We’ve all heard how affordable EVs can be when you charge at home and harness solar power. But, what about long distance drives? Do EVs make as much sense if you’re packing to go with the family versus traditional means of transportation?
We wanted to try out the latest EV technology on a road trip from Adelaide to Sydney. We also wanted to test what the EV infrastructure was like regionally and chose a route that would take us a bit inland and away from a well-established charging network.
Alborz and I decided to choose a set of cars that lead their field in EV tech and performance, so Alborz chose the entry-level Audi Q5 diesel and I chose the Kia EV6 long-range rear-wheel drive. We then got our video team stuck in the Kia Sorento Hybrid to find out what its ride would be like, too.
And since we were making it a bit less fair for the EV by doing this, we wanted to try to get the whole drive (about 1400km) on one tank of diesel to see if it could be done.
By now you’ll realize that the test is a bit inconsistent, and admittedly, I set it up that way because I was hoping the Albors would run out of fuel before we reached Sydney – preferably Sydney Harbour. On the bridge or any other equally inconvenient place. .
Realistically, Albors wouldn’t need to stress about making 1400km on a tank as he could refuel in a few minutes at any service station along the way, whereas I would have to wait for a full charge. And I really wanted to know how long it would actually take you to charge the budget on this kind of trip and whether not bothering to take an EV would be enough of an inconvenience.
But, he took it seriously and decided that he would travel at around 90km/h for the journey to ensure that he would make it on a 70 liter tank of diesel. He increased his tire pressure to 46psi to reduce rolling resistance.
I on the other hand – I was going to drive around the normal speed limit. I also used a great free website called A Better Route Planner to map out my trip. It takes into account topography, weather and real-life energy use at highway speeds to determine where and when you should charge.
Our plan was to drive to Hay in New South Wales on the first day, spend the night in a motel and then finish the drive to Sydney the next day.
So we set off from Adelaide and finished both the Audi and the Kia before we started. We faced our first challenge before setting off in Adelaide’s CBD with a bank of eight chargers fully loaded.
Well, that’s not quite true. Four of the free chargers working in any EV were full and the four Tesla chargers were empty in stark contrast (Kia can’t charge on the Tesla network). Most frustrating was the Tesla owner who decided to use a free option instead of a direct competitor to the Tesla Charger.
So we waited a while until someone decided to go and we plugged the EV6 to go up.
At this point we reset both trip meters to track economy as we exited Adelaide. For those unfamiliar with Adelaide, it is at sea level. After that it climbs quickly to highway speeds. It immediately started eating into my range and affecting the economy of the electric vehicle.
The trip started at around 17kWh/100km, but as we started to make our way over the hills outside of Adelaide that stretched to around 22kWh/100km.
Stop 1: Telam Bend, South Australia (12 minute charge)
Our recommended first stop is Tailum Bend, about 132 kilometers from Adelaide. This is a good thing as the service station has 350kW fast DC chargers and the recommendation is to get the car up to 95% to make our next stop in Owen. I had to stop here for 12 minutes to charge from 80% to 95%.
Albors passed me shortly after I plugged in and then I was delayed a bit more after helping a couple figure out how to set up a charging account in their Hyundai Ioniq PHEV.
After leaving Tailem Bend, I picked up the pace a bit to travel at GPS speed rather than the indicated speed. This increased my economy to around 20kWh/100km from the start (after leaving Adelaide it dropped to around 18kWh/100km).
I noticed a big difference between 100km/h and 110km/h (GPS speed) in terms of energy consumption. There will be a difference between sitting more happily at the 20kWh/100km mark before creeping up to 22kWh/100km.
Stop 2: Owen, Victoria (1 hour 14 minutes charge)
After that we got to Ouyen and I plugged up the EV6. Unfortunately the charger in Ouyen (and as we found from parts of regional Australia) is only a 75kW charger.
This means you have to sit here longer to charge. Being Monday afternoon – there was literally nothing to eat either. So we just had to stand around eating junk food until the car was ready to go.
Albers got in the middle of our charge and once he realized there was nothing to eat – he decided to leave. Thanks, Albers.
