As soon as the first Tesla electric vehicles arrived in Australia the road trips began. Tesla owners travelled up the east coast to Cairns and beyond. Others set off south for a tour of Tasmania. In late 2015, “Mystery Steve” upped the ante by driving his brand new Model S from Sydney back to Perth, sleeping in a tent overnight whilst the car was charging.
@TransOzTesla raised the bar further by driving his Tesla P85+ from Perth to Brisbane and return, using all the 3 phase outlets available across the Nullabor. Not to be outdone, Jeff the Walker drove his Nissan Leaf from Sydney to Perth. Yes, that’s right, a fully electric Leaf with a range far less than a Tesla across the Nullarbor! But then again Jeff loves a challenge. He’s also walked across Australia.
I know the North-West Coastal Highway well and have parked many a vehicle on Broome’s famous Cable beach; not so much of a challenge from my point of view but my wife Robin and I wanted to be the first to achieve it in a production electric car, and using just the power supply available along the way.
We set off from Mandurah 70km South of Perth on June 28, charging at various locations – some pre-organised, some random stops. The mayors of Geraldton and Carnarvon were both very positive towards EV charging, while other shires were not so helpful. In Exmouth we found a marine mechanic who allowed us to charge off his 3 phase.
Port Hedland was looking like a disaster until a member of the North-West car club found us a charge point at the Walkabout hotel, had a great meal there too! In Karratha we found a street savvy shire worker, who took us straight to the Golf course for some 32 amp 3 phase, didn’t bring the clubs so we went shopping instead.
So did we do much Glamping? Before leaving home I cut a full size 5 inch deep mattress to fit the back, long enough for a 185cm adult without pushing the front seats forward. Luckily, the weather was near perfect at night. We also had the privilege of two weeks free of mosquitoes and sand-flies, so on a few occasions we left the tailgate up.
For six of the 13 nights we slept in the car. Without doubt the Whim Creek pub was the standout stopover. For those unfamiliar with this location, Whim Creek is between Karratha and Port Hedland on the N-W coastal highway. The pub originally opened in 1886 and is a welcome stop for travellers eager for a cold drink.
We pulled into Whim Creek early on a Saturday evening, the camping is pretty basic, just park up on the gravel next to the beer garden and enjoy the hospitality. Laying in the back of the Tesla while the local band belted out some tunes was a great place to be.
Nowhere did the Tesla look more out of place than Barn Hill station on the Kimberley coast. This is Grey Nomad central. Landcruisers, Ford F350s, large caravans, Winnebagos covering every available piece of ground – and there in the middle of them all was a sedan, an electric powered sedan if you please, charging off the same electricity source that powered their fridges and microwaves.
To summarise, the trip was a wonderful experience. We got to park on Cable beach and watch another stunning Kimberley sunset. We got to meet some friendly people who were willing to lend a hand when needed.
And we managed to find more charging locations than expected: 5400km without using one dedicated EV charging point, just the 3 phase and 15amp plugs outlets already in place. Some of the 3 phase outlets looked old and dodgy and some were totally unusable – those power outlets are being replaced over the next few weeks with the support of the Australian electric vehicle association so more electric vehicle drivers can make the journey and enjoy the outback.
One of those electric vehicles is a Tesla heading from Sydney across the top end, the ultimate goal is an anti-clockwise circuit of Australia. At some stage they’ll cross paths with Jeff in his Leaf, I’m sure they’ll have plenty to discuss. Robert and Robin are One Step readers who kindly shared their experience using Tesla camper mode after reading our story (link) last week. If you have an experience you’d like to share, get in touch!”