Incredibly Smooth Tesla Model 3 Road Trip Across 4 Australian States

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That’s how John and Karen Dunne described their trip from Brisbane through New South Wales and Victoria to the wine country of South Australia. Five and a half thousand kilometres in all with no real issues — incredibly smooth. “Driving the Tesla Model 3 Long Range on Autopilot meant that I could enjoy the scenery more than I could in my Lexus. The Tesla kept me safe and informed. It was less stressful, a fraction of the stress. I really enjoyed the road trip.” None of the accommodation venues expected payment for overnight charging.

That said, there are still some gaps (getting smaller) in Australia’s charging networks, and so any trip of this length has to be well planned.

The first charging stop, at the Maclean Superchargers, was very enjoyable. Four superchargers sit in the backyard of an old country pub – the Harwood Hotel. This town has also been by passed by the highway and only has about a dozen houses, but it has not lost its charm and is only a short distance out of the way. The pub provided great hospitality and atmosphere. It was clean and up to date. John and his wife had time for a drink and a walk to the river, used the comfort facilities, and by then the car was charged. Here’s a photo of the view:

Incredibly smooth
View from the chargers at Harwood Hotel in New South Wales. Photo courtesy of John Dunne.

The first overnight stop was Taree, a picturesque town which used to be on the highway. It has now been by passed by. The non-Tesla chargers still work, but it has become a town with nothing in it. No cafés even — John had to go the supermarket to buy an ice cream.

Two days into the trip, John and Karen stopped at Broken Bay, north of Sydney, where they stayed with John’s brother. “Nice to get some value out of the family,” he jokes. John ran an extension lead from the front veranda to the car. But it wouldn’t work! Turns out, the extension cord was too thin and wouldn’t carry the current. The brother saved the day by using a thicker cord with better quality and lower resistance. Here is lesson one: If you are planning to charge like this, test your lead before you leave home. “I should have bought a better quality one rather than the 20-year-old one I already had,” John reflects.

Travelling down the Hume, they charged at the Goulburn Superchargers and then continued on and arrived at Wangaratta (625 km/388 miles from Sydney), where they stayed the night at a motel. The motel was putting in two destination chargers. There they were, all wrapped in plastic and ready to be commissioned the following day — but not quite ready for charging.

Wangaratta is in the northern part of Victorian wine country and is serviced by Superchargers. There were lots of cafés. “It was vibrant, full of people — the total opposite to Taree.”

Incredibly smooth
On the way south, Goulbourn Superchargers were nearly empty. Photo courtesy of John Dunne.

Arriving in Eastern Melbourne, they visited their daughter and stayed with their grandson, charging the car from a power point in the grandson’s garage. Going shopping at Ringwood’s Eastlands Shopping Centre, they found it was equipped with 8 destination chargers. In a sign of how popular Teslas have become, all 8 were occupied. They found a space later in the shopping trip and were able to score 30 minutes of free charging, just enough to cover the trip to the shops and back.

Then it was off to ride the ferry from Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula to Queenscliff near Geelong. Even though the Tesla Model 3 is a bit low, there were no issues boarding and disembarking. The trip was not pleasant, though. It was windy and the rain meant low visibility. “We knew we were on a ship but we could see almost nothing.”

Charging at Geelong had its challenges. Wangaratta to Geelong is 310 km (193 miles). PlugShare indicated that the chargers at Torquay were out of action, so they travelled three suburbs north and charged at Corio. Here, they found that the spaces marked for charging were not long enough to fit a car in. The chargers were situated at a Homebase with no facilities, no cafés, and nowhere to even sit down (except the car of course). “A mobile coffee van would make money.” As they needed to stretch their legs, they wandered around the furniture shops.

When they got to Torquay (a vibrant beachside town), they found the chargers at the RACV resort were working, topped up the car (it only needed 20 minutes), and had lunch at a welcoming local café.

“Why did you top up,” I asked. “Because we were heading down the great Ocean Road!” The next charging spot was Warrnambool, a 4-hour drive and 280 km away.” They stayed overnight at Apollo Bay and needed plenty of charge in case they wanted to do some tourist side tracks. The only motel at Apollo Bay with a destination charger was fully booked.

Just for fun, John dropped Karen off on one side of the border and she walked from Victoria to South Australia.

John remembers the first time he stood in awe and admired the blue lake of Mt. Gambia. He wanted to share this experience with his wife. On the way, they discovered the future of motoring service stations: OTR Motor Sports in Tailem Bend, South Australia. It is a service station for trucks, petrol, Tesla Superchargers, and a mini food court. “This is the future. All the facilities you want when you want charge your car.” Strangely, I could find no reference to EV charging on their website.

Incredibly smooth
Blue Lake at Mount Gambier, South Australia. Photo courtesy of John Dunne.

“Lake Alexandrina, 40 km away, is now an inland sea due to flooding rains in the north of Australia. After sleeping and charging at the MacCracken Country Club in Victor Harbour, and availing ourselves of their destination chargers, we headed for Murray Bridge. There we were taught lesson number two: In cold weather you need to precondition your battery.” As he drove, John noticed that the range was dropping faster than he expected. He and the car were used to the warmer weather of Queensland, not the 9 degrees (Celsius) of South Australia. The battery had not charged fully due to the colder weather.

John learnt his lesson and preconditioned for each charge after that.

They had planned to travel through the Barossa Valley and visit some of the many wineries. However, PlugShare reviews put them off. The chargers managed by Barossa Valley Tourism have a terrible reputation for being broken, even after they have recently been fixed. “Vandalism,” I mused.

The high-speed charger at Murray Bridge managed by Charge Fox is situated close to the river. They were able to stroll beside the Murray River, visit the wharf precinct, and view the historical exhibits. Following the Murray River, they then charged at Renmark on the AAA 50 kW chargers. (The AAA is the South Australian equivalent of the RACV, the RACQ, and the NRMA — motorist organisations.)

After uneventful charging at Mildura overnight on their way home and at Robinvale at the off-highway Evie charger, their next adventure was at Narrandera in New South Wales. The charger only gave 5 km of range and then cut out. PlugShare had warned them about the issue. Then a Kia EV6 arrived and charged without a problem, so they hung around till he finished. They tried again, but the charger still would not work for them. “It was a pain. We wasted an hour.” Lesson number three: Always made sure you have enough charge for two jumps in case charger’s malfunction. John had learnt this one well, and was able to travel to the next charging spot.

At Wagga, they charged on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River.

The next day, they were back to Hume Highway. Charging at Goulbourn again, they were amazed at the difference. On the way down, they had charged here on a Friday morning and the 8 stalls were empty. This time, on a Sunday afternoon, all stalls were full.

Incredibly smooth
Goulbourn full on the way home. Photo courtesy of John Dunne.

Nambucca looked “so lovely we just had to stop.” They had a late lunch at the RSL and booked a motel — The Beach Rooms. They were greeted by the manger with the words: “Would you like to charge your car? You can park in the disabled spot with the power point.”

From there, they headed home.

Even though John said the trip was “incredibly smooth,” he still needed to plan and learn the lessons 1) use PlugShare and 2) make sure you have a contingency plan (including the appropriate leads) and some spare time up your sleeve. Much of the charging they did was free. The 5,500 km trip cost less than AU$400. But John is more interested in convenience than cost.

I would urge EV drivers to get out and enjoy a road trip, while it is still an adventure.

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David Waterworth

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].

David Waterworth has 762 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth