The black Tesla Model S is named Carpe Noctem (“Seize the Night”), and it “wrote” Facebook posts describing the 80-day journey it and Linda Röhrs completed around Australia from April – June, 2019. Together, she and the “sleek, black, trusty steed” drove 17,000 km (10,563 miles). Legs of the journey were adjusted to meet the Tesla’s 450 km (280 mile) range and variables like Australia’s vast distances, harsh climate, and lack of EV charging infrastructure away from the more densely populated east coast.
Röhrs reason for this “‘little’ drive was to educate people about EVs, one conversation at a time.”
They ended at Australia’s largest solar-powered EV charging site of Macadamia Castle on the north coast of NSW.
Driving a Tesla Model S around Australia
“Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter.”
“I still can’t quite believe I did it, and I can’t see that it was particularly special.” Those words capture the humble driver behind the 80-days-around-Australia jaunt in a Tesla Model S. The Walton quote encapsulates the experience Röhrs shared with Carpe Noctem, to the point that she decided to have the car “write” the blog, “so could use ‘we’ to disguise that I was a solo female.”
“I am not an expert in cars, let alone electric cars,” Röhrs realized, yet she sold her Chevron Island home, purchased a Tesla Model S, and decided to make a road trip of a lifetime. “I’m thrilled that a number of people can now see it’s possible and not even difficult.”
“So what do you do with a brand new supercar? Drive it!,” she wrote on her blog. “I drove to Sydney, from my home on the Gold Coast, Australia. Wow!!!!!! At first I had some range anxiety and charged at every Tesla supercharger on the way.”
Later, gaining more confidence with experience, she drove to Melbourne and Bendigo, and her “driving experience exceeded expectation. Röhrs then experimented with an initial 4,000 km/ 2485 mile trip in 7 days, which she says was “a sheer driving pleasure”.
A few months later, Röhrs decided to test the electric highway around Australia with a self-imposed challenge to drive around Australia in 80 days, using only electric charge. “No generator, just Superchargers, EV chargers and wall sockets.” She acknowledged the symbiosis that would become the mantra of the trip: she and Carpe Noctem would be a unified team. She implored her audience, “Cheer us on. Give me advice. Give him some energy. Give me succour.”
Her philosophy of “prior planning prevents piss poor performance” led to the detailed outline for charging that would be necessary for Carpe Noctem to succeed on the trip.
“I did plan our journey in some detail,” Röhrs confirms, “down to distance and connection type and speed of charging available at each point. Each charge (allowed) a max of 400 km/ 248 mile drive. I asked Tesla for advise,” she continued, and “got none. I asked for advice on the TOCA Facebook page. And from AEVA. Got quite a bit, mainly to do with charging and adapters.” As a result, she purchased every charge adapter she could – and “used them all.”
“To give some perspective of Carpe Noctem’s 450 km range,” Röhrs wrote:
- 907 km/ 563 miles from the Gold Coast to Sydney, at least 2 full charges
- 982 km/ 610 miles from Sydney to Melbourne
- 745 km/ 463 miles from Melbourne to Adelaide
- Adelaide to Perth is a whopping 2,694 km/ 1674 miles
- 2,229 km/ 1385 miles Perth to Broome
- 1,868 km/ 1154 miles Broome to Darwin
- 2,763 km/ 1716 miles Darwin to Cairns, even more than across the Nullabour!
- 1,838 km/ 1142 miles Cairns to the Gold Coast.”
She announced on her blog, “If you’re around in the same place at the same time, love to catch up for a chat about Teslas, EVs, brass band music, and/or knitting and crochet, even this great country we are lucky enough to live in.”
And off she and Carpe Noctem drove.
Stamina and Resilience Marked the Tesla Model S 80 Day Trek
“I’m sure that there are places in the deserts in Australia that could be similar to where we might want to go on Mars.”
Travel on Australia’s east coast in the areas ranging from Brisbane to Adelaide was systematic and reliable due to the availability of Tesla Superchargers. Those stops were 2 hours or less. But, beyond charging needs, Röhrs needed to plan for and confront obstacles on the road, so she brainstormed a series of solutions.
- Sat phone and EPIRB (Emergency position indicating radiobeacons) device (which cost from $200 to about $1500 and which are designed to save your life if you get into trouble by alerting rescue authorities and indicating your location)
- Reported daily to a friend
- Falling asleep: Rest break every hour, pulled over for a snooze when starting to yawn, used Autopilot, drank energy drinks (“yuck!!!”)
- Singing along to loud music
- Mind games – word anagrams, multiplication tables, number plate spotting
- Across the Nullarbor took a photo every 20 minutes
At Hughenden, the first stop away from the electric highway, the charger she had arranged prior to arrival was not available. She tried to used a caravan point, but it was “far too slow, 4 kmph. Turned to Facebook. Advice received included suggestions for places to charge, to simply wait (like 100 hours), to ‘ring an engineering firm.’ Pete from RAT Engineering couldn’t have been more helpful. 4 hours later we were fully charged and on our way.”
People’s reactions to Röhrs’ and Carpe Noctem’s journey were “varied. Friends thought I was crazy,” she remembers, “but encouraged me. They kept me from attempting anything too risky.” As she met people on the trip, comments included, “Of course, you can’t go there” — after she had just told them she had, in fact, done so.
