We’d had enough of the intermittent lockdowns in Queensland and being stuck at home, so we planned a 3,000km electric driving adventure in Tess, our Tesla Model 3 standard range plus.
Our main concern was, of course, charging. We mapped out a route from Brisbane to Winton (1,357km) using a Tesla Supercharger (Gympie) and looking at QESH charging options at Childers, Gin Gin, Miriam Vale, Mt Larcom).
Then, as we went inland, we found motels that had destination chargers (Rockhampton’s Best Western Stirling, Emerald’s Midlander Comfort Inn, Barcaldine’s Country Motor Inn ) and a holiday unit that could trickle charge in Winton (Banjo’s).
We filled in the gaps with 15 amp power points at a hotel/motel in Alpha, caravan parks in Longreach and Dingo and an Information centre at Duaringa.
Let’s deal with the issues first. We found that the range predictor was consistently over-optimistic (a bit like Elon’s timelines) particularly between Winton and Barcaldine on the way back, as we battled a 40 km/h headwind. Once we left the coast we consistently arrived at our destinations with the battery in the red.
We found the Queensland Electric Super Highway charging network hard to use. Some of the instructions were vague and in areas of poor internet it didn’t work at all. However, the phone support was excellent. We called upon it 3 times and they were able to turn on the charger remotely.
I am often asked, “where do you charge it?” Because I have mainly driven in Brisbane in the two years we have owned the car, I have flippantly said “in any powerpoint.”
I freely admit now that I was wrong. A lot depends on how much time you have and where you are. Having said that, it is easy to occupy a few hours while you are getting a top-up at a country caravan park – walk into town and see the sights.
The car was very good at warning us when would not reach the destination typed into navigation – for example Winton to Barcaldine is only 286 km and we set out with a range of 350 km.
However, halfway to Longreach we got the yellow triangle of death warning and had to ring around the caravan parks till we found a generous manager. We had a great time in Longreach chatting to locals and eating lunch at the Merino Bakery (say “Hi” from us when you pop in).
One of my aims was to have conversations along the way about electric cars. I was amazed that most questions were from genuinely curious people and there was a distinct absence of FUD.
I gave people my business card and told them I was going to write the trip up. Hopefully this will be good publicity for the businesses we stayed at. We were also able to take some folk for a drive – they were impressed to say the least. Most had heard of Tesla, but once we left the coast, very few locals had seen one.
Autopilot was made for the long straight roads heading west – Tess was a joy to drive. The instant torque made it easy to overtake when we needed to. I used to drive a mini minor in the 80’s and Tess reminds me of that experience in the way she hugs the roads and takes the corners.
In all, I spent $40 on electricity to travel 3000 km (the accommodation did not charge us extra for using the destination chargers). Quite a difference to the almost $1000 it would have cost in my Sonata V6.
Within the next two years there will be QESH chargers installed in Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine, Emerald and Dingo this should take care of any range anxiety, and shorten the time taken for the trip (though it was great to have an excuse to wander through little towns, chat and eat).
I would encourage EV owners to make the effort and get out of the cities; the country folk are curious and hospitable. And there are lots to see – Dinosaurs, opals and sapphires were the highlight of our trip.
David Waterworth is a researcher and writer, a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He owns 50 shares of Tesla. Majella Waterworth is an amateur gemologist and a wonderful grandmother.