From Here To Eternity – And Home Again In Evie #5

Slow walking Hurry Krishna* drove a Hyundai Kona Electric car from her beloved Freo to far-away Sydney, and back.

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.

We at the Shipping News covered the journey to Sydney in Here to Eternity #1, #2, #3 and #4.

In this final post, HK answers questions on the final leg, lessons learned, and the future.

Hi HK. Freo folk have been peppering us with the big question ever since we posted From Here To Eternity #4 – Did she make it back and how was it on the return leg? And there’s a few more on top of that one too! May we fire them at you?

Q1. What was the trip back to Freo like? Any Range Anxiety on the way back?

Thank you, Shipping News. So pleased to have your readers on board for this drive!

Well, after nearly 10,000 kms and 25 days of driving, several hours each day, right across the breadth of Australia, I am now ready to ban that term: Range Anxiety!

Hurry Krishna back in WA. Credit Co-Pilot

If President Clinton had been into EVs, he would have said, ‘It’s the infrastructure, stupid’. Where there are enough fast charging stations, range anxiety rarely surfaces.

In retrospect, I would say, we had two quite different problems at the start of our trip. First, we were using a modern car, really for the first time! Truly, before the Kona EV 2022, I was driving a beaten up old car that I don’t think is even manufactured any longer. I’d never had an automatic, let alone one with cruise control, rear camera and all that jazz. So technologically, the transition to an electric car was mind-blowing!

The second problem is when you set off from Freo, you get rather quickly into an area where fast chargers are few and, in fact, any sorts of chargers are pretty far between. Actually, between Norseman and Port Augusta, it seems to city drivers that there is very little of anything. The Eyre highway has a lot of road trains, a few roadhouses and not much else. So nerves on Nullarbor are understandably common whatever your mode of transport – right?

Also, the moment you mention driving an EV out of town, everyone suddenly has a story about someone who had a terrible bout of Range Anxiety!!! One of my Co-Pilot’s relatives even knows a psych who knew someone who needed therapy for ‘range anxiety’ after driving a Tesla less than 300 kms out of a state capital! Unsurprising then, that you begin to hang all your fears on this idea, and ‘range anxiety’ takes on a life of its own as a monstrous wicked threat.

By the time we turned back from Sydney, we were veterans of the Nullarbor; we were confident there were plenty of places to charge. More importantly, Evie and I were good mates, entirely familiar with each other’s foibles. And I mean that quite seriously: two weeks of data about how we drive (what speed, what temperature, etc) gave Evie a great capacity to accurately predict her range on most days.

We now have range-understanding. No anxiety.

Q2. Were you able to go off-road?

Not quite off-road. The Hyundai Kona EV, though a ‘compact SUV’, is in fact a two-wheel drive. So it would not be safe to take it off road. And on the trip east, we did not actually have a spare tyre (that’s a story for the anthology titled ‘Compromises with my Co-Pilot’, which we won’t go into here).

In Sydney, however, the nice people at Hyundai donated a spare tyre. Now well-provisioned, on the way back, we drove into the Nullarbor National Park to see some caves, close to the Nullarbor Roadhouse. We drove only about 20-25 kms on unsealed roads – best described as rocks and potholes held together by red muddy dirt.

Because the massive battery of an EV sits relatively low to the ground, underneath the car, we did wonder how it might go bouncing on rocks. As it turned out, Evie did better than any other car I have ever driven (admittedly given the age of all my previous cars that is not surprising), though she got a little confused in her range calculations for a while.

Q3. What’s the single most important tip you’d give a first time EV driver heading East from Freo?

Make sure you have the Plugshare app on your phone.

On the Eyre Highway, best to have hard copy information about the charging points as you will be frequently without phone or internet connection.

Q4. Will the State Government’s recently announced Highway of Charging Stations from Kununurra to Eucla make a difference?

Yes, the Electric Highway will put nearly a hundred charging stations right round the populated western seaboard – a big step in the right direction.

But this is a State with a vast interior and as you can see, there is nothing much for the inland areas, such as the Wheatbelt of WA.

I expect that small operators will see good reasons to set up their own chargers in areas not reached by State and Federal initiatives. DC chargers might be too expensive for small towns. But AC chargers are not. Some small towns in the Wheatbelt, such as Merredin and Northam, have a range of charging options already. These slower chargers are fine for tourists and travellers who are not too pressed for time.

Some companies will likely install fast chargers to save what they can of the shops and services that form part of petrol stations in small towns, now that petrol is on the wane.
In fact, petrol stations have been in decline all around the world all throughout this century. In the US (the birthplace of the ‘gas station’), for example, there were just 8,385 petrol stations in 2019, less than half of the 18,000 or so in 1992. In Australia, back in the 1970s there were 25,000 petrol stations. Now there are 6,500.

It makes good economic sense for small town petrol stations to invest a couple of thousand dollars to get a dedicated charger of some sort and save those parts of their investment that can outlast the end of petrol cars, in the near and foreseeable future. And it makes every sense for local authorities to invest in chargers to generate income – there are examples of this already in outback WA in towns such as Norseman, where we charged overnight both on our way from and back to Freo.​ Some towns like Ravensthorpe have collaborated with the Australian Electric Vehicle Association to invest in a DC fast charger!

Q5. Has the trip whetted your appetite for more long range adventures?

Yes. So those who are enjoying coming along for a virtual EV drive, please follow Hurry Krishna on her blog or check out The Driven from time to time for HK’s and many other EV road trips.

* By Hurry Krishna

If you’d like to read #1, #2, #3 and #4 of From Here To Eternity or Hurry Krishna’s other adventures available on the Shipping News look here, or visit her blog Reading the Road. And to read more on EVs here’s The Driven link.

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