Not wanting to let it go too far – I pulled the plug around 90% and hit the road for our overnight stay in Hay.
That’s when we ran into our first hiccups. Midway between Ouyen and Hay we realized that the bridge over the River Murray was closed for roadworks.
As Albers got ahead of me, he had to figure out how we could cross the Murray to Haye. The only easy way was a detour which added about 70km to the total journey, but it was our only choice to make our overnight accommodation and next charger at Hay.
As you can imagine, I started to panic a little at this point. Not only were we adding an unexpected 70km to the journey, I had pulled the plug a little early to catch Albers.
Besides, the sun was setting and it was getting cold. The drop in temperature increases the amount of energy the EV needs to use to keep the battery in its optimal temperature range, which inadvertently reduces your range.
Stop 3: Hay, New South Wales (1 hour 40 minutes charge)
I was sweating bullets as the range was going down faster than the distance we were traveling. The effect would have been multiplied if my luggage and other passengers were in the car.
I arrived at Hay with 1% battery after reducing my speed to prevent range loss.
The charger at Hay is a free NRMA charger, but unfortunately it’s limited to 50kW, which means a very slow charge. Given our late arrival, thankfully no one else was there on the only charger in town and I was able to while we used our hybrid support car to have dinner at a truck stop.
By this time our consumption as part of a highway drive had reached around 21kWh/100km.
So how are we doing so far in terms of time spent charging? Considering we have an overnight stay I didn’t factor this time into the equation because we could have gone to the motel and had dinner while the car was charging.
EV has lost 1 hour, 30 minutes. At around 800km, that’s probably the same amount of time I’d have stopped for breaks and food stops if I’d been driving an internal combustion car, so it’s not the end of the world.
The next morning we set off across the Hay Plains to Sydney. From here all chargers become high-speed DC chargers which means very little downtime for charges.
What’s up with Albers? So far it is consuming an average of 4.7 liters of diesel fuel per 100 km.
Stop 4: Tarcutta, New South Wales (30 minute charge)
Now we are back to fast chargers. We plugged in at Tarkata and juiced the EV6 from 19 percent to 95 percent in about 30 minutes. There was plenty of time to stretch our legs and hit the road for the rest of our road trip.
Stop 5: Sutton Forest, New South Wales (25 minute charge)
Our stop at Sutton Forrest is another 350kW charger. Initially it was only meant to be an 11-minute charge, but after filming the piece on camera and going to McDonald’s for coffee (he was busy there), we spent about 25 minutes on the charger to get up to 65. go percent.
Stop 6: Sydney, New South Wales (36 minute charge)
Albers and I’s last stop was near the Sydney CBD. I fueled the EV6 to 100 percent, which takes about 36 minutes) and the Alborz fueled the Q5, which takes about 4 minutes (it only took me 1 minute! Paul used to count his minutes in EV time Is, Albers).
Our energy consumption in the EV6 from Sutton Forest to Sydney was also excellent thanks to it being mainly downhill, coming in at around 14kWh/100km.
So, how did it all go?
Alborz used 62.33 liters of diesel, which at $2.09 per liter works out to us at $130.83.
This meant that it cost him about $092 per kilometer traveled. This also meant that it consumed just 4.3 liters of diesel per 100 km.
What about EVs? Surprisingly the trip cost $125.56. The EV6 is also driven a bit shorter due to Albers needing to investigate our cycle.
Another thing to point out is that we have to pay to charge at each of our charge stops except for the big charge at Hay near our accommodation. If we had to pay the charge at Hay, the EV would actually cost more for the same trip.
And suffering? If you exclude our overnight stop at Hay, the EV6 covered just under three hours over 1400km. The recommendation is to stop for a break every 200 km, which is roughly the same as the recommendation.
Also, if we had taken the more popular route, it would have been full of fast chargers which would have cut our wait times significantly.
Anyway – we hope you enjoyed the challenge. As I mentioned in the introduction, this was by no means a scientific test. It was primarily designed more for Albers to run out of fuel, but secondarily to see how painful the EV is on a long-distance regional drive. We hope you enjoyed.