By the end of next year the Silicon Valley-based auto maker will have places to rapid-charge its electric cars between Melbourne in Victoria, all the way through New South Wales up to Brisbane in Queensland.
The link from Sydney to Melbourne is complete – for those who dare to drive it carefully – with Superchargers open in Goulburn and Wodonga recently, and a temporary (soon-to-be-permanent) charger in Euroa. One will open in Gundagai soon, too.
Tesla Motors Australia Supercharger program manager, Evan Beaver, told CarAdvice at the launch of the Goulburn and Wodonga Superchargers that there have been a few delays in getting the network and charging locations across the line, but that the US company is eager to expand its fast-charging arteries across the country.
“The announced plan has always been Sydney to Melbourne this year, Sydney to Brisbane by the end of next year. That means we’ve got all the major cities to be connected – apart from Adelaide, sorry – but it’s what we’re working on at the moment.
“It’s really complicated to build a Supercharger [station],” Beaver said. “Our focus is Sydney to Melbourne, but there’s lots of other things we’re working on. We’re looking to our customers to say ‘where do you want to go?’ in parallel with that,” he said.
Beaver suggested that Tesla owners – particularly given the new all-wheel-drive models added to the brand’s Model S ranks – are calling for a link to the snow from Sydney, but the spot may not be Canberra, where many may have thought would be the most likely location.
“One of the key bits of feedback that has come back in regards to Canberra is that people want to get to the snow,” he said. “The case for having one in Canberra is not great. But somewhere south of there, to equip the route to the snow, there’s a better argument.
“It depends on what the network lets us do. You can imagine the number of overlays of: a site that you want to go to, a site that has land that you can have, and a site that the network will let you connect.
“We have lots of balls in the air – it could be Cooma, it could be Jindabyne, it could be Michelago, it could be any number of these things,” he said.
Given Tesla Superchargers run purely on renewable, clean energy, a link-up with Snowy Hydro - the hydro-electric scheme in the south of the state - would seem an ideal partner. There’s a coffee shop at the visitor’s centre there and all.
“It’s one we’re thinking about, but more broadly we procure clean energy for every one of our sites,” he said. “Whether you get that off the Snowy Hydro site, that’s something we can decide later on.”
While Beaver’s job is clear – to expand the Supercharger network in Australia to enable Tesla owners to charge their cars at the most convenient places – he said that potential buyers need to also think about the fact that charging at home is likely the best option in most cases.
“You don’t want a Supercharger at your destination,” he said. “You want it in between the two places you’re going.
“There’s three use cases for Superchargers: travelling in between cities; charging in your home city because you can’t charge at home, say you live in an apartment block and you can’t get a wall connector in; or you’re visiting for a week and you need charging there.
“I’ve had a lot of people say to me: ‘I’d love to buy your car, but I live in Adelaide and there’s no Supercharger here’. That’s not quite the right way to think about it. The most convenient thing is to charge at night.”
That said, Tesla owners will likely want to be able to travel just like they would with a more conventional petrol or diesel car, and in Australia there’s a lot of emphasis on long distance driving. So, with Sydney to Melbourne done, and the next route obviously being the one north, Beaver gave some indications of where the next ports of call could be located.
“I start at a high level and say, ‘Okay, what towns do we want to hit?’,” he said. “It looks like Heatherbrae (outside Newcastle), Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Ballina.
“We’ve got about 20 sites that we’re working on at the moment, working through that overlay of land, plus on the route, plus 'can we have electricity'.
“Because it’s a different utility to work with, we have to bring them along on the process. Timing is uncertain, but you’ll be able to drive from Brisbane to Melbourne for free by the end of next year. I’m very confident of that.”