Electric vehicle driver reveals 'number one problem' for Aussie owners

EV owner Trevor Long's long trip put Australia's charging network into question.

Electric vehicles (EV) are rising in popularity across the country and with it charging stations are popping up in almost every suburb. But, is the charging infrastructure keeping up with demand?

EV owner and host of Two Blokes Talking Electric Cars, Trevor Long, took the biggest electric vehicle currently on sale in Australia, the Ford E Transit Van, on a long road trip around NSW to test some of Australia's charging networks. Quickly, he ran into challenges when trying to find a charging station.

"Welcome to the number one problem with the electric charging network in Australia," he said online. "I've driven 120 kilometres to this charger here which was on the maps, and none of it works."

Screenshots from Trevor Long's TikTok videos showing him at two different electric vehicle stations in NSW, one an Evie station and one an NRMA station.
While taking a road trip Trevor Long encountered an electric vehicle charging station that was not working which could easily spell trouble for drivers. Source: TikTok

While in theory users should be able to find a charging station on an online map like they would a petrol station, in reality an EV user needs to do "research" to plan a trip by looking at different networks on different apps, and using "plug-sharing apps" where they can find reports from "real people".

"There's always the very real risk, as I discovered on the weekend, that one will simply not be working when you get there," Long told Yahoo News Australia.

He said this unpredictability is to be expected. "Sadly, the lack of, or unreliability more specifically of the highway charging network doesn't surprise me. Fortunately we now have enough charging locations that there is always "another option", but it's unacceptable in these early days of EV adoption that these kinds of problems exist."

Different providers of charging stations not growing fast enough

Long notes the charging infrastructure in Australia is "growing" with government incentives, but not fast enough to "outpace the sale of EV cars".

"Tesla — like them or hate them — have this right. That company spent the time and money building the single best charging network on the planet," he said. "In Australia, they have more chargers per location than any other network by some margin, and they continue to build, update and grow."

Other independent networks include JOLT, Evie, BP Pulse and NRMA which are all still growing — though Long argues not fast enough. "Independent networks are unable to grow at that scale because it means a huge and very long-term investment, but if other car brands want their cars to sell on the same scale as Tesla they have to have the network to back up their cars."

NRMA's controversial off-grid EV charger

NRMA is in the process of building a "national network" with the Australian government across the national highway network, focused on "connection of regional communities".

As part of this investment, they recently released a controversial off-grid electric vehicle charger prototype set to eventually be rolled out across the country. "This backup diesel-powered generator automatically switches on when the solar panels aren’t producing enough power and battery levels are low, typically after several overcast days," Bridie Schmidt wrote in an article for the site.

Expert says electric vehicles are still worth it

While there are certainly obvious teething issues as EVs continue to emerge, Long says they are still the "best" cars to own. "I own one EV and have a second coming next month, they are among the best cars on the road to drive and own," he said. "For 99% of people 99% of the time they are going to experience nothing more than the simplicity of EV ownership, charging at home, at night the same way they charge their phones."

He did, however, note that for people travelling regionally or longer distances like he does, they need to ensure the car they buy has "enough range to ensure you can skip one charger if it's broken or busy". "For me, I wouldn't own a car with less than 500km range if you plan to take some scenic road trips."

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