16 July 2022

Let’s get real: how easy is it to drive an EV from Canberra to Sydney?

| James Coleman
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Driving an EV from Canberra to Sydney. Photo: Stephen Ning.

A social media commentator has revealed what it’s like to drive an electric vehicle from Canberra to Sydney and it wasn’t plain sailing.

Cameron Sutherland is the resident car expert for ProductReview.com.au, going by the handle @ProductReviewCars on TikTok. He shared a video in early June about what started as a simple road trip between the cities in the $71,900 Hyundai IONIQ 5.

“The car itself is a great road trip vehicle – it’s super spacious, great seats, great speakers and has a cool big sunroof,” Cameron said in the video, which gathered more than 190,000 views within four days.

READ ALSO Not driving an EV yet? A government inquiry wants to know why

The IONIQ 5 has an estimated range of 450 km and can make the trip to Canberra on a single charge, but he decided to top up the battery in Goulburn so he could tour the city on arrival. Goulburn has eight charging bays equipped with Tesla superchargers and three Chargefox bays for other electric cars.

On arrival, the only available NRMA Chargefox charger informed him the “station had faulted” and had not been fixed since the beginning of the year. Cameron was forced to wait for another port to become available.

He arrived in Canberra with an estimated 70 km of range remaining, so the hunt was on again.

“Finally we found a free charger (in an IKEA car park) in what felt like a really long time but it was super slow,” Cameron said.

Charging from 20 to 90 per cent cost between $25 and $30 each time, while searching for chargers added two-and-a-half hours to the round trip.

“Knowing that there were plenty of chargers to choose from, I was hoping for a seamless experience, however I encountered the downfalls of early EV adoption here in Australia,” he wrote in the subsequent review.

“The issue was never the location of the chargers, but the availability and whether or not these chargers actually were functioning.”

Cameron has previously completed the journey in a Tesla Model 3, “with minimal issues thanks to the supercharging network that only Teslas can use”.

Tesla charging in Goulburn

Tesla superchargers don’t suit other EVs. Photo: Stephen Ning.

Since Cameron’s video and article, the NSW Government has announced the rollout of third-party chargers for around $38 million, described as the “biggest EV plan in Australia”. This will fund 500 more kerbside chargers, 250 apartment building chargers, and more fast-charging grants. The ACT Government is also funding 50 publicly accessible EV chargers this year, with grant funding underway.

For Matthew Driver, a local Tesla owner, “writing an article about driving to Sydney is like writing about nothing”.

“For us, it’s been terrific.”

Matthew drives between the cities at least twice a year in his 2020 Model 3 Standard Range Plus. He says the only inconvenience was at Sydney’s Broadway superchargers.

READ ALSO Isn’t it IONIQ? Getting lost in Canberra’s ‘Garden City’ a joy in new electric Hyundai

“When we arrived one day, it was full and we had to wait five minutes. Sydney’s superchargers can be in demand during peak times and there can be lines. But it’s about how often it really happens. You see these stories about some problem, but it’s a one-off.”

He says the public charging network will continue to improve as the Albanese Government prepares to roll out its $39.3 million national charging network, which will see charging stations at an average interval of 150 km on major roads.

“It’s going to be a continual race between the number of cars and the number of chargers for many years to come, because the number of EVs coming on the road is really ramping up. There is going to need to be more and more chargers built. It could be a 15-year project.”

There were 2010 battery electric vehicles registered in the ACT as of 1 June, 2022. The best seller is the Tesla Model 3, followed by the Hyundai Kona Electric and Hyundai IONIQ.

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I make this trip every weekend in my 2020 Tesla Model 3 SR+. On Friday nights if the Evie app says Sutton Forest works, I’ll top up there and then do 4-5 hours of Uber in the highlands & Wollongong, charge again at Fairy Meadow (weird adapter required & takes an hour, but I signed up to the gym two buildings away, a great way to kill time if I don’t feel the need for a nap), then do a few more hours of Uber, and press on to Sydney. Do some errands, sleep the rest of the day, then a similar routine in reverse late Saturday night on the way back. Charging at Goulburn works too, but Sutton Forest is so much more convenient.

