Earlier in the month, the Australian Electric Vehicle Association held its national conference and expo in Canberra. As part of that, I got a chance to travel there and spend a few days in a Polestar 2.
The aim was to really see what it’s like doing a road trip in an EV and what the charging infrastructure is like between Sydney and Canberra.
Here are some things that I picked up after spending some time in this all-electric fastback.
Sydney to Canberra charging infrastructure is scarce
This year, the AEVA conference was a chance to learn from industry experts on all the things to look forward to as part of the EV revolution currently underway in Australia.
One of the main conference topics that kept coming up was the charging infrastructure needed to support current and future EV owners. Many of who are planning on taking their EVs outside of metropolitan areas. This could be heading to regional centres or between cities like I did on this trip.
As of August 2022, the DC fast or rapid charging sites between Sydney and Canberra are few. I tried one site along the way and picked up on a couple of things.
Charging speeds of 150+kW, ideal for road trips
The first charger that I stopped at on the way to Canberra from Sydney was the Goulburn one. Just to make sure, I checked the Plugshare website out to make sure other fellow EV drivers have had a successful charge.
It didn’t give me too much confidence as reports of broken screens and charger errors abounded in the recent comments. I took the leap of faith and arrived at 6 am for an early morning charge.
When I saw that all chargers seem to be operational, it was a bit of a relief so I plugged in and started charging. The lighting at the station was quite good and felt quite a safe spot to get a charge before the sun came up.
There was also a McDonalds restaurant around the corner so I walked over for a coffee and caught up on the morning news there. Very friendly staff there so worth a visit while charging in Goulburn!
I was glad that Polestar was able to get around 150kW of charge rate. This meant 30 minutes was enough to get it up to 80% and continue the trip. The 350kW chargers might be an overkill but in this case, they did the job to continue my journey towards Canberra.
EVs turn heads
After that charge and in just over an hour, I was at the AEVA expo around 7:30am so found a prime spot just at the entrance of the carpark. Lots of people got to see the black Polestar 2 as they drove into the conference and expo hall.
I knew they did because it was bought up many times during the conference by attendees, and a crowd gathered around the car during the conference breaks. They liked the subtleness of the car and the styling. Many had seen it for the first time and even Tesla owners were quite curious too.
One of The Driven readers who drives a Tesla asked me about it so we got in and went for a quick test drive around the carpark during the lunch break. He was quite impressed with the fit and finish of the interior too.
360-degree camera, handier than expected
While we are talking about the Polestar 2, I did find some of the features quite handy. The best of which was the 360-degree camera which was not only handy in shopping centre car parks but also while backing up at charge points.
Around the shopping centres and concrete columns in the underground car parks, the 360-degree would automatically come on if it was in close proximity to any structures or cars.
Backing up onto charge points like the newly opened AmpCharge Alexandria site, the 360 birdseye view made it easier to park and know how close I was to the charger.
This was quite a nice feature which I wished was in the most popular EV in Australia – the Tesla Model 3 – also.
More interstate and regional chargers needed
This trip also highlighted the scarcity of chargers that are currently available for EV owners travelling longer distances.
The Polestar 2 EV I drove has plenty of range with 440kms at 100% state of charge and could make it to Canberra. Then I would have had to find a charger that was close to the expo site where it would need to charge for a while given many inner-city chargers are 50kW units.
It would be much more convenient to have more charging stations along the route, like the Goulburn site with more stalls and live feeds on charger status.
Another option could be more dispensing stations like Tesla has at their sites. Rather than two 350kW units, have 4 dispensers capable of 150kW each. A slightly slower charge with more stalls will reduce charger anxiety. Many EV owners I spoke to at the conference, expo and at the charging stations are much happier with that option.
The most ideal spots would be at the existing Ampol, BP, Shell and other service station sites with good signage to and from chargers, amenities, lighting, staff that are trained on EV charging station operation and of course easy to use reliable charging stations.
With recent strategies and rollout plans from ACT & NSW governments in collaboration with charging network operators, this will change over the coming months and years.
Hopefully, the charger anxiety EV owners are starting to get here in Australia with increased uptake will reduce as more charging sites come online. The key will be the experience offered by the operators to EV owners of today and into the future. The more they listen to our needs, the better the whole experience will get for all of us.
EVs like the Polestar 2 are a joy to drive. With more affordable EVs also just around the corner, it’d be great to get the road trip charging experience that can be matched with the amazing clean transport technology that comes with the EVs for all Australians.
Riz is the founder of carloop based in Melbourne. He is a mechanical engineer who worked all around Australia building infrastructure for the first 7 years of his career before starting carloop. He has a passion for cars, particularly EVs and wants to help reduce transport emissions in Australia. He currently drives a red Tesla Model 3.