Queensland is blessed with many hours of sun and really deserves to be called the “Sunshine State”! Residing in Queensland, a few years ago my wife and I felt it was an obvious decision to have a PV system mounted on our roof and use this renewable solar energy. Next came the idea to buy an electric car and to use some of the electric power generated on site for our transport. It looked like an attractive way to reduce our own carbon foot print!
Considering a commuting pattern with a frequent need for a range of >230km we compared a few EVs such as the Nissan Leaf, the BMW i3 and the Tesla Model S and quickly figured out that only the Tesla MS could fulfil our criteria of range, speed, reliability and comfort. Yes, I know it’s hard to justify the “Tesla Smile” from a pure economic standpoint especially with the current fuel prices, but environmental ideology is a strong argument. We also hope that having more Teslas on the road may draw more people to EVs and that an increased demand will help to improve affordability towards the future.
On Dec 31st 2014 we confirmed our order for a Tesla Model S85 and were incredibly surprised to note only 2 weeks later that our car was already in production. Delivery followed soon on March 20th. That was even before Energex connected and commissioned the new 3 phase power circuit for our house.
We opted for a new 3 phase connection with TOU tariff because our existing single phase switchboard and circuit would only allow for slow charging. The extra energy needed for fast charging with the Tesla Model S optional “Dual charger” required a 3 phase power supply.
As per their initial plan Tesla Motors Australia doesn’t yet supply the 3 phase HPWC and opted to first start deployment of the Super Charger infrastructure in NSW and VIC. It may take till late 2016 before Tesla owners will be able to use SCs in QLD although we already paid for such usage when buying our car!
Could Tesla have underestimated the potential demand and enthusiasm for their cars in the “Sunshine State”, particularly in SEQ? A number of owners joined the Tesla Model S meet-up in North Lakes on April 26th and share the conviction that more Teslas would be sold with a Tesla Service Centre in Brisbane and a couple of Tesla superchargers and would be installed along the Coastal Highway.
Also Tesla Motors Australia has just started to deliver its Universal Mobile Connector (UMC) but currently only with 1 adapter for a 10A GPO which will help to go to places which would normally be out of range, but only for those cases where there is plenty of time to do a “trickle charge at 2.4 kW”. Luckily, there is now also a Tesla CHAdeMO adapter available that we Queenslanders can use on the 2 Tritium Veefil Charging facilities in Brisbane at a 50 kW charging rate.
In my view the current Tesla UMC solution offered here is just not “Universal” enough to allow proper travelling over the great Australian distances and the current charging infrastructure is insufficient to get you going for a bit of tourism or business trips throughout QLD and between States. Accepting the above charging infrastructure and offered solutions would just keep us shackled to mainly our Tesla HPWC home charging station!
Knowing the EVSE solutions being offered on the market in Europe I did a quite a bit of research and inquired with a few manufacturers to provide a unit adapted to the electrical network here Down Under and finally picked 2 EVSE chargers that allow me to charge at single phase and 3 phase at currents from 8 to 32 Amp.
With a bit of searching there are a good number of places one can find that have 3 phase industrial sockets of 20 or 32 Amp and especially at 32 Amp it’s possible to charge at rates of close to 23 kW in case of dual chargers which is near to 10 times faster than with the current Tesla UMC solution for Australia and allows you to have a full range charge in about 3h30’ leaving enough time to cover a good distance driving.
Next an opportunity arose that allowed me to put my thoughts and preparations into practice as I needed to travel from Bribie Island, north of Brisbane, to Sydney and Canberra for a good family reunion and I decided to go for it with our Tesla MS. We worked out a plan to go via the coastal route and return via the inland route as shown in the map below.
In total, we covered a distance of 3072km in 5 days, inclusive a 1 day stay in Canberra to visit family and deliver them some goods. We also had a few side strolls to some touristic spots along the road. With my spouse we were the first ones to connect Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra with a Tesla Model S!
Completing this unforgettable journey was only possible thanks to the goodwill of the people who either allowed us to use the 3 phase power supplying us the electrons at their own premises or guided us to appropriate sites for charging. I hereby sincerely thank all of them for their help and hospitality!
However, not every charging place met our expectations. In fact, the first spot in Burleigh Heads was an immediate awakening call as we expected to find a 3 phase 5 pin socket and only found several 4 pin sockets even though I upfront provided pictures of the required socket. The manager of Jax Tyres immediately guided us to a neighbour business that had an appropriate power socket but we figured out the circuit hadn’t any power. Next we were guided to a third place that had a 5 pin socket but guess…Murphy strikes again…it wasn’t wired with 5 wires! In the meantime help came from heaven as the manager had called their electrician to install a proper socket!
In the 2nd, 3rd and 4th charging spots everything was smooth. The guys at Coffs Harbour Auto Electrical had especially installed the correct socket and we didn’t need to use our 2 back-up solutions in Coffs Harbour. In Port Macquarie we proudly used 100% solar energy from a 60 kW installation owned by Harelec Solar!
With the solar power we covered close to 390 km distance from PMQ to the Tesla Supercharger at the Star Casino in Pyrmont, Sydney and had enough km range left in the batteries to prevent range anxiety.
The supercharger barely gave us the time for a nice meal and a refreshment and we were on the road again to Canberra, and happy to be out of that nervous city traffic jam! The destination charger at Hotel Realm was our next solution and we happy to meet Dan a fellow Tesla driver also charging at this spot.
Heading from Canberra to Dubbo we had a quick battery top up in Cowra at Midstate Electrical and continued driving to Guerie under continuous heavy rain. We were more than glad to arrive and enjoy the hospitality of Chris and Ilse Dalitz.
Chris Dalitz is a well-known EV evangelist and will help organize an event on this topic to be held in October in Newcastle, NSW. Chris had organized a quick 3 phase charging in the Dubbo Showgrounds the next morning. These show grounds have about 40 of those 3 phase 32A sockets and would be a very good spot for an EV meeting with participants from VIC, NSW and QLD! With the Dubbo Zoo and other attractions in and around Dubbo it’s a good place to hang around for a couple of days.
On the way from Dubbo back home we had another quick top-up of the batteries on a showground, next charged in New England Solar Power in Armidale and a private shed in Glen Innes all with 3 phase power supply.
For those Tesla friends here in Australia that are also interested to break those shackles to their home HPWC and drive to places far from any charging infrastructure, please note that with a bit of preparation you’ll find more than enough places that have the appropriate 3 phase sockets!
A lesson learned from this first long trip that it is important to communicate in detail not only about the type of socket we prefer to use which is a 3 phase 5 pin industrial socket but also to make sure that the socket is appropriately wired with 5 wires including the neutral. Best is to exchange some pictures and details upfront to your trip.
Further, the larger showgrounds in NSW and QLD generally have the appropriate 3 phase sockets, so you should be able to cover large areas in both States!