22 November 2021

I lived with an EV for a weekend and it was ... stressful

| James Coleman
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EV charging

The Porsche Taycan 4S charging in the carport, thanks to many extension leads. Photo: James Coleman.

The lifting of lockdown in the ACT has seen barbers and hairdressers inundated with work for weeks as thousands seek to tame their manes.

Things on my head, for one, are so desperate that when working outside, my face mask doubles as a sort of bandana to prevent the wind picking up the strands of hair and whipping my eyeballs with it.

But finally, the day arrived. I would be seeing a barber in Civic. Order will be restored. I will see again!

Yes, this would mean parking at the Canberra Centre, on a Saturday, when the LEGO store was opening for the first time. It would be bedlam.

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But I wasn’t phased at all because Porsche Centre Canberra had loaned me their new Taycan for the weekend, the brand’s first fully electric sports car. There’ll be a full review next weekend, but for now, this is about the EV ownership experience and I thought it would be a breeze. After all, there are plenty of dedicated EV charging spots in the Canberra Centre car park.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

Having negotiated the stupidly tight entrance with five metres of very expensive metal, I found that all six EV charging stations were taken. Instead, I was left to fight over the normal spots along with literally every other Canberran.

I missed my appointment, and my hair is still in my eyes.

The generic charging stations are supplied by Jet Charge

Charging points in an underground car park. Image: Thomas Lucraft.

This is absolutely a First World Problem. But I am in an EV – a Porsche EV, no less – so there are only First World Problems.

This particular set of free and publicly available chargers comprises four Tesla Superchargers and two for everything else. After what felt like an eternity negotiating more stupidly tight turns and accidentally going against arrows, I resorted to dumping the Porsche in a Tesla spot. Maybe it’ll still work.

Nope, that would be too simple. Because Teslas are American and therefore different for the sake of it, the little light at the charging port refused to blink no matter how many contortions I pulled with my tongue while trying to plug the charging socket in.

It gets even worse.

So naive was I that I had saved this moment as the time I would charge up the batteries. I would go about my haircutting business and come back to a car at 100 per cent. At least that’s how it goes in all the ads.

To be honest, the situation wasn’t all that dire. The Porsche reckoned it still had about 180 km on it, but I was worried. It was Saturday morning and I had this car on test until Monday. I did not want it to run out in that time because I had no idea how I would charge it at home.

Charging port

Not quite as simple as a petrol flap. Photo: James Coleman.

There’s an assumption out there that everyone has a five-bedroom house with a garage and a yard. Easy – charge the EV overnight in the garage. Well, I live in a top-floor apartment, and not even Bunnings sells an extension cord long enough to stretch from behind the drinks trolley in my lounge room to the carport below.

This meant I had to ask Clement, the downstairs neighbour, power cord in hand and long-haired head hanging, for his precious electrons. Fortunately, we have already brokered a deal whereby I pay him a packet of cigarettes a month to use his carport, so this was a simple extension on that.

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But there it was, my $225,000 Porsche sitting in a carport, an extension lead running out of its side, across the driveway and underneath a screen door. It was undignified to say the least.

Thank you, Clement. I know that you had to contend with metres of power cord draped over your decor and that whenever you tried to make a coffee, the fuse blew. But what a small price to pay for saving the planet. Somehow.

It certainly paid off, too, because come morning, the battery percentage had risen from 34 per cent to 63.


The very handsome Porsche Taycan 4S, and a very long way in the distance, some windmills. Photo: James Coleman.

I should clarify that none of this is the car’s fault. The Porsche Taycan is a phenomenal machine. This rests entirely on human error.

If I owned the car, I no doubt would have fine-tuned some sort of system so that this predicament would not unfold in the first place. Not to mention that if I had a Porsche, I would also have a very big garage, with a proper, faster-charging setup installed.

But until there are more public charging stations out there, this will happen. Six in Canberra’s biggest shopping mall is nothing in the grand scheme of things, and as EVs become more and more popular, there will be many more like me, flustered and missing their haircuts.

