With a limited number of charging stations throughout Australia, driving a Tesla all the way around this big island of ours is probably not the greatest idea. Not the easiest or quickest endeavour, at least.
For Tesla owner club member, Richard McNeall, he took the idea as a challenge - and in 2016, he did it. But, now he is setting a new challenge, and he wants to get Australia involved.
We spoke to him on the CarAdvice podcast recently. You can hear the full interview at the bottom of this article, too.
CarAdvice: How did your trip last year go, and how did the Model S hold up?
Richard McNeall: I couldn’t believe that only one person had driven an electric vehicle around Australia, and in that case, he had a support vehicle and generator with him. So, I thought, I would just do it. Seven weeks after I bought the car, I did it, and it wasn’t hard.
Teslas are good highway cars, so it drove fine, overtook road trains with no problems. But you do have to make sure you keep it filled up, and there are all sorts of way to do it - you can plug into a 15-amp outlet at caravan parks, although it takes a while. You can find an industrial outlet, or around the East Coast, there is electric vehicle charging stations around Perth. There’s just enough stuff to keep you going.
What we need to do now is start to get people going faster, so you might have to spend quite a while charging at one point. But if you speed it up, if you use high-power industrial outlets, then it makes it more of a trip that people will readily do - and do in less time.
What sort of range did you get out of each full charge?
Typically, 400-kilometres when doing 100km/h on the highway. If you want to stretch the range, you can get 500 or 600, but then you’ve got to start driving a bit slower, down to 70km/h.
What is the new challenge?
We’ve got the Tesla owners club and the Australian Electric Vehicle Association, and we’re going to be putting industrial outlets at spacings of less than 400km all around Australia. The second stage will be less than 300. So, people can cruise around and get a good rate of charging, and it’s something that’s accessible to everyone. It will hopefully dispel the myth of EVs being wimpy.
I thought I was the only person interested in driving around Australia [in an EV]. I said at a Tesla owners club meeting in February this year, "who would be interested in doing it?", and about 20 people put their hand up. So it’s something EV drivers want to do. I think more EV drivers want to drive around Australia than ordinary car drivers, so we want to show what EV’s can do.
What stage are you up to now?
We are into it! The sleeves are rolled up, and we’re ringing the sites, and some are saying 'this is great'! Some need a bit more nudging along. In WA, there’s a deal with energy company Synergy, where they’re supplying large numbers of outlets to get a spacing of 100km [between points].
As well as around Australia, we’re throwing in the North-South loop, from Adelaide up to Darwin, from Ayers Rock (Uluru). Probably by the end of this year, we’ll have a 400km maximum spacing.
How many cars are in the group?
There are 38 cars who want to get involved and want to do it in the next three years. The more they know what charging they’re going to get, the more they’re happy to do it.
Is the Australian Government interested in what you’re doing?
I did tell them, and they didn’t say anything. We (Australia) are definitely not ahead of the game. You can’t spend too much time on the frustration; I just want to get this nudging along. The 'Around Australia' project is cool, and I feel we will get a fair bit of press when it’s completed.
How can anyone help or get involved?
Property owners on that route, we are especially interested in speaking to. Anyone can get in contact with the Australian Electric Vehicle Association and send an email to email@example.com.
Listen to the CarAdvice team talk to Richard McNeall below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.