Readers of the first chapter of my EV Long Weekend article will remember that in order to test Scott Morrison’s claim that ‘EVs would ruin the long-weekend’, I first had to define what a long weekend drive could entail, plus work out a set of criteria to measure the proof or disproof of his statement.
The hypothesis I came up with was:
‘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?’
My metrics for success or failure in the above being:
- each day I had to cover around 300 – 400km
- there was to be no DC charging on the trip
- there were no planned stops anywhere during the day for AC charging
- that running low on charge would not be hard to solve and only involve a minor detour or stop.
I then came up with a potential route covering as many typical Victorian Long-Weekend destinations as I could cram into a single route, chose a suitably limited timeframe and then showed that – on paper – a Kona electric should be capable of doing the trip.
By the end of that article I concluded I had to physically do the trip to prove or disprove Scott Morrison’s assertions.
In this article (the second of three), I describe how I put my EV, my body and my reputation on the line by doing that trip. The event became formally named ‘The EV Long-Weekend Tour’ and incorporated into the program for Victoria’s contribution to the growing internationalisation of Drive Electric Week.
So on September 15ththis year, I set off.
Day 1: East from Melbourne, via Cape Paterson, to Bairnsdale.
Starting with a full charge from home, I covered almost 370km that day.
A long day’s driving, given I had made various stops along the way visiting homes taking part in Sustainable House Day.
Even so, I arrived in Bairnsdale with 95km (roughly 20%) range still showing on the dash.
Choosing a caravan park right on the edge of the CBD, I plugged my EV in and wandered into town to eat.
(By the way: plugged into a 15A caravan outlet, the Kona helpfully informed me that it would need about 16hrs to return to 100% charge meaning it would be 100% ready by 9am the next morning. Given I didn’t want to be out before 9am – no problem there).
The Kona also helpfully has a series of green and small flashing lights on the outside of the car to indicate all is charging well.
The park manager was also very EV supportive and allowed me to use the 15A caravan outlet directly opposite my cabin, so if I was nervous about the charging I could peer out the front window occasionally to ensure the car was smoothly doing so via its charging status lights.
(If I was smart – I could have downloaded the Hyundai App and monitored the Kona from my phone … but as I said, that implies that I’m smart).
Day 2: Bairnsdale via Dinner Plain and Mount Hotham with a planned evening stop in Albury.
This was to be a very busy day: starting with running an EV fleet familiarisation talk for a Bairnsdale business office, I planned to drive the Great Alpine Road over the roof of Victoria to Albury on the Murray border.
That day saw me learning several EV and Long Weekend driving facts.
On the EV learning front, the first was that cold weather, uphill driving and running the heater to combat zero degree outside temperatures reduces the range a lot!
Today saw me at one point using over 20kWh/100km in the later steep run sections into the snow. This is about 50% more than normal highway running.
It also saw the range estimator showing less distance that I needed to get to my Albury destination by the top of the Great Alpine Road just past Mount Hotham. (Fig. 1 below).
The second EV learning of the day was just how much regenerative braking has improved in the latest generation of EVs. Being used to EV driving (I have been working with and driving them for over ten years now) I knew that regenerative braking would return some of the otherwise wasted braking work back into my battery.
I therefore knew I could recover some battery charge on the way down. What I had not realised was just how much these systems had improved in recent years.
As seen in fig. 2 above, after travelling almost 60km downhill and then onto the flat, by the time I reached Myrtleford I had 50km more range than I needed to get to Albury. (Suck on that ICE cars – my car refuels itself when it goes downhill!)
That day also saw me learn something about long-weekend driving: trying to drive 300 plus kilometres a day on anything but highways/freeways is hard.
My original intention was to reach Albury for the night, but driving up (and then down) the Great Alpine Road had taken longer than expected, so at Myrtleford I changed my plans and stopped there for the night feeling quite exhausted.
Yes, 270km instead of the planned 333km, but the limitation on the driving distance was caused by me, not the EV.
My other EV learning from the day was also a revelation: this was just how easy it is to travel with an EV.
The local caravan park was just a few minutes’ walk to the centre of Myrtleford, making it easy to change plans.
A simple matter of enquire, book-in, plug-in and walk-in to town. On plugging in, 15hrs was the car’s estimated time to 100% charge. This meant it would be fully charged by 7.30am the next day. Too easy!
Day 3: Myrtleford to Kerang.
Driving stats: 312km travelled, with 108km of range left at the end of the day. Bang-on for the US EPA range estimate (420km) for the Kona electric.
Fig 3 shows the Kona’s (very informative) dashboard display from when I parked that night. Being a beautiful sunny day, I also took a picturesque detour via a windy country road.
Sadly, this also reminded me why I occasionally regret not buying the reputedly best ‘driver’s car’ on the market – the Tesla Model 3.
The Kona proved to be rather boring on that part of the drive. (The Kona electric has very safe and predictable handling – but they’re definitely not intended as a ‘fun’ driving car).
As also seen in fig. 3, at 3.6kW charging it would be fully charged in plenty of time before my planned departure time the next day to do another EV fleet talk in Swan Hill, and then on to the ‘other’ top of Victoria: Mildura.
