An overview of an EV charging network

On a recent drive through South Australia we were able to experience the very best of the recently installed RAA charging network, starting just south of the Northern Territory border, through the Flinders Rangers and then across to Ceduna.

In total we used 10 different Kempower 150 kW DC chargers (3 of them twice). We visited 11 different charging stations and gave them a score of 10/11.

Why only a score of 10/11? I’ll get to that later, but let’s highlight the positives first. Here’s a quick summary of each:

Located in Spuds Roadhouse at the T-junction between Coober Pedy, Port Augusta and Roxby Downs. Well positioned in a busy Roadhouse with toilets nearby.

Located in the parking lot of the Teague Motors gas station and store, and what a great little store it is, part mini-supermarket, with hardware and camping supplies, so much useful stuff packed into a building smaller than a house.

Leigh Creek
This DC charger is located 540 km north of Adelaide and provides access east to the Arkaroola Wilderness retreat 140 km to the east or the Farina Bakery 60 km to the north. I call this the best planned DC charger in South Africa with forward, reverse and side parking for people towing (see photo at top). It also has 4 x type 2 charging stations.

Port Augusta
Located close to Woolworths, Coles and Big W, 2 separate DC units with 2 cables each. This location is already getting busy, but luckily the RAA is adding a similar setup at the Puma petrol station, 5km further south.

Located on the waterfront, 180 km southwest of Port Augusta. Toilets are close by, food shops a bit of a longer walk.

Tumby Bay
Side parking if needed plus a bakery a block away, this meets the important requirements.

Port Lincoln
The first time we charged in Port Lincoln seven years ago it was from a three phase socket near the Makybe Diva statue on the Foreshore, this time it was so fast via the Kempower 150 kW DC unit that we unplugged and moved the car before we went for a walk around town.

Located approximately halfway between Port Lincoln and Streaky Bay on the south west coast of the Eyre Peninsula. Side parking, a small supermarket nearby.

Striped bay
Located opposite the tourist park, about 800 meters from the city center. If you’re planning a trip across the Nullarbor, I highly recommend making this an overnight trip. It’s a beautiful little town on the water with a great pub looking out over the water to the north.

If you’re crossing the Nullarbor or just returning, this Kempower 150kW DC charger will be a welcome sight. It is located in the rear car park of the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel.

The IGA store is a 5 minute walk away for those who need to stock up on groceries at a reasonable price before starting the long trek west. Just don’t buy anything that isn’t allowed in Western Australia.

Over the three days we used the 10 different RAA DC units, the car’s battery percentage remained between 20% and 75% due to good spacing between charging stops. The exception was Ceduna, where a 90% surcharge was required to get safely to the Nullarbor Roadhouse, including a detour to Lake McDonnell.

The connection via Chargefox was crisp, a huge improvement over the last 12 months. Reliable public charging and a fast connection are essential for the further adoption of electric vehicles in this country.

Charging with Marla. Model Y and Kia EV9. Photo: Rob Dean.

The low light

Marla is a small settlement and a very busy Roadhouse, 150km south of the NT border, it is the halfway point and previously it was the only three phase charging along the 414km drive between Kulgera Roadhouse and Coober Pedy.

This location has a list of problems. I think the RAA thought no one would bother going that far north so no one would notice. Here is a summary in order:

The charging points are located behind the main building, hidden between the accommodations; it takes some searching to finally find it. Some simple signage with arrows at the front would help.

Placing the charging points in a property’s parking lot will result in blocked chargers from early afternoon until check-out the next morning.

There are 3 charging points, only two of which are on the Chargefox app.

The identification numbers on the charging stations do not match the numbers on the Chargefox app for the location.

Only one of the two chargers on the Chargefox app worked, no problem you say as it’s the middle of nowhere, doubtful this place gets one EV visit a week, no one will notice. Less than an hour into our charging session, a KIA EV9 pulls in with no hope of charging until we unplug it.

Finally, and worst of all, Marla previously had 32 amp three phase charging, now she has 32 amp single phase charging, possibly three times slower, two years ago we charged at 22 kW, this trip we charged at 7, 2 kW, it’s not just about downtime, it’s about safety.

EV drivers are quickly discovering that driving slower and being more energy efficient saves time when charging can’t replace energy as quickly as an EV can use it at highway speeds.

The RAA must be acutely aware that electric vehicles hyper-mellowing at 80 km/h in a 110 km/h zone are not safe.

The simple solution here would be to remove the 3 single phase poles (2 that don’t work) and replace them with a 32amp phase 22kW Delta DC charger similar to those installed along a few of the Nullarbor sites, this is not long term solution, but would provide a reliable and safe charging method until EV traffic increases enough to warrant fast DC charging.

Overall, the RAA or SA charging network will be suitable for the vast majority of EV journeys, but it is not acceptable to treat Marla as if it is close enough.