At the end of every year, sailors often travel to regattas around the country to compete in various State and National titles.
Dinghy sailors typically tow their boats on trailers, something which has become more expensive with the rise in petrol and diesel costs.
To see if there was a lower carbon and lower cost way to travel, we loaded our Tesla Model 3 to the gills with the full family of four, all necessary sailing equipment and two mountain bikes, hooked on the trailer and boat and set off on an extended road trip to Tasmania to compete in the NS14 national titles being sailed on the Tamar River.
The NS14 class is a two-handed boat often sailed by family crews and the boat and trailer together weigh approximately 300kg and the mast is approximately 5.5m long (longer than the Tesla itself!). The Tesla used was a 2021 SR+ Model 3 featuring an LFP battery pack of 55kwhr capacity and about 20,000km on the odometer.
In preparation for the trip the A Better Route Planner app was used to map out a plan for charging. The app allows users to adjust the anticipated energy consumption from the default for each vehicle model and so based on some initial testing a figure of 240Wh/km was used to plan out the stops required to get to Melbourne.
Journey began in holiday peak
To reduce energy consumption as much as possible an aerodynamic fairing was added to the boat and all extraneous equipment was removed from the outside. The journey was started on December 30 – right at the peak of holiday travel and with more EVs on the road in Australia than ever before.
In an anti-climax, the drive itself was quite straightforward. The ample power of the Tesla could easily tow the trailer and the Autopilot made driving a pretty relaxed affair. The estimated consumption was about right but sometimes didn’t sufficiently account for changes in elevation which could have a big impact on effective range.
Distances driven between charges ranged between 150-200km depending on conditions. The result was about 25 mins of charging every two hours of driving. Arriving at a charging location towing the boat generated quite a bit of interest from other EV owners with quite a few questions and encouraging discussions occurring during the trip.
The only real inconvenience was needing to decouple the boat at every charging stop as rear-to-kerb charging is the most common arrangement. By the end of the trip we had developed a formula one pit-stop efficiency to this task that meant it only added a few minutes to each stop.
In the main the Tesla charging network was used due to its expansive coverage and high reliability. Other charging networks were used when available but their lower reliability was a cause for concern with many charging sites being partially or completely out of service.
Low reliability of chargers is a concern
In fact the low reliability of non-Tesla charging points was probably the main anxiety inducing component of the trip as it introduced more checks that had to be completed at each planned charging stop to make sure that we would be able to charge.
We did experience some charging congestion but only had to queue for charging once at the Gundagai Tesla chargers and then only for 10 minutes until a charge bay opened up.
There were no issues taking the EV onboard the Spirit of Tasmania. The Devonport terminal has the only Tesla supercharger in Tasmania located right next door giving us a full battery to use to reach our regatta venue.
Once the destination was reached charging was done using the car’s portable charger with the agreement of each of the accommodation providers who often remarked that this was the first time they’d had to consider EV charging at their properties. This is something all holiday accommodation providers should start considering.
For good measure the homeward road trip was extended with some sight-seeing on the Great Ocean Road on return to the mainland. This road isn’t well served by fast charging infrastructure but through the use of the car’s portable charger enough charge could be completed each night to support each day’s travel and the EV was perfect for the windy road along the coast.
All-up the trip covered 3200km and consumed at total of 630kwhrs for an average of 19.7kwhr/100km – an impressive result given the load in and behind the car. With a mix of fast (expensive) and slow (cheap, sometimes free) charging, the average cost worked out at about 40c/kwhr .
Half the cost of fossil fuels
This gives an average cost of $7.90/100km which if we compare to a modern diesel using 8L/100km towing which would roughly equate to $16/100km. In this case the EV was about ½ the cost of the fossil fuel equivalent. A worthwhile reduction given the distance travelled.
Our goal in undertaking the trip in an EV was to test our current car to see if it was viable to put these kinds of demands on it.
Have EV’s killed the great summer road trip? – absolutely not! Not only can an EV make an extensive road trip at the busiest time of year with the extra load of a trailer but it is also cheaper and requires relatively little compromise in terms of timing.
Modern EVs are here and they are ready to deliver an excellent transport experience. With further technological advances and growth in the fast charging network these long trips will become easier and able to cover more and more parts of the country.
And of the regatta? In our first big regatta sailing together my daughter and I posted good enough results to achieve a podium (just) finish against competitors from around the country. Judging by some of the interest shown there’s a chance we won’t be the only EV to turn up at future events.