At genteel dinner parties and restaurant tables all around the nation’s most sustainable capital, it’s almost inevitable that the discussion turns to electric cars.

And that’s because Canberrans buy more new electric cars (EVs) – around one in five – than any other state or territory. In the ACT, we buy them by the hundreds every month, with the Shanghai-built Tesla as much of the city’s milieu as the black puffer jacket.

Yet mixed in with that burgeoning ACT passion for plug-in transport are some grave misunderstandings and misconceptions.

One of the most common is that once you own an electric car – and the cheapest new model on offer is a shade under $40,000 – the running costs thereafter are either free, or negligible.

Not quite.

The three common ways of getting a charge for free.

One, to charge at home from rooftop solar and/or battery solar; two, have your free charging wrapped into a new EV purchase deal (Audi, for instance, currently offers 6 years of unlimited free charging through a deal with the Chargefox network) or; three, charge up only from an NRMA fast-charger.

And that third option will soon vanish.

As the NRMA grows its fast-charger network – it now has 100 across NSW – it will phase out free charging by the end of October. Three NRMA chargers – including the Mittagong installation – already need payment and the rest will follow within weeks.

The new costs for NRMA charging will vary between 54 cents per KW up to 150 KW, and 59 cents per KW above 175 kilowatts for ultra-fast charging. Once the system is fully rolled out and all chargers are accessible via the association’s app, a 10 per cent member discount will apply.

Unless your EV driving is limited to within the range offered by your free rooftop supply, there is little or no option but to rely on the public recharging network to stay mobile.

And be warned: some are frighteningly expensive.

If you were a genuine early adopter, all Teslas ordered before January 15, 2017, kept their free lifetime supercharging guarantee.

However, the situation has changed significantly since then.

But to clarify: Tesla has what’s known as “destination” chargers around major shopping centres, with three located in and around Civic. It’s a clever bit of marketing which is aimed at encouraging people to park up and charge while they shop.

But don’t expect something for nothing. Many of the online reviews are terrible, especially on the painfully slow charging speeds. The Tesla destination charger within the Canberra Centre, for instance, has an average two star review and is so well-hidden in the carpark, most drivers can’t find it.

To provide an on-the-spur-of-the-moment test of EV charging costs, The Canberra Times chose one of the most common interstate journeys for ACT residents: the two-and-a-bit hour trek up the Federal and Hume highways to Sydney and return.

Starting out with a fully topped (with electrons) 432km range in the battery, we left Kingston and journeyed to the Tesla recharging station at Exeter, where we halted and plugged in at the impressive new six-charger station, with 250kW “V3” recharging available.

In 23 minutes, we were on the road again with an additional 31 kilowatt hours (kWh) of charge on board which reinstated the remaining range to 418km.

But here’s the rub: the energy bill from Tesla for that 194km leg of the journey was a very pricey $18.

Tesla is not transparent of its charging costs, saying only on its website that “prices may change from time to time” and “all prices include taxes and fees”.

By comparison, one of Australia’s largest networks, Evie, offers ultra-fast (up to 350kW) charging of 65 cents per kWh.

The consumer-focused Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) says that “public DC fast charging in Australia is struggling to keep pace with the influx of new EVs and their drivers”.

Extracted in full from: Are electric vehicles free to drive? The cost to drive from Canberra to Sydney | The Canberra Times | Canberra, ACT