A Nonny Mouse12:08 pm 19 Jul 22

Yet another media article about the trials and tribulations of someone driving an EV for the first time without adequate research or briefing who runs into trouble. Imagine driving a petrol car for the first time without knowing about how to find or operate a petrol pump!
I have a 2019 Hyundai Kona EV. Driving to Sydney or the coast or up to the mountains or wherever is simple. A quick check on PlugShare is all that is required to find where there are chargers, whether fast DC charging on highway routes or hotels offering slower overnight AC charging. A powered campsite also provides charging. Many trips don’t need anything along the way as they are <400km – just leave home fully charged and recharge at the destination, often just using an ordinary power point and a portable charge cord.

Imagine driving a petrol car and finding that most of the fuel hoses don’t fit your vehicle…

Probably easy to drive from Sydney to Canberra, but what if you have to go somewhere half way down in an emergency?

EVs are virtue signalling toys

Do you mean half way down to Sydney in an emergency, stevew77? If so the EV driver probably turns around and comes back. No virtue signalling needed – just common sense.

There’s ActewAGL-owned fast chargers at the Airport, City and Tuggeranong (and Murrumbateman, but not relevant for this trip). Evie has an ultrafast site planned for BP Kingston.

A Nonny Mouse9:55 pm 19 Jul 22

And between here and Sydney: Mittagong, Picton, Goulburn, Sutton Forest all have fast DC charging, not to mention some slower options if you are stopping for longer.

Airport Vibe Hotel is always ICEd. Tuggeranong is temperamental at best, and an Evo security goon once harassed an EV owner for being on private property while charging. Civic double dips making you pay twice, once for parking and again for charging. Fyshwick is too slow and isn’t open at night. And all of the above are risky single stall sites. Public charging in the ACT blows.

It’s not just whether an EV is worth buying. It’s the cost of replacing an existing petrol vehicle that’s got thousands more kms to do before it would be sensible to sell it. The ‘need to be green’ can get just a tad silly, eh?!

What’s silly is the ICE warriors who seem to think there’s a compulsion to replace their current vehicle with an EV immediately.
I too have a perfectly serviceable ICE vehicle which I have no intention of replacing. But, I certainly will consider a move to an EV when a) I’m in the market for a new vehicle: and b) they are more affordable (which will happen in the next 5 to 10 years as every car brand is moving in that direction)
And as EVs become more prevalent/affordable, it’s not even a ‘need to be green’ that will drive a number of purchasers, it will be the economic sense in the decision.

Selling any car just now is a license to print money. Dealerships are desperate for any inventory at all.

Capital Retro2:15 pm 17 Jul 22

Who, apart from the virtue signaling EV owners, really cares?

I still think that we are putting all of our eggs into one (perhaps wrong) basket. Think Hydrogen fuel cell powered cars and trucks – refueled very quickly with green hydrogen at existing petrol stations. Green hydrogen can be made from sea water using renewable energy. Remember that Li Ion batteries create environmental problems of their own, and that 400 km range will only be achievable for the first few years of the car’s life – No-one has even started to think about how to recycle and dispose of those EV batteries yet.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing that I can do for the environment is to keep my petrol powered car, and drive it as little as possible, and when driving it, have as many people in it as I can, to get as much benefit from every L of petrol as possible.

You are not well informed. For recycling Google Redwood Materials, LiCycle and in Australia https://envirostream.com.au/ As for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles they are inherently less efficient than EVs and even Toyota and Hyundai who invested heavily in their development have now seen the error of their ways. For heavy transport there MAY be a use case, but again the Tesla Semi will be a game changer when it arrives in the next year.

Hydrogen is all hype. The infrastructure is too complex. And if you produce it by electrolysing sea water, you’ll produce enough chlorine gas to invade Belgium. Recycling EV batteries is easy. Several companies already do it. It’ll scale up in a few decades when there’s volume of batteries needing to be recycled. They’re better off reusing them to back up the power grid when they’re a little too degraded to run a car.

Which is why I’ll stick to petrol thanks

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