The recent landmark win by Gemtek’s Tesla Model 3 at the Targa West rally on Sunday was only possible thanks to a series of mobile charging units – including a Hyundai Kona Electric.
The win, which was almost 10 minutes ahead of its next fastest rival – a Holden Commodore VF SS V, was Gemtek’s first in the 130 category, and crucially was successful because the team was able to keep the Model 3 battery status above 80% for the entire race.
For a 1,000km race over four days, this is no mean feat.
Supporting the specific charging needs behind Model 3’s Targa win was Jon Edwards, the retired WA engineer who controversially set up a diesel-powered electric car charger that is actually greener than you might at first think.
Edwards shared with The Driven how three mobile charging units underpinned the Model 3 win.
The mobile charging units consisted of a 50kw Veefil with 75kva generator on a trailer, a 20kw Delta with 30kva generator on a Mazda BT50 ute, and perhaps of most interest, a Hyundai Kona with 50kw charger mounted in the back, drawing power from the Kona battery.
“Each mobile unit had a crew of two, a driver and navigator, each with generator and Tesla knowledge to deal with any Tesla quirks that cropped up,” Edwards tells The Driven.
The challenge with keeping the Model 3 charged under demanding race conditions was having enough top ups, he says.
“As the race car battery percentage goes down, the voltage also goes down, along with its acceleration performance,” says Edwards.
“The higher we can keep the race car battery the better times we can achieve. Ideally a top up at the start of each stage is performed. However, these areas are congested and the optic and maneuverability of a generator isn’t good.”
This is where the Kona Electric came in, as it could mobilise quickly when and where needed. However, that had its own logistical challenges, says Edwards.
“The problem becomes how to have the Kona at start of every stage and keep it charged up as well. So it becomes a complex logistics exercise when you look at the where, the when and the how long of charging requirements then overlay all the road closures.”
“During the rally we charged the Kona on both the 50kw and 20kw mobile units,” Edwards says, adding that some minor modifications were made to the Kona Electric to allow access to power from its 64kwh battery to then charge the Model 3 at a rate of 50kW.
Edwards says the most exciting part of this year’s win was the build up of weeks of planning, which were then executed to a tee – but also another win by an unmodified Model 3 with standard tyres that took out the City Sprints race with no racing experience whatsoever.
“Of course the race car beating everything in its class and 165 class as well was also exciting,” he says.
“But the best of all was Nigel, one of the charge crew entered his “out of showroom” Model 3 with road tyres and took out second on Sunday morning at the City Sprints. No previous competition experience, how awesome is that message about the Tesla Model 3?”
Edwards says the 130 class win, and the fact the Gemtek Model 3 beat the 165 class, is proof that next year, the Model 3 should probably be entered in the open class.
“It’s clear we need to move up to open category because the car has an unfair advantage in the 130 and 165 categories, mainly because it can get to either of those speeds in a few seconds, making it hard for the other competitors,” he say.
“So if we can muster up some sponsorship we will need to put in a roll cage and install a suspension kit and prepare the car for open next year. Stay tuned on that one.”
He thinks that competing in another state, such as Tasmania, may also be on the cards.
“We have flirted with the idea of making my charging equipment and crew available for another Targa Rally event, something like Targa Tasmania who plan running an EV category I think in 2021 or 2022 appeals. Of course there would be cost considerations, so it might be up to them if they are interested in securing our WA home grown experience,” he says.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.