With so few public charging stations available (at the moment), some careful planning is required before travelling to distant locations in an EV.
Unlike petrol stations, charging stations are relatively few and far between. When you do find one, there are usually only one or two charging outlets, and these may already be occupied when you arrive.
You need to be aware of the range of your vehicle per charge – the real range, not the ADR or WLTP test range!
If you know the capacity of your battery (kWh) and the vehicle’s rate of energy consumption (kWh per 100 km), you will be able to do a quick calculation to estimate the range of your vehicle per charge. So (using nice round numbers) if your battery has a capacity of 60 kWh, and you are consuming 20 kWh per 100 kms, you will have a theoretical total range of 300 kms.
If your EV has a theoretical range of 300 kms, allow 250 kms for a recharge. You don’t want to run it down to under 10% charge.
- Most EVs include a constantly updated estimated range as part of the dashboard display. This estimated range adjusts itself when heaters or air conditioning is being used or regenerative braking returns current to the battery.
If stopping to recharge you will also need to allow for the recharge time (30 – 45 minutes) plus waiting time if the chargers are busy.
We are also finding that some chargers where we planned to stop may be damaged or faulty. (Would this happen with petrol bowsers?)
Be prepared. Don’t leave it to the last minute (or kWh)!
Create an account with each charging network provider – Chargefox, Evie, BP Pulse, AmpCharge, Tesla, or any other commercial chargers you might be using. This account will have to be setup with a credit or debit card for payment, prior to using the charger. (Do it now!)
Use the provider’s app to identify the charger location (QR code or ID number), start/stop the charging process, and make your payment.
You may also be able to link your motoring organisation membership to a commercial provider for a discount rate. (eg NRMA > Chargefox).
- Note: Some of the above providers do allow for ‘guest’ access, with credit card swiping before commencing charging.
Be prepared with apps on your phone to find your nearest charging station:
Plan a trip with ABRP (A Better Route Planner):
Some of the commercial charging networks also provide access to their chargers with an RFID card. These are useful when no mobile phone access is available (underground car parks, etc). Check the network website to order a card, and leave the card in your car.
You may also need an app to access the services of for your motoring organisation.
A New Routine
It took us a while to get our heads around the realities of EV ownership.
Initial thoughts…. EVs require a different way of thinking about car use. You can’t just drive everywhere all week, duck in and fill up when the fuel gauge is low, then drive on again until the tank is nearly empty. Where are you going to ‘fill up’? How long is it going take? Will a charger be available when you arrive?
EVs with smaller batteries are currently more suited for use as a ‘second car’, for around-town transport. (An expensive second car!)
We live in a regional coastal area in NSW, where there is plenty of 100 km highway driving between towns – and that sort of travel consumes battery capacity at a slightly greater rate than low speed driving.
For us, the realistic day-to-day charging option is plugging into our home electricity supply every night if required. Our home electricity supply, even in the day, is cheaper than that available from commercial charging stations. Between 12:00am and 6:00am we are charged 8c/kWh, under an EV plan with AGL.
We have installed a 7kW AC wall connector to provide a faster charge than the vehicle’s portable charger (2kW). Our battery has a capacity of 44kWh, and we can restore 7kWh per hour for 6 hours – 42kWh, almost a full charge.
Commercial DC charging stations provide a much quicker recharge time. We can use these stations when we need a charge while we are on the road, or maybe parked at a shopping centre with an available fast charger. But the cost is about four times our overnight home charging cost.
So, let’s get this all in perspective ….. I remember switching from an analogue mobile phone to a digital mobile phone, and getting used to recharging the phone every night, rather than every week. Then it was a laptop computer being recharged every day, then an iPad, then a watch, then power tools, and more recently a bike, a lawnmower and other garden tools.
We are now very much into the routine of charging these devices every night, or whenever they aren’t being used – and keeping an eye open for power outlets at airports, hospitals and other public areas when running low on charge!
Now we just need to adjust our regular car routine in the same way ….. no more filling up once a week at the servo – we have now added one more item (a car) to the ‘Plug-in Every Night’ list, and will be keeping an eye out for public charging opportunities when required!
We have discovered that the single biggest impediment to EV take-up (apart from the upfront cost) is commercial public charging infrastructure. A good home charger is important, but that only covers us for travel within, say, 100 km of home (200 km return journey). Maybe 200 kms (400 km return) if you have a large battery (80 kWh). For any long distance travel we need charging infrastructure at the same level as we currently have with regular fuel stations – with probably more chargers at each station than we currently have bowsers.