We’ve got the cars, but there’s one big issue in the charge towards an electric vehicle future
By Sourced Externally
March 21, 2022
Electric cars, or EVs, are without a doubt the way of the future.
But after driving a brand-new EV for the past week, I’m not so sure Australia is ready. At least not yet.
You can see why electric vehicles are increasingly popular.
Fuel prices are at record highs, hitting family budgets and businesses hard.
The far more affordable option of recharging rather than paying through the nose at the petrol pump has enormous appeal.
The environmental benefits are clear.
EVs have zero exhaust emissions, which is essential to combat climate change.
They do create some greenhouse gas emissions when they’re charged from the electricity grid, but a lot of EV owners have solar panels, so the environmental impact is minimised when they’re powered by the sun.
EVs cost more to buy, but that higher initial outlay is offset by the fact they’re cheaper to run and service.
Many governments also offer subsidies to increase the uptake of electric cars.
The greater the demand, the cheaper they’ll become, and with more second hand EVs on the market, they’ll become more affordable still.
‘EV drivers are fanatical about their cars. They will tell you how much they love them, how much money they save, and how silly the rest of us are for not jumping onboard the EV bandwagon’
So it was with great interest that I took the opportunity to put Kia’s all-new EV6 to the test.
I’d never had the chance to drive an EV, even though they’re a major discussion point on my 2GB Afternoons radio show and our regular Monday Motoring segment with Drive.com.au.
And dealers cannot keep up with demand.
Even before the first new generation KIA had hit the showroom, they’d already sold out for two years.
The company has had to put an urgent call to the factory to get more vehicles down under fast, and you can see why.
It’s an incredible ride. Smooth, quiet, comfortable – and it turned a lot of heads. I was stopped in the street by drivers wanting to find out more.
But I’m not sure I’ll be on the list of eager buyers just yet.
The KIA was brilliant driving around Sydney.
My commute to work is minimal, so if I didn’t notch up any extra kms, I’d have no need to recharge in the week I was driving the EV6.
If I did, there were plenty of fast charging stations at nearby shopping centres.
But the ease of recharging was a different story when I left Sydney to drive to Newcastle.
The KIA has an almost 500-kilometre range before needing to recharge, so the city driving on top of the 320-kilometre round trip meant I had to have a top up as part of the journey.
The hotel I was staying in had no fast recharging stations.
If I plugged the car into a standard power point it would take close to two days to reach full capacity, so I tracked down the nearest NRMA fast-charging station at Wallsend in Newcastle and factored in a stop on my way.
Two charging stations were listed, with a charge time of around 30 minutes to get the top-up I needed. I could go and get a coffee and have a toilet break while I waited.
So far so good.
When I arrived however, only one charging station was working, which I’ve since learnt is a common occurrence.
Vandalism is a problem, and super charging stations are often out of action, which can leave you stranded if there are no others nearby in areas outside the CBD.
The one working charger was already being used by a Tesla driver, so I pulled in beside him and had a chat while he was charging away.
Another EV pulled in beside me to also wait.
No one was put out, in fact quite the opposite. It was like I’d dipped my toes into a cult.
EV drivers are fanatical about their cars.
They will tell you how much they love them, how much money they save, and how silly the rest of us are for not jumping onboard the EV bandwagon.
And there was plenty of time to hear the arguments, because the 30-minute top up I’d expected and factored into my journey turned into more than an hour while I waited for the one working station to be free.
When it was eventually my turn, I ended up pulling the plug at around 80 per cent charge because I had run out of time and had to get on my way.
The EVs themselves are brilliant, and make a lot of sense, but the charging station infrastructure in Australia needs to catch up with the growing demand for the cars themselves.
Fully-functioning charging stations need to be dotted up and down highways like existing petrol stations.
New buildings and apartments must include super charging stations, and more need to be retrofitted into existing structures.
Until that day comes, the joy of hitting the open road in an EV will be overcome by the anxious feeling of watching the kilometres click over and potentially running out of juice with no jerry can to tie you over.
EVs are the way of the future. No doubt. But without the essential charging infrastructure, they’ll be confined to the cities and big centres.
And in a big country like Australia, we need to do better than that.