Governments can’t begin to think about ramming EVs down while there are still shortcomings with the infrastructure.

I have no doubt we will get there. Technology marches on, and more charging stations are going up as I type. But for the moment, I am going to my rescheduled appointment this afternoon in my V6 Verada.

Check back next weekend for the review of the Porsche Taycan 4S.

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There are at least 3 types of electric vehicles, Hybrids, PHEVs and BEVs.

If you want zero CO2 for the daily commute AND zero range anxiety get a PHEV.

Anything else is going to spew out CO2 (although Hybrids do spew out half the CO2 of ICE only vehicles) or have EV charging issues.

No need to complain about BEVs when there are smarter PHEV alternatives that will also reduce your CO2 output to zero – for 50 weeks of the year.

That last 2 weeks? You’re just a Hybrid with unrestricted range to visit friends or family interstate.

We own a 2015 model year Subaru Forester 2.5L. we bought it ~? April 2016 an ex exec. car. With SFA Kms on it. But it WAS a bargain!!!!

It has less than 50k kms on it. Despite two trips to Toowoomba and back. We are both in our 70s. We are most unlikely to sell it or replace it, ever!

OTOH we’ve had the maximum possible PV panels on our roof for a long while. the house is very well insulated – even the floor has foam under laminate over the T&G timber.
The ceiling fibre-glass has been added to 3 times (4 layers). the most recent was over 7 years ago. Walls are fully insulated with rock-wool fibre. The floors are typical 70s T&G with fibre nailed on from underneath. Plus laminated flooring over that with plastic cellular foam under that.
We bought the house in 81 because of its ideal alignment. it’s just 14.9 squares inside. Just enough for 2 adults and 2 sons.
The house runs due east-west and is on the North side of our Cul-de-Sac.

There’s a long and deep deck (>10 ms) along the Nth side of the house – clear-roofed – and with 91% shade cloth (2 X 70%) clipped under it. The East and NE side has 70% shade cloth down to waist height. The West side is 70% shade cloth down to the deck’s paved floor.

There are two deciduous trees, close to, on the Nth side. Plus 80 cm of fibre-cement lattice running along under the Nth facing side of the deck.

Some of us got it a good 3-4 decades ago!

Stephen Winter9:44 am 15 Nov 21

And to think, even if the shopping centre has solar on the roof these chargers would of been burning fossil fuels because of the lack of sun and high winds which prevent turbines from operating over the weekend.
But hey a future where we live in pre industrial times will be good for our health, very dark tho

I find it astounding that people can see how the world has progressed and overcome far more insurmountable problems over the past few centuries then those associated with a transitions to a renewable dominated grid, yet somehow this is a ‘mountain’ that will never be overcome and we will all be left in the ‘dark’.

It is the most enormous straw man.

I’d like to see you try telling that to the millions of Europeans who are currently anticipating shivering through a cold winter without enough electricity to run their heaters.

Lucky then that many Europeans have natural gas boilers for their central heating.

My point being Tim was not that there are not intermittent issues to be overcome. But that there is zero reason at all to suggest they won’t be overcome – you read comments from some and it is like they are such insurmountable issues that they can’t be solved.

Hint – they can and they will be.

Capital Retro11:13 am 16 Nov 21

Where does their natural gas from, JC?

So you basically are unhappy because your completely unprepared for having an EV, and therefore find an EV hard to effectively use because you did zero planning….

Capital Retro7:19 am 15 Nov 21

Hawkshead West, in “those days” there were adequate petrol stations however their operating hours were strictly limited so indeed if you wanted to go somewhere at night or at weekends you had to plan carefully and usually this meant carrying spare petrol.

Please note that petrol can be stored in your house for the cost of a can and the contents but electricity can’t be simply poured into a container. You also can’t keep a spare battery for your EV and if you did they are not readily transported around in your boot nor are they “plug and play”.

Electricity can be poured into a container … a container we normally call ‘a battery’.

Capital Retro9:53 pm 15 Nov 21

When you are talking about electricity a battery is a pump, not a container.

