get a decent charge overnight with no fixed 7kW EVSEs on that route? First-up, the choice of overnight stop.
Given the ubiquity of the caravan park in the Australian landscape, plus its legendary status as a destination for the ‘Great Aussie Long Weekend’, surely that would qualify as an easy to find (and appropriate) place to stop each night? No inconvenience there.
That choice was also driven by caravan parks having good power supplies and loads of 15A caravan outlets: so I then took to wondering “would a 15A outlet would see me fully charged if I stayed at a caravan park each night?”
A quick calculation was now in order. (I have simplified the process for the less mathematically minded in figure 3).
At 15A (3.6kW), a Kona electric will take approximately 18hrs to go from 0 – 100% charged. Given 5pm – 10am is 17hrs, I’d have to be pretty low on arrival to not be fully charged at check-out time the next morning.
So with these facts and figures all pointing to “yes” in answer to the questions “was it theoretically possible?”, and “was it going to create no inconvenience or compromise over taking an ICE car?” the next question was “do I want to try it?”
And that, dear reader, is what my next article will answer. You can now find that here. See also A long weekend away in the new electric Nissan Leaf.
Spoiler alert: I did do the trip, and came up with some remarkable answers along the way about how a day-to-day BEV performs in real-life.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that charging the Kona Electric for one hour at 7kW would add around 100km, whereas it is actually 50km.
Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector since 2008 and is currently working as EV electrical safety trainer/supervisor for the University of Melbourne. He also provides support for the EV Transition to business, government and the public through his EV Transition consultancy EVchoice.