The practice of “ruining” a weekend, or an afternoon, or an entire week, is becoming a regular occurrence in the world of electric vehicles.
It means, of course, proving that electric vehicles won’t ruin a road-trip away from home, and can tow your boat, and your family, to your favourite weekend spot.
On a week-long getaway to Tasmania, I made the decision to hire a Tesla Model 3 while I was there. It was there that I “ruined” the first week of January.
The fact that I could hire an electric car at all to get around Tasmania is something of an achievement; as noted by RenewEconomy and The Driven editor Giles Parkinson, this was all but impossible less than 12 months ago.
But since then, there has been quite a lot of movement on EVs in Australia’s island state. At least one car hire company now has several Model 3s for hire, with plenty of interest and another few models on the way, I’m told.
There are also now more electric car share options, thanks to a reimbursement program introduced by the state government to encourage more driver-owners to make their EVs available for hire.
And there are more EV charging options also – more on that later.
I was expecting to drive some long distances, and with my 17-year-old offspring as my companion, I weighed up how much safer it would be hiring a Tesla with Autopilot since I would be the only one who could drive. I decided the extra cost of the EV was worth it given the strain that attention on windy roads can take.
To my great joy, I discovered that it would be possible to take a day trip to the most southerly place anyone can drive to in Australia, which is basically the end of the road as it says on the sign below. So that is exactly what we did.
Cockle Creek is a picture-perfect spot just near Recherche, 121km from Hobart. The area has a fascinating history from being one of the most southerly spots ever inhabited by humans (its original place name is leilleteah).
It also became known as a safe haven for continent-mapping French in 1792, and is the location from which a square-rigger tall ship known as the James Craig was retrieved before being restored (it is now an equally fascinating tenant of Darling Harbour in Sydney).
And, it is clearly a favoured weekend spot for many Tasmanians, and interstate visitors alike. My apologies to the family whose shack I parked next to when I took the above photo – I hadn’t realised I was parking in your private area.
The trip from Hobart to Cockle Creek is not exactly a long one, although it does involve about 20km of graded dirt roads. Starting out in the morning, we did the four-hour road trip and back, returning by late afternoon with 50% of the battery left over.
This was partly because the Long Range Model 3 that we hired was topped up to 540km overnight at our accommodation, thanks to the friendly staff who also kindly supplied a cable.
It was also made range-anxiety free thanks to a free fast charger at Geeveston. Honestly, we didn’t really need to stop there, as the A Better Route Planner (ABRP) app showed we’d still return with 38% state of charge, but we stopped anyway and were happy to soak up the tiny mountain town’s atmosphere.
The trip also shows how easy it would be if we had been towing a trailer full of stuff and the entire family to our favourite spot for the weekend, with a top-up halfway there and another on the way back.
Another day trip we took out of Hobart included out to the Tasman Arch at Eaglehawk Neck. The Long Range Model 3 got a chance, here, to show off its handling and suspension and, of course, the sound system which comes with the premium interior and consists of 14 speakers, one subwoofer, and two amps. It’s better than the Standard Range by a mile, to say the least.
Tassie got to show off, also, from its tall-tree forests to stunning coastlines and geology (hello Tessellated Pavement) dotted with convict history (at Eaglehawk this is the Dog Line, which existed at the narrow stretch of land halfway down the Tasman Peninsula to catch any convicts enterprising enough to escape Port Arthur).
Getting around Tasmania in an EV is much easier than a year ago also. Visitors arriving with Teslas on the Spirit of Tasmania can now top up once they get to Devonport at its new V3 Superchargers, and ultra-fast charging provider Evie has dotted its 350kW chargers in key spots. In addition, state funding is ensuring there are plenty of other charging options.
The longest trip we had planned to make during our stay – visiting friends in Tasmania’s northwest near Mole Creek – was not to be, after two of them tested positive for Covid after attending a music festival. But had we done it, there would have been no issue with range thanks to the Evie Networks ultra-fast charger at Campbell Town. ABRP shows a seven-minute charge there on the way back would have been all that was needed.
A quick rundown on our charging costs, for those that are thinking of doing a similar trip. Looking for accommodation that has electric vehicle charging is helpful because it means you can avoid having to use public chargers, except for longer trips.
Woolstore Apartments, for example, charged us $10 a night for a park and charging, and were kind enough to supply a cable. Parking was $10 a night anyway, so the charging was essentially free.
After we moved our accommodation to a place that did not include EV charging, we needed to use public chargers.
There are several options in Hobart, including several free AC chargers such as at Elizabeth St Pier and Hunter Street (you can find more on the Plugshare app), but as we were heading out of town and didn’t have time to wait we headed to the Dunn St carpark to use the 50kW charger. Beware, the charging is free but the parking is an exorbitant $20 an hour.
Trying to cut that in half I paid for 30 minutes, which ended up costing $15 anyway, and for that we got around 130km range added to the vehicle, which means that I paid around 12c/km. This works out to around 60c/kWh which is high for a 50kW charger but I suppose you’re paying for the convenience of being in town.
Geeveston, as I mentioned, was free and the only other charging we paid for was at Brighton, just outside of Hobart. This proved an excellent side trip as we had planned on heading out to the Unzoo wildlife park on the Peninsula but discovered another wonderful wildlife sanctuary – Bonorong – at which to get acquainted with Tassie Devils just 2km from the township.
The two chargers at Brighton marked the first time I’ve used the Evie Network. It was simple to download the app, add my credit card information and I was charging within a few minutes. Evie Networks is also on the higher side of charging prices at 60c/kWh but as it is an ultra-fast 350kW charger this is worth the cost.
The first charge added 55kWh in 42 minutes for a cost of $32.70, and the second added 40kWh in 34 minutes for $23.98.
All in all, we drove 1,257km during our seven stay, for a cost of $71.68 (excluding Woolstore parking). I saw fuel costs top $2/litre while there, so if we had driven an ICE car using an average 11.1 litres per 100km, we would have spent around $280 on fuel – a circa $210 saving.
It’s true that driving the Long Range Model 3, which has a starting price tag of $73,200, makes getting around that much easier. But even in an MG ZS EV, currently Australia’s cheapest EV at $44,900 drive away, ABRP shows that a round trip from Hobart to Devonport would be possible with just 14 minutes of charging at Campbell Town each way.
There is still work to be done, however, in Tasmania as well as around Australia. And with governments still ignoring some routes – the 700km stretch from Norsemen in WA to the South Austalia border, for example – it’s all shoulders to the grindstone.
In Tasmania, ABRP says a trip from Hobart to Strahan on the state’s wild west coast cannot be done using public chargers, nor can a trip to Bridport, a favourite northern retreat for locals.
That’s not say it’s not possible: as Giles Parkinson has proven before, and no doubt will again, true intrepid EV drivers will seek out power points wherever they can, and negotiate payment with home, hotel and business owners alike.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor 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.