From Here to Eternity – Via the Nullarbor with Evie #1

Slow walking Hurry Krishna is driving a Hyundai Kona Electric car from her beloved Freo to far-away Sydney. Driving across the Nullarbor is an Australian rite of passage, usually undertaken by the young and the restless (HK says she is neither of those) and not often in an electric car. In the first blog, she writes of the trials and tribulations of getting ready for an EV journey across the Nullarbor.

You to the Universe, aka, Meta/Facebook: ’We are planning to drive Perth to Sydney, and hopefully back again, in our new Electric Vehicle (henceforth, Evie). Any advice?’

First responder : No! Mate!! Seriously, Don’t do it.

Like Donald Trump we ignore reasonable counsel against self-destructive stupidity. Eventually more supportive advice flows in and we find at least three real people who have really done the distance.

So begins the planning for the 5000 km drive across the flattest, longest, straightest road in the world with less trees, people and EV charging stations per thousand kilometres than most places you care to name.

Unlike this blogger’s usual sojourns on foot, this trip is not going to be 100% guilt-free as many of the charging stations, where we will figuratively ’fill up’ the car, have fossil fuel generated electricity. Still, by most calculations, our environmental impact for this trip will be less than half of a petrol-guzzling, ozone ripping, air-polluting jalopy (I learnt that word from doing the Guardian crosswords and just had to use it).

Some say a previous Hyundai electric car was known to burst into flames for no apparent reason – but that was several generations (of cars) ago and we are assured by the dealer that that model is in no way related to our own Evie, who is a slick, white, 2022 Kona, with an enviable reputation for doing 480k on a full tank (i.e. 100% charge), on a good day. The equivalent more posh brand car costs 25% more.

She is cheap to fill up. For our test run, about 650 km Fremantle to Augusta round trip, we spent less than $15 on charging.

But there is a whole other language to EV ’filling up’ that ICE owners know nothing about. (If you don’t know what ICE is, I’m pretty sure you drive one! ICE = Internal Combustion Engine, in other words, most of the cars on the road.)

The most important question for an EV owner is ‘how long does it take to fill my car?’ The answer: how long is a piece of string? You will get a different answer depending on the type/model/year of car owed by the inquirer + the type/model/year of car owned by the responder + the charging station where this conversation takes place + the various cables that you should have bought but did not, plus 21 other variables I cannot remember.

Walking Buddy, WB, now re-classified as FM (Fast Mover) has read thousands of documents and composed a 400 page manuscript titled ‘Number, Length, Strength, Shape and other Variables of EV Charging Plugs and Cables: Essential Considerations Prior to your Long-Distance Motoring Adventures.’ As this is an open-ended discursive thesis, the work ends with no recommendations on what one can actually do to ensure availability of power to your car on the Nullarbor!

In any case, I really wanted the plug called Pig-tail because it has a cute name, but FM insists that name nothing to do with efficacy. In the end, the nice people from Hyundai HQ in Sydney stepped in to save the day (and a beautiful friendship) by offering us a full set of charging cables. HOWEVER, there’s a catch. These will be available at Port Augusta, which is after we have crossed the most remote stretch of the road.

Meanwhile we are setting off with a ’granny charger’ (which sounds slightly obscene and takes more than 30 hours to charge the car from 0-100), a type 2 (not to be confused with diabetes) and something called ’3-phase-5-pin’ (I-give-up) that FM has borrowed from more knowledgeable EV owners, which, used wisely, hold the promise of charging for just four or five hours most days. But hey, it’s not a race (as our coal-fired ex-PM once said).

Still, I wonder what will happen if Evie runs out of puff in the middle of nowhere (which is what the 2000 km between Perth and Port Augusta is)? FM has armed himself with an extra-long cable, which weighs so much, I think it could be 100 kilometres long. But even so, the prospect of walking into a town with one end of an extension cable in your hand is hardly appealing!

Experienced EV drivers say, if running low on battery you should drop the speed to 40 kmh. That will extend the distance you can go before your next charge. At that speed, we should be in Sydney in 3 or 4 months.

Bryce Gaton, a respected expert on all things EV and Kona-owner, is crossing the Nullarbor east to west. He recommends patience!

So, we’ll go Leonard Cohen slow:

I’m lacing up my shoes
But I don’t want to run
I’ll get there when I do
Don’t need no starting gun

Please stay tuned for more slow-mo blogs, so you’ll be the first to know when we are stuck somewhere without a plug point within a 100 km radius!!!

By Hurry Krishna

If you’d like to read some of Hurry Krishna’s other adventures on the Shipping News look here, or visit her blog Reading the Road

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