How to plan an EV road trip
Can you tackle a road trip in an electric vehicle? We plot out four popular routes to see if EVs can go the distance.
The Great Aussie Road Trip is a rite of passage… packing up the wagon or the caravan, plotting a route and setting off to explore our wide brown land.
But while the sheer breadth of that land is no obstacle in a petrol or diesel car, if you’re driving one of the increasing number of electric vehicles on our roads, careful planning is critical. Not only do you need to ensure there are charging stations along the way to keep you powered up, you’ll also need to factor in extra time needed for charging. While Chargefox’s ultra-rapid charging stations can deliver an impressive 450 kilometres of driving range to some cars in 20 minutes, regular charging stations can take more than eight hours to charge a car for the same distance.
And beware of relying too closely on an EV’s advertised driving range – a number of variables from hills and winds to using the air-conditioning and how fast and hard you drive, can all impact how quickly the vehicle’s charge will run down. And while most EVs have regenerative braking that returns energy to the battery when applying the brakes, this kicks in less frequently during long-distance highway driving.
Tesla’s Model 3 can be charged at Tesla Supercharger stations as well as most non-Tesla sites, too.
There are roughly 2300 public charging stations around Australia, with 450 in Victoria – a mix of standard and fast chargers (less than 50kW), ultra-rapid chargers (350-475kW) and Tesla Superchargers (120kW). And more are on the horizon. Earlier this year Infrastructure Australia identified a national fast-charging network as a high priority. Meanwhile, the Victorian government and 12 regional councils have partnered with the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance to build charging stations at 17 sites across north-western Victoria, while Evie Networks and others plan to roll out dozens more in metro and regional Victoria in the next few years. And Chargefox, with support from RACV and other state auto clubs, has opened 21 ultra-rapid charging stations across Australia (seven of them in Victoria) , with immediate plans to open one more in Coffs Harbour in the coming months. Longer term the company plans to roll out 100 stations across Australia.
Clearly, easy access to fast and efficient charging is key to encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles. Last year an RACV survey of EV consumer sentiment found that “range anxiety”, or concern about the distance an EV can drive between charges, was a significant barrier in the decision to buy an electrified vehicle. RACV has been a strong advocate for improved charging infrastructure to encourage EV ownership and has invested in Chargefox to support the rollout of a national ultra-rapid charging network.
But are there enough chargers to make planning an EV road trip not just feasible, but relatively stress free?
Using the RACV City Club as our starting point, we mapped out four of our most popular road trips to see how they could be tackled in two very different electric vehicles. Our hypothetical test vehicles were the Hyundai Ioniq Electric Elite ($48,970 before on-road costs) with an advertised driving range of 311 kilometres, and Tesla’s Model 3 Long Range Dual Motor ($83,425 before on-road costs) with an advertised range of 580 kilometres.
The Model 3 can be charged at Tesla Supercharger stations, but unlike its Model S and X siblings, it uses a CCS2 plug so can be charged at most non-Tesla sites too. The Hyundai also uses CCS2. A full charge using a fast or ultra-rapid public charger will take up to an hour for the Hyundai. You should be able to get a full charge for the Tesla in about 30 minutes using the Supercharger network.
PlugShare.com is a great resource to help you map your journey and to check if chargers at particular stations are in use.
Melbourne to Sydney
The Hume Highway dash from Melbourne to Sydney via Albury is a well-worn path for truckies and road-trippers alike. Technically, you can drive the 880 kilometres to Sydney’s CBD in the Tesla with just one stop to fully charge. The most logical place to top up is just north of Gundagai, 510 kilometres along, where you’ll find Tesla’s Supercharger station next to the famous Dog on the Tucker Box. You’ll need to monitor the real-world driving range as it may need a charge earlier, which could be done at the Supercharger in Wodonga. While it’s charging, grab a burger at The Goods Shed or a coffee at nearby BeanStation Cafe.
Another cute stop 224 kilometres further along the Hume is Jugiong, which got its first NRMA EV charging station last year. The Sir George Hotel is great for a long lunch, while the Jugiong Wine Cellar has plenty of Canberra-region wines to take with you. The Tesla will easily make it from Jugiong to Sydney’s CBD.
Given the distance between charging stations, the Ioniq will need to stop at the Chargefox station in Euroa, 170 kilometres from Melbourne, before charging up again in either Barnawartha North (Chargefox), about 15 minutes south of Wodonga, or Holbrook (NRMA) in New South Wales. Further stops in Jugiong then Mittagong for the final leg will be required.
You could drive from Melbourne to Sydney in a day in the Tesla, but it’s harder in the Ioniq. Assuming each charge stop is about an hour, the trip could take 13 hours. It might be better to split the journey over two days.
Melbourne to Apollo Bay
The sweeping bends and jaw-dropping vistas of the Great Ocean Road make it an enduringly alluring prospect for drivers and, with plenty of chargers dotted along its length, an electric-powered journey is a viable option.
The Tesla Model 3 Long Range could do a return trip from Melbourne to Apollo Bay without recharging but a quick pitstop will allow you to power up while checking out some sights.
A handy first stop is RACV’s Torquay Resort at the start of the Great Ocean Road, about 100 kilometres from the City Club. While your EV is plugged in at the resort’s Chargefox ultra-rapid station, take a stroll via the fairway path to the beach to check out the surf, or enjoy the ocean views while lunching at Number One restaurant.
Apollo Bay is another 96 kilometres from Torquay and both the Tesla and Hyundai will comfortably make that distance. There are three Tesla destination chargers located at businesses in Apollo Bay, but you’ll need to plug in somewhere via a regular power point if you want to charge the Hyundai. Check with local hotels in advance to see if they cater for this.
Or you could stop at the Lorne Visitor Information Centre on the way home to charge, and treat yourself to a meal at MoVida Lorne while you wait.
Melbourne to Adelaide
Whether you’re bound for one of Adelaide’s famous festivals, a footy or cricket match, its sparkling food scene or the world-class vineyards nearby, there’s plenty to reward a road-tripper keying the South Australian capital into their sat-nav.
Given its 580-kilometre range The Tesla should need only one charge on this 725-kilometre trip. Horsham, which boasts Chargefox’s newest charger, is well placed for this. While the Model 3 is charging, take a stroll around the stunning William Guilfoyle-designed botanical gardens or visit the renowned Horsham Regional Art Gallery. The Tesla should make the 426-kilometre drive on to Adelaide CBD but, if you’re nervous about range, there’s another Supercharger in Keith, 225 kilometres before Adelaide.
The Ioniq is unlikely to make it the 300 kilometres to Horsham on one charge, so you’ll need to make a quick stop at Chargefox Ballarat. It’s in the centre of town so you can plug in then wander Bakery Hill or sample Ballarat’s best brew at Fika Coffee Brewers.
Your next stop is Chargefox Horsham for a top-up, followed by Keith in South Australia. If you’re nervous about making it to Keith, caravan parks in Kaniva and Bordertown will let you charge using a regular powerpoint for a small fee. A 10 to 15-amp plug adds between 10 and 20 kilometres of range an hour. But if the Ioniq received a full charge in Horsham you’re not likely to need it.
A full charge in Keith should give you enough time to take a walk around the historic township while the car powers up for the 225-kilometre journey on to Adelaide. But there are charge spots in Tailem Bend (Evie) and Murray Bridge (Chargefox) if you need a top-up.
Melbourne to Wilsons Promontory
White squeaky-clean beaches, magnificent scenery and an abundance of wilderness walks to suit all ages and stages draw legions of nature lovers to Victoria’s southernmost point, and the 225-kilometre trip is eminently doable in an EV.
Driving to Wilsons Prom via Inverloch and back should only require one stop in the Tesla Model 3, but a pitstop is always a good idea. Plug the Tesla in to the charger at RACV Inverloch Resort and admire the sea views while you tuck into local and regional dishes at Radius restaurant.
The Tesla should easily make the 200-kilometre return trip from Inverloch to Tidal River, but there’s a Tesla destination charger at the Fish Creek Hotel along the way if you want a top-up. Grab some pub grub from the stunning art deco hotel while you wait.
You’ll need to make sure the Ioniq is fully charged at RACV Inverloch, because there’s really nowhere to charge it between there and Tidal River. If you’re planning to stay in cabins or similar accommodation in Tidal River, check ahead to see if you can plug the Ioniq in for an overnight charge using a regular powerpoint, and be sure to pick one of the many walks to properly explore the Prom.