I did have one minor hiccup at my evening stop in Kerang Caravan Park though. I discovered that old caravan 15A outlets don’t like modern plugs: especially the industrial style plugs fitted to my EV leads.
Easily fixed by removing the lock ring, but slightly annoying – plus not all people would know how to remove it. (Figs 4 and 5).
Day 4: Kerang to Mildura via Swan Hill.
Thankfully, only 280-ish km that day. (I was starting to become very weary. This is definitely NOT a typical long-weekend holiday).
I was also beginning to fully realise that caravan parks and EVs are a marriage made in heaven.
Until AC destination and DC fast charge EVSEs become ubiquitous (and as it turns out, the perimeter of Victoria is a desert for either), the availability of 15A plugs everywhere in a caravan park makes EV touring a breeze.
Another learning from this day is you do need to choose your EV caravan park placement well when leaving your EV to charge.
In Mildura I ended up too far from Mildura CBD to be able to stroll into town for a choice of evening eatery. (Not assisted by the caravan park placing my car over 100m from my cabin to charge as they did not ‘get’ that people charging their EV might like it near where they are staying to access it. All the others so far had thought of that).
Kona stats for Kerang to Mildura in fig. 6.
For whatever reason, I had been driving less than economically that day, running at around 16kW/100km.
Still, there was no issue as I still had almost 130km range on arrival. Realistically, I could have eked that out to 160km or beyond by driving more economically or by choosing the ‘eco’ drive setting.
The key point is the Kona electric (like all modern EVs) allays ‘Range Anxiety’ by providing plenty of accurate info, in plenty of time, to make such choices.
Day 5: Mildura to Horsham
Figure 8 shows that day’s stats as 322km travelled and 145km of range still available still. In theory, the range that day could have been 467km.
Amazing what a strong tailwind, a flat road and a steady speed does for energy economy.
As a challenge (having proved caravan parks are perfect for EV travel), I chose to try staying at a motel for that night. PlugShare listed one in the centre of town with a Type 2 destination charger – but that would be too easy.
I decided to try a smaller motel on the edge of town to see how they would cope with the unexpected arrival of an EV.
Turned out that the owners had been thinking of what to do for EVs, but had no reason to do anything. .. till I appeared.
It was however hard to find a 15A outlet with wiring and a switchboard I deemed to be safe for EV charging (lucky I am an electrician), but we finally found an area with new wiring and a circuit breaker switchboard where I felt it was safe to book in/plug in.
The simple alternative was to stay at the hotel with destination charging, or one of the local caravan parks – but hey, I wanted my trip to also help educate accommodation places about EVs. (Given I am an electrician, it seemed only right to also test the boundaries a bit).
Day 6: Horsham (via Hamilton) to Ballarat
As always with the Kona, overnight 15A charging meant I was 100% charged when I headed off to Hamilton to do yet another EV Fleet Familiarisation talk.
That night’s stop near Ballarat also included a public talk on long-distance EV travel. (This is getting to be a very tiring ‘holiday’ drive).
Thankfully, I was also to spend a night at an AEVA member’s home instead of a caravan park or motel.
Amusingly, it was here that I had my first (and only) serious charging hiccup.
The member’s home is an old Victorian house with a 15A exterior outlet distant from the switchboard.
Being unable to tell if the outlet was run direct to it from the switchboard (and not via another outlet), or whether the cable size was appropriately sized for such a long run, I decided it was asking too much of the outlet to pull 3.6kW continuously all night.
Consequently I chose to use the 2kW charger provided with the car in order to not risk burning down the house while we slept.
There was a double whammy here too. I had the reduced time of only 9 hrs available between arriving back from the evening talk and an early start for the EV Drive Day Parade planned for the last day of the tour.
Day 7: Ballarat (via Geelong) to Wesburn in the Yarra Valley
Checking the range estimate in the morning proved I’d been outsmarted by having to charge at only 2kW.
There was plenty of charge to make it to my final destination, but only if I was going direct. My route however involved detouring via Geelong to the starting point of a planned EV Drive day.
I did have plenty of range to get to Geelong, so there was still no issue if charging in Geelong was easy to access and able to add enough distance in my time there. (i.e. I was applying the rules of the trip: any low charge issues should be simple to solve and not delay me).
As luck would have it – the forward thinking Geelong council has installed several 7kW EV charging points on the foreshore in close walking distance to the CBD and local waterfront attractions.
To advertise their existence, the Drive Day parade starting point had been set there in case any other EVs involved needed charging. (I hadn’t expected to need it myself though!)
So problem solved: I pulled out the appropriate lead from my boot to get a full 7kW charge rate and walked off to get a coffee, then came back to wait for any EV interested people to join the EV Drive Day.
By the time I left Geelong, I had well over 100km more range than I needed for the remainder of the trip.
So what did learn from this trip?
Lots as it turned out. The distillation of these, and how they point to what is needed to support EV uptake in Australia I will leave to the next (and final) article in this series.
See also Dave Southgate’s report on A long weekend away in the new electric Nissan Leaf.
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.