Frustrations at the pump – EV drivers experience long delays at charging stations

EV Chargers at Macksville, often at least one is non-operational as seen here.

AS more electric vehicles (EVs) enter the market, the sparse network of fast car chargers along NSW’s east coast needs to be urgently increased or drivers of EVs will face even more extended wait times when charging on long trips.

Electric vehicle sales as a percentage of all new car sales in NSW roughly doubled between