That is not correct Capital Retro – a battery is a container as it is “refillable” in this instance…. Let me enlighten you with the definition: “an object for holding or transporting something” – elecrticity is a physical substance (as per physics 101), hence a “something” in this instance.

Capital Retro11:08 am 16 Nov 21

Their are many people in Canberra with Honours Degrees in Hair Splitting which up to a point is entertaining. They always start the patronising dialogue with “I’ll enlighten you…..”

I did say “electricity cannot be poured into a container” reflecting that it isn’t in liquid form but you have other ideas.

Well, I’ll raise your claim with another and that is “a battery acts as a charge pump in a circuit, moving charge between terminals so as to supply an electric potential difference across the two ends of a circuit.”

Your move, sparky.

You are very good at Googling…. I applaud your efforts… but that is where it ends unfortunately…. your comments throughout this media forum are hilarious! Keep up the immusing work please…..

A container “contains”…. that is pretty simple, even for you to understand I feel….

Your move, Googler…..

Capital Retro1:28 pm 16 Nov 21

Of course I Googled that info.

At first I tried to Google a video of electricity being poured into a container which was the claim of DJA but nothing came up so I chose the simplest description of how battery is used as a pump for the benefit of all readers and also deniers like you.


Capital Retro,
Unfortunately your googling has failed you again because a battery can only act as a “pump” as you claim when connected to a circuit to realise the potential difference.

A battery by itself however cannot act as a pump, it’s just an energy storage device, the same as your claimed petrol container.

Capital Retro3:42 pm 16 Nov 21

So how do I pour electricity into it and at what temperatures should it be at? Do I have to have a metal or plastic funnel?

Well said Chewy. RC. Checkmate on last game, set and match.

I don’t believe they would have lent him a car that wasn’t charged or not given him charging info. Trying to create drama

Capital Retro4:07 pm 14 Nov 21

Adele Craven, the Australia Insititute claims $10.3 billion in subsidies was given to the “fossil fuel industry” this year but exact details of how this was made up are hard to find.

Part of the that amount is claimed to be the diesel fuel rebate which is collected at the retail point of sale and less than half of the total of some $7.8 billion was claimed as tax credits by the “fossil fuel industries”.

It is disingenuous at best and fraudulent at worst to claim this is a “subsidy” because it applies to all industries across the board. That would also include owners of certain vehicles utilised in the construction of part-time renewable electricity generators AKA solar and wind farms.

Yeh real hard to find….type Australia Institute fossil fuel subsidies into google, click on the very first link and you’ll find this there: https://australiainstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/P1021-Fossil-fuel-subsidies-2020-21-Web.pdf

You must have tried real hard not to find that.

Stephen Winter9:34 am 15 Nov 21

Capital Retro, if you don’t know the exact details where did you pluck that figure out?
And to be saying words like fuel industry and fraudulent in the same sentence without having any solid evidence I hope you’ve got a good lawyer

Capital Retro10:25 am 15 Nov 21

The inference made is that the “fossil fuel industry” is the only group receiving that tax credit. It isn’t a subsidy.

Those figures are available but on the AI’s website but the others are not detailed.

Capital Retro10:30 am 15 Nov 21

I said hard to find, not real hard to find.

Perhaps you could also supply a link that gives full details of subsidies and the like given to the part-time renewables industry?

I link to this document – not because of its context or its broader analysis, but because it contains a fairly straightforward definition of ‘consumer subsidies’ (what is being talked about in this case) that can be applied widely (https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/28111/FossilFuel.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y) Page 6

This is how it is defined in terms of fossil fuel industries in the report:
“Consumer subsidies typically lower the price of fossil fuels for the private sector, the public sector or households below what they would be if all financial costs and the value
of energy commodities were reflected in the price. “

Replace “fossil fuels” with ‘a good or service’, and replace ‘energy commodities’ with something like ‘production inputs’ and you get:

“Consumer subsidies typically lower the price of a good or service for the private sector, the public sector or households below what they would be if all financial costs and the value of production inputs were reflected in the price. “

