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EV Driving From A Small Rural Town In Queensland

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Geoff Walden is organising the entertainment for the upcoming Orange Festival in Gayndah, and he has invited a group of us from the Australian Electric Vehicles Association to attend. Gayndah is a small rural town about 2 hours inland from Gympie, Maryborough, and Bundaberg in Queensland. It is obviously a productive citrus-growing area. The Orange Festival is held every second year. This years’ theme is citrus superpowers. The visiting EVs will fit right in. We are still a curiosity once you get off the coastal roads.

We enjoyed our previous trip to visit friends in Gayndah, who graciously provided us with our own little charging station.

Orange Festival

Tess and the Big Orange in Gayndah. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

Geoff tells me:

My wife and I have lived here (retired) for about 5 years and have been interested in EVs and all the new energy things that goes with them for a long time. We took delivery of a BYD Atto 3 in September last year. As you can imagine, there are no public or fast charging facilities out here, which is not a problem for us since our solar and the grid keep us charged. Over the Christmas holidays, we took a 5,500 km trip via Broken Hill to our families in Adelaide and Canberra. It was a good trip and everything went really well.

Orange Festival

Gayndah to Adelaide in a BYD Atto 3. Screenshot from Google Maps courtesy Geoff Walden.

Being a mostly conservative area, there is not a particularly positive attitude to EVs in this area. I am involved in the management of the entertainment for the Orange Festival and thought it might be good to see if we can get some EVs and their people out here to try and develop some interest.

Obviously, it will be a challenge given the lack of local charging facilities, but it would be great to see some EVs on display and in the Grand Parade.

So, given that, we would be most appreciative if you and anybody else might be interested in helping to raise the interest of EVs and all that goes with them in our area.

Below are the highlights of his recent trip to Adelaide. You can read the whole story here.

We have driven to Adelaide and Canberra each year for at least the last ten years. Prior to the BYD we drove a Ford Territory and before that a BMW X5. We would normally travel down the Newell Highway and then across to Cobar, Wilcannia, Broken Hill etc. Because of the lack of fast chargers between Kingaroy and Goondiwindi and south we decided to go down the New England highway.

We were concerned about flood waters prior to leaving Gayndah and did as much research as we could. For instance we booked cabins at caravan parks that we thought we would need prior to leaving Gayndah. That gave us an opportunity to talk to people about the situation in their area.

By the time we got down there, we weren’t greatly affected by the floods. The amount of water on the Darling River Flood plains leading up to Wilcannia was quite amazing. We have stayed at the Warrawong on the Darling caravan park near Wilcannia on previous trips when towing a caravan. It came very close to flooding them but when we arrived they said the peak had been reached and it was receding. It was great to compare the amount of water around this time with what the situation has been in the past.

Orange Festival

Charging at a caravan park on the Darling River. Photo courtesy of Geoff Walden.

The flood didn’t affect us too much around the Murray on the trip to Canberra. We did plan to stop overnight at Robinvale which is on the Murray. However the flood was affecting their septic system and they were unable to take guests until it all subsided a bit. They provided contact for the relatively up market Euston Cabin Resort which was on the other side of the river. The flood was still very obvious there, especially the smell.

Probably the thing that had the most affect was potholes caused by the rain. Hitting them at 100Ks takes your breath away and certainly puts some pressure on suspension and tyres. Pleased that they didn’t affect the car in any way as far as we can tell.

We used the in-car navigation all the way and it didn’t let us down although a couple of times it took us on interesting roads. We didn’t have to wait at many chargers except one where a Tesla owner left his car plugged in for one hour even though it was fully charged. Rather than wait we went and checked into the cabin at the caravan park where we had pre booked and came back later in the afternoon. We know how long the guy stayed plugged in because another Tesla owner who seriously needed to charge reported the guy on Plug Share.

Orange Festival

Granny charging at Euston. Photo courtesy Geoff Walden.

Our first issue occurred at Wilcannia where neither of the NRMA fast chargers there were working so we booked into a caravan park and charged up overnight.

At this stage there are few fast chargers in South Australia and the section that concerned us most was from Broken Hill to Peterborough. We made it OK and charged up overnight and made it to Adelaide the next day. At a pinch, on the highway driving at 100 km/h we get 340 km if we needed to but would be happy if we had to drive 300 km from one charger to the next.

Orange Festival

This emu had a death wish and was playing chicken with the car. Photo Geoff Walden.

We granny charged in Adelaide. The trip across to Canberra was easy thanks to the NRMA fast chargers. But there seemed to be a dearth of fast chargers in Canberra, or maybe I didn’t look hard enough. There were plenty of type 2. Chargers but only 4 fast chargers that I could see.

With a little planning the trip from Canberra in the ACT to Gayndah in Queensland (distance 1330 km) was simple except for charging in Dubbo. We stopped at the NRMA charger to see it occupied by a Volvo XC 40? The owner (a local) was away for 90 minutes. We looked longingly at the bank of Tesla charges about 200m away. We see now that those Tesla chargers at Dubbo are available for non-Tesla vehicles. Even though they are very expensive at 79c per kWh. Had they been available we would have used them given that the wait was making us very late for our booking at Coonabarabran.

Orange Festival

Time for a cuppa while we fast charge at Berri.

I was interested to see how the tyres some owners are complaining about affected our trip. We didn’t see any problems including almost one full day of driving in the rain. Although it is probably difficult to explain, both my wife and I (we shared the driving) felt that the trip in all respects was significantly less stressful than it was in either of our two previous ICE vehicles. It is difficult to explain that to other people but certainly the lack of noise and the technology helps. I think it rides well. We hit a few more potholes at 100 km/h than we should have but given the road conditions at the time there were a few potholes around and they are hard to see in the shadows.

The air conditioning worked well. From Broken Hill to Peterborough the outside temperature was 40°C and we were quite comfortable inside the car. The seats are comfortable, although for me the headrest is a little too far forward but I got used to that.

Since having the car in Gayndah our attitudes towards driving have changed. For example, there is a roadside stall at Mundubbera that at present sells very nice grapes. We think nothing of driving the 40kms each way get some. We would have to think about it if we were still filling the tank up with diesel.

Looking forward to meeting you at the Orange Festival in April, Geoff. Everyone is welcome, especially if you can bring your EV.

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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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