In areas that were remote, Röhrs needed to plan stays of 2 nights to recharge the 100 kWh battery on a trickle charger. Any air conditioning on those legs would be a serious consideration due to mile depletion.
On the road to Darwin, she and Carpe Noctem encountered a faulty destination hotel charger. To find alternatives, she turned to the ChargePoint app and asked on TOCA and her Facebook pages. “I met fellow Tesla owner, Richard Smith and found the Charles Stuart solar EV charger” as a result.
Near Broome, the ChargePoint location was blocked by roadworks. Carpe Noctem blew a fuse at an AirBnB host. The local destination charge point refused them access. “Facebook, again,” she reminisces. “This time got a bollacking from the local EV group. Went back to ChargePoint, found Broome Auto Excellence. They had me underway in 3.5 hours. Took several apprentices on the test drive of their lives. All now have the Tesla grin.”
At one point, a “baldish tyre” was problematic. Instead of waiting “10 – 14 days for a new tyre,” she took advice “to drive slower, avoid bad roads. Got to Port Hedland (60 kmph all the way), where all 4 tyres were found to be virtually slicks, one through to wire.”
Röhrs chose an occasional expensive hotel that offered a Tesla destination charger. But roadhouses were a more common stop to recharge on such legs, and she notes, “Every roadhouse I went to (people) were extremely generous and extremely accommodating.” Work by the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) ensures access to three-phase power in such rural communities. AEVA is a charitable, non-profit organization founded in 1973 to promote electric vehicles as a key to addressing oil dependence and global warming, both nationally and internationally.
(Note: Here’s research if you’d like to go deeper into a three-phase induction machine on single-phase supply that has been an approach for electromechanical energy conversion in these rural communities with limited or no access to three-phase grid.)
People she met had different responses to “their” goal of switching to all-electric transportation.
- “EVs are not OK here.”
- “They can’t work here.”
- “It’d take too long to charge.”
- “You can’t travel that far.”
From the Perspective of a Tesla Model S
“Mmm, well that whole thing about having to look tough has never left Australia.”
“After a drive in me,” Carpe Nostem says, “people had one thing to say: ‘Wow.’ And people on my blog seem admiring.”
“Linda’s taking me to an AEVA meeting in Baulkham Hills tonight. I should get to meet brothers/sister, cousins and other relatives, as well as EV enthusiasts,” Carpe Noctem wrote.
“Yesterday we saw a dark Tesla model X drive down Katoomba St,” Carpe Noctem wrote on FB. “Linda was rewarded with a wave back. Thanks to whoever it was. She was pretty happy, as this was the first Tesla driver to wave back at her.”
In the Blue Mountains, Carpe Noctem said, “Took a bit of jiggling and juggling, but finally I’m charging at 55 kmph. Linda’s off seeing sights and riding rides here at Scenic World.”
Some legs required careful navigation, such as the road from Katherine to Kununurra on which Röhrs had to slow down to conserve power usage, arriving at her destination with 61 km/ 39 miles range to spare. “Made it. Bit scary on the windy roads, especially when trucks or caravans are across the centre line,” Carpe Noctem wrote. “Then there are the terrorers who sit inches from my rear bumper. Although I do think Linda could have driven a tad faster. I am built for speed and safety.”
Travelling to and from Australia’s other extreme – Tasmania – had other challenges, from multiple “security events” on the Spirit of Tasmania (presumably because of the rocking of the boat), to rapid dropping of charge while waiting to board the ferry in near freezing temperatures.
“Australia is a remarkable country with incredible technical and physical resources and a capacity to be a world leader in renewables.”
Similar trips have already attracted considerable media attention, including Dutchman Wiebe Wakker, who took on a 3-year mission to travel from the Netherlands to Australia without using any fossil fuels in a converted VW Golf. 70-year-old Sylvia Wilson completed the trip, with various passengers, for a miniscule charging cost of around $150.
As a musician, it was important for Röhrs to pack her big brass band instruments in addition to necessities for the trip. She assembled maps and information, electronics, sleeping gear, satellite phone, a tyre plug kit, and, yes, toilet paper. She and Carpe Noctem want to share their story in the hopes “that it might encourage someone/anyone to reduce their carbon footprint.”
She wants people to know that owning and driving EVs is “FUN!!!!!” She offers a series of reasons why everyone should consider buying an EV:
- It’s quiet, non intrusive in your surroundings and neighbors.
- It’s cheaper to run, by far.
- It helps our environment.
- Charging an EV requires a different mindset from refueling a car — you charge at home/work, and there’s no special trip to go to charger.
- Charge stops are great for rest breaks for driver (she built in 20-30 minutes every 2 hours).
- Wherever there’s power, you can charge.
But Röhrs acknowledged that Australia and other places around the world need better infrastructure. “If 186 nations agree we need to reduce greenhouse emissions, we should take note. Individuals can help in small ways – use less, choose carefully, use petrol/diesel vehicles less, use an EV.”
If she were to do a similar trip in the future, the only real “change would have been to not book every stay. Be more flexible.” And, with hindsight, now she’d “relax more about distance and charging.”
She recommends to others who’d like to attempt such a trip to “Go for it! Be prepared for problems. Have a plan B. Relax. It’s been done before. It’s ‘doable’.”
“Enjoy the ride.”
Permissions to post all pictures from Linda Röhrs
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