I think in broad terms most would agree that’s a pretty reasonable definition of consumer subsidies (noting the broader question of negative externalities – but lets not go there for now). I think it is hard to sustain an argument the fuel tax rebate is not a form of implicit subsidy ( – because it does lower the cost of the good/service to the users who can receive it .(i.e. businesses) vs those who can’t (Private users)

The inference suggested is just white noise. A subsidy does not need to be industry specific to be a subsidy – indeed subsidies can be economy wide, or apply to a large range of industries. Doesn’t change the implicit basis of what is or isn’t a subsidy.

Capital Retro1:50 pm 15 Nov 21

I like your sense of humour, “a good lawyer”, ha ha.

Capital Retro5:18 pm 15 Nov 21

Thanks (sincerely) for that JS9. Your “white noise” analogy is perfect.

It has become fashionable also for the opponents of the fossil fuel industries to assign actual dollar values to carbon footprints they perceive are created by the industries referred to and call them subsidies too.

That is drawing a very long bow.

“It has become fashionable also for the opponents of the fossil fuel industries to assign actual dollar values to carbon footprints they perceive are created by the industries referred to and call them subsidies too.”

Which is exactly what isn’t happening in the case of that fuel tax credit. All it needs is recognition that it is a subsidy for other sectors too, as you suggest – but that still doesn’t mean it isn’t a subsidy for the fossil fuel industry.

A Nonny Mouse2:15 pm 14 Nov 21

Hmm. Why was the author worried with 180km of range remaining and only local driving to do? Why not use the DC fast charger on London Circuit, instead? It charges faster than the ones in the Canberra Centre.
Did nobody show him Plugshare.com, which would have shown all the local chargers? Did he not do his research?
There is no Tesla ‘Supercharger’ in the Canberra Centre. ‘Supercharger’ is Tesla’s term for their fast DC charger, currently limited to Teslas. The Canberra Centre has two Tesla ‘destination chargers’, their term for a slower AC charging outlet. Tesla ‘destination chargers’ often work with non-Teslas (depends on an internal setting) and these particular ones do work with non-Teslas and should have worked with the Porsche. They are sometimes just a bit slow to get started on a non-Tesla.
Why do journos write articles about the problems they encountered when trying something new without having done even the most basic research first? I’d be embarrassed!
In contrast, I had no difficulties doing trips in my electric car to Bermagui last week and to Orange this week. Charging was straightforward and uneventful. When one charger I hoped to use was occupied, I used a different one that I already knew about.

Hardly a whinge when it’s a fact

It’s like me whinging that KFC doesn’t sell Coke. That too is a fact, but it’s a fairly pointless one.

The issue with this story is the writer was evidently unprepared and ignorant of EV ownership. There are many other chargers he could have used. The drama of him missing his appointment while he tried charging the Porsche at a Tesla destination charger is user error.

James, can you do a followup article on compatibility between various EV models and charging stations. For example, older EVs have a Type 1 charge plug, and newer EVs use Type 2. What types of adaption plugs and boxes are required to charge non Tesla EVs from Tesla chargers? Are chargers and leads compatible between US and Chinese EVs, as they both use Type 2 plugs but appear to be wired differently? What types of adaptors and cables should EV drivers carry in their boot so they can get a charge at any charge station? Can you pay with a credit card, or only with a smartphone and specific application? Can you get a charge if your phone is lost, flat or broken?

Why would the dealer loan you a EV already with low charge? That is a fail. Probably not that keen on selling the electric version?

Capital Retro6:13 pm 13 Nov 21

From an insurance company study in Europe:

The development of EVs is likely to be a bumpy ride, with some notable obstacles in the road ahead, not least being the surge in demand for power that an all-electric market will bring. Electricity demand to serve EVs is projected to reach almost 640 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2030, more than a ten-fold increase compared to 2018 levels and equivalent to the combined final electricity consumption of France and Spain in 2016. Demand almost doubles again (to 1,110 TWh) where EVs account for 30% of vehicles [8].

