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Electric Car charging stations Australia

Car Charging Socket / August 19, 2022

Going the distance

Australians have been slow to embrace electric vehicles (EVs) compared to drivers in the US, Europe and China. Car makers often put this down to 'range anxiety', caused by the relatively low number of EV charging stations in our country.

Put simply, range anxiety is worrying that the car battery will die before reaching your destination and recharge point. In a country with a lot of long distance car travel, no-one wants to be left stranded.

So we asked the experts: where exactly can you recharge a plug-in electric vehicle, how long does it take, and how far will it get you. And … are we being unnecessarily anxious?

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Why are Australians reluctant to embrace EVs?

While China has a smorgasbord of 70 plug-in EV models to choose from, Australia has only a handful. In Norway, where there's a suite of tax and rebate incentives for electric vehicle owners, EVs have reached a market penetration of 24%. Here at home, just 219 electric vehicles were sold in 2016 out of nearly 1.2 million new vehicle sales.

The problem, according to Nissan spokesperson Peter Fadeyev, is twofold: the need for government-led incentives for Australian buyers to choose an EV, and the "lack of publicly available EV battery recharging infrastructure".

However, Patrick Finnegan from E-station, a company that installs EV charging stations, says most people charge their plug-in EV at home, because they can conveniently draw on cheaper domestic or overnight power or, even better, use their free stored solar power.

Hybrid vs pure electric car: what's the difference?

There are two types of plug-in electric vehicle:

  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which have both an internal combustion engine and an electric engine that can be recharged by plugging into an external power source.
  • Battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which are purely electric.

(There are also hybrids that don't plug-in to charge, like Toyota's Prius range.)

How does the driving range differ for PHEVs and BEVs?

PHEVs generally have a much longer driving range than purely electric BEVs, thanks to the petrol engine. But in electric-only mode, PHEVs will have a lower range because of the added weight of the internal combustion engine.

PHEVs also come with the service and maintenance costs of an internal combustion engine, as well as the emissions and noise. But it's often possible to drive the hybrid in electric-only mode.

And remember, the driving range will be reduced by long mountain climbs, the number of passengers and luggage load, strong headwinds and high speeds.

What's the range for a Tesla? How about a Nissan Leaf?

Here's a snapshot of some plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles available in Australia, and the range for each.

PHEVs – how far can they go?

  • BMW i8
    Range: 37km in electric mode, 440km with petrol
    About the car: BMW's i8 is a luxury sports car, with a 7.1kWh battery capacity, and costs approximately $318, 993.
  • Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
    50km in electric mode, 920km with petrol
    About the car: This five-seater hatchback costs approximately $62, 490 and has an 8.8kWh battery.

BEVs – how far can they go?

  • Tesla Model S
    Range: 408–613km.
    About the cars: There are seven variants of the luxury Tesla Model S. Prices range from $108, 700 for the 60 to $209, 800 for the P100D. Tesla says the Model S60 (60kWh battery) has a range of up to 408km, and the P100D with its (100kWh battery) can cover 613km on a single charge.
  • Tesla Model 3
    About the car: The more affordable Model 3 is due this year, with prices starting at US$35, 000. Battery sizes haven't been confirmed.
  • Nissan Leaf
    Range: 170km
    About the car: The 2016 Nissan Leaf, designed for mostly city driving, has a 24kWh battery and costs $39, 990.
  • BMW i3
    Range: 200km
    About the car: Also designed for city driving, the 2016 BMW i3 has a battery capacity of 33.2kWh and costs approximately $68, 100.

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How do I charge the battery?

All plug-in EVs in Australia have a lithium-ion battery. The plugs and connectors can differ between makes of vehicle so not all types of charge points can be used with all vehicles. Case in point: the Tesla Superchargers can only be used for Tesla vehicles.

There are generally three ways to charge a plug-in electric car and the time taken can vary between each model. These include, from fastest to slowest:

  • level 3, fast charging: using a high-voltage DC charger at a public charging station
  • level 2, home wall recharger: using an installed battery recharger
  • level 1, electrical socket: the car's mobile charge cable is plugged into an electrical socket directing electricity to the car's onboard charger.

Fast charging station: approx. 20–30 minutes

These level 3 DC recharging units supply power directly to the battery (instead of via the onboard charger), putting out 25kW to 135kW.

According to Patrick Finnegan from E-station, all the fast-charging stations in the eastern states are currently free, but Western Australia's RAC-installed fast chargers from Perth to Margaret River charge 45c per kWh. Finnegan predicts that, in time, DC fast chargers will be installed in highway service stations and city centres and will charge a fee for the power.

A fast-charging battery recharge station takes approximately 20–30 minutes to restore a fully depleted Nissan Leaf battery to about 80%.

Tesla's Supercharge stations only service Tesla vehicles, thanks to the proprietary plug style, and can be found strategically located between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. It takes approximately 40 minutes to charge the battery to 80% (based on a 90kWh Model S).

Wall recharger – approx. 8 hours

For faster home charging, a wall recharger that converts AC to DC can be installed at home – or at restaurants, hotels and destinations. This is also known as a level 2 charger.

It takes approximately eight hours to recharge a fully depleted Leaf battery with a wall recharger.

The Tesla Model S comes with its own Tesla Wall Connector but also installs them as 'Destination Chargers' at hotels, restaurants, shopping centres and resorts.

Finnegan believes installed destination chargers may be increasingly available at well-placed hotels, motels, restaurants and retail points, attracting longer-distance drivers who'll need a few hours' or overnight charging.

Tesla advises that home-installation costs can range from $500 to $5000, "or more depending upon the scope of the work". The energy supply in some older homes may not support the additional load of charging a vehicle and may need an upgrade. Prospective EV buyers should investigate this before buying.

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Source: www.choice.com.au