Over The Range
Step outside your comfort zone, or in this case, step outside the limitations of your Tesla.
We had heard repeatedly that electric cars were limiting when it came to big interstate Australian drives. There was a lot of talk about poor charging infrastructure, and we had heard many stories of EV (electric vehicle) drivers with “range anxiety” – the fear of running out of charge before reaching a charging point. We like an adventure and bit of fear always adds to the excitement, so we decided let’s do it. Let’s go for a big drive, a big 5,500km drive. We mapped out a route from the Gold Coast to Adelaide inland via NSW country towns and returning to the Gold Coast via the eastern coastline.
In our minds, we believed this was possible. There was a range anxiety cloud hanging over our heads, particularly in the beginning. So, we had to plan our trip with care using the PlugShare app and Google maps. On paper we thought, heck, this will be easy.
The range on our 2021 Tesla Model 3+ is 412kms, which gave us a good indication of how far we could travel. We believed our range of 412kms meant we could drive 412kms on one full charge, until day 1. Gold Coast to Tenterfield is only 300klm, a 4hr drive across the mountain ranges. We thought we would have plenty of charge left on the battery to get us to Tenterfield, that is until we hit the ranges near Mount Cordeaux. This is where physics gets involved, a battery exerting more power to overcome the climb over the mountain drains a lot quicker than a drive on a flat road. Couple this with a climate-controlled cockpit complete with heated seats (yes it was winter and it was cold) and autopilot activated, it was a nail biting start to our journey.
It wasn’t until that we were about 80klm out from Tenterfield with the battery reading 110klm remaining charge that we knew there was a problem. We were going down in charge faster than the kilometres we were driving. We started to drive slowly down the hills, we disengaged the heated seats and we tried to get as much regen power as possible. Looking back, my Tesla / Google onscreen map said – go via the coast road and charge at Knockrow, but I thought I knew better. One should always listen to the Tesla advice. It knows itself better than we know it.
We arrived at the NRMA fast charger in Tenterfield with only 3% battery.
This is where our education began, on the New England Highway destined for Tenterfield. Speaking to other owners in Facebook Tesla groups, we discovered we had been a bit ambitious about our drives between chargers, as consideration must be given to terrain, temperature, autopilot and weight of car (which was packed for a 33-day trip). We developed a new rule-of-thumb to use in our range calculations – we would take 25% off the actual range displayed on the car to allow for charge losses due to these unforeseen conditions. Reset driving brain – car distance is now around 300klm’s.
We were lucky this happened on the first day, because by following this rule we were never caught out again and the dreaded ‘range anxiety’ was not an issue for the remaining 32 days of our trip.
A Plan to Charge
Travelling more than 5,500klm’s over 33 days does require some planning. This was our first time using 3rdparty chargers. Tesla has great charging infrastructure (they have usually 3-8 charging bays available at any station) we were concerned about using these other individual chargers. Will there be higher demand meaning we’d have to wait each time to use them? Are they operational, or likely to be out of service? How fast, or slow, will they charge?
Using the PlugShare app gave us a lot of information, especially by monitoring if anyone had checked in recently. Note: If you have PlugShare, please check in to help other drivers, it helps others know if the charger is operational, and how many chargers are being used at that time. The good news was, that on our entire trip there were only 2 chargers on the map that were not working when we arrived.
The first was an NRMA charger in Glen Innes. It didn’t matter as though as we had enough charge to get to Armidale. We had planned to top up in Glen Innes as a precaution before arriving to our destination in Tamworth but there was the option of Armidale if that wasn’t available or working. It’s worth considering charging when you can, and having a contingency plan.
The second charger that let us down was in Daylesford Victoria, a charging station managed by Chargefox. The first problem with that charger was that Daylesford only has 3G phone coverage. We both have iPhone 12s which only works on 4G and 5G. Luckily our accommodation was close by, so I ran back to wifi, use the app and Kirsten stayed at the car to begin the charge. Alas, the charger didn’t work anyway. A phone call to Chargefod confirmed this charger is out of use most of the time. Luckily we had enough charge to get to get to the Ballarat tesla chargers a few days later when it was time for us to leave Dayleford.
Some areas are just difficult to get a charge, like the south coast of Victoria. So we chose accommodation that would allow us to use a power point for overnight charging or a Tesla destination charger. As electric cars eat into traditional car sales, more marketing opportunities will arise for the savvy business owners. I see destination charging as a real drawcard for any hotel, motel, roadside diner, restaurant, cellar door, or tourist destination. These are not always listed on PlugShare but we did find them on Google maps. Simply type in EV Chargers on google maps and they’ll light up.
When we visited the Barossa Valley wine region there were quite a few wineries and a few motels on our trip offering customers a charge. We also noticed busy cafes who benefit from Superchargers which were close by. Not like the café in Stirling SA who had a charger but placed table and chairs around them so they could not be accessed. That was just a tease.
Travelling in a Tesla is sometimes surreal. For one thing, it is quiet, oh so quiet. Apart from the tyres touching the road, you can be sitting in relative silence. It’s easy to imagine you’re travelling in Luke Skywalkers X-34 Landspeeder gliding a metre above the ground, being guided by your autopilot. You’re half expecting to jump to warp speed and enter the depths of the galaxy.
The windows are panoramic offering a fantastic view of the road and the scenery ahead. But perhaps best of all is the comfort of the soft leatherlike seats. I don’t know about you, but my back tends to ache on long car journeys, but this never happened – even after some of our longest days travelling over 450klm’s. We generally travelled 250-300klms between destinations with 2-3 day stops. It felt like a really good pace.
Being sick of the rain on the Gold Coast, and with a clear calendar for June, we decided on our journey and made a plan to leave within the next 2 weeks. The day before we planned to depart an artic front was pushing through the eastern side of Australia. Hey, how bad could it be? For this newly acclimatised pair of Queenslanders, very bad.
Our 32 day itinerary included:
NSW: Tenterfield (1 night), Tamworth (1 night), Mudgee (2 nights), Dubbo (2 nights), Wagga Wagga (1 night)
VIC: Bendigo (2 nights)
SA: Stirling (3 nights), Adelaide (2 nights), Mt Gambier (1 night)
VIC: Port Fairy (2 nights), Daylesford (3 nights), Cape Woolamai (2 nights), Lakes Entrance (2 nights)
NSW: Merimbula (2 nights), Gerringong (1 night), Sydney (4 nights), Port Macquarie (1 night)
Some quick stats: we were away 32 Days, travelled over 5,500 km and spent $372 on charging. Our personal favourite places – Tamworth, Mudgee, Stirling, Port Fairy and Cape Woolamai.
Best accommodation: Goonoo Goonoo Station – Tamworth
If you have a Tesla, step outside your range anxiety and enjoy one of the best rides of your life. Download the PlugShare app and start planning your adventure. Hit us up for any recommendations or information.