Electric cars will also require huge changes in power infrastructure to deliver high voltage charging points into homes and public spaces. Manufacturers will need to balance growing demand and government policy against their ability to ramp up production and create sustainable supply chains for the future. Environmental challenges also lay ahead, from recycling of batteries to the responsible sourcing of raw materials.

This is such a lame excuse. person buys car as per their requirements as per their convenience. if i live in out back, i wont buy sedan., but wouldn’t expect sedan to become 4 wheel drive.
you can still get chargers installed in apartments, but if not possible then there are other greener options, hybrid ets. There are other things in apartments you can do. Apartment people also can install solar and also can not park trucks.
EVs are great initiative and infrastructure is developing rapidly, we should support. its one of the fastest change happening around the world.

Thank you for this honest and thoughtful review. The same problems have been reported by other EV reviewers, but glossed over by EV sellers and blinkered Greens supporters. Nobody wants to be stranded far from home in an EV, or spend hours recharging the thing. Only by honestly admitting there are serious practical problems with EV ownership can we gradually devise workable solutions. However, currently (pun intended)EV ownership is a premature proposition for the vast majority of drivers, particularly drivers with families.

What if any of the problems are influenced by household composition?

Just pissing into the wind comments like that, hoping it’ll stick lol.

If you have nothing sensible to contribute then your best contribution would be silence. Family composition does influence choice of vehicle because kids require space and power for trips to the beach as well as unplanned trips to sporting events, friends and doctors. The overnight recharging requirements of an EV are impractical. I suggest you think beyond your own immediate needs before advocating your preferred mode of transport for everyone else.

James, I’ve had a EV for 3 1/2 years and I’ve never experienced the issues you describe. I’ve driven around Canberra most of the time but have driven as far as Orange, Albury, Newcastle, Sydney, etc without the stress you seem to have experienced.
Yes, there is a big issue with apartments and getting chargers installed but there should have been a standard powerpoint in or near your carpark that you could have asked the EC for permission to use.
Driving an EV IS a different experience but, once you learn to do without petrol, it’s a freedom you won’t give up easily.

Scott Anthony10:42 am 13 Nov 21

As an engineer i like EVs, they won’t save the plane because they are mineral and energy intensive to manufacture and recycle but they won’t pollute the air I breathe.. however the biggest problem isn’t just an extension cord but the fact that most houses, suburbs and cities can’t supply anywhere near enough power for a large fleet of power hungry vehicles.. and that’s after you totally rewire the electricity grid and find massive amounts of clean energy. Apartments are made to ‘file’ humans in battery hen style cages, certainly not to supply ‘refueling’ for 30 to 100 cars at a time.. those that can, will suffer from the dangers that such high electricity demand brings.. fire..! We’ve many engineering and infrastructure challenges to overcome before the fleet can replace more than just a few percent of the current petrol / diesel fleet..

Scott not sure why you start every post with as an ex engineer, it does t make your opinion sound any more credible.

Me personally as an electrical engineer I disagree with the sentiment that the grid is not capable of charging electric vehicles. The grid is actually more than capable especially when one considers the bulk of charging would be slow charge overnight, a time when a non engineer would realise is off peak as demand
Is less. And during the day, well one problem with the grid is too much solar from homes. The perfect way to use that electricity without destabilising the grid would be to charge an electric vehicle or to store that energy in a battery to charge when said vehicle returns home.

I truly worry about our engineering stocks if Scott was representative. Apparently every problem is insurmountable.

EVs whilst creating a challenge for the electricity grid also offer massive opportunities as you say to balance the demands on the network and make it more efficient.

electricvehiclescanberra9:21 am 13 Nov 21

James, I’m sure that drivers at the turn of last century would have experienced similar issues with combustion engine cars.
Fortunately today there are many resources such as the Australian Electric Vehicle Association, plug share and my own business Electric Vehicles Canberra to assist.
Happy to chat and help navigate the brave new world of EVs.
I’m also a little jealous that you got to drive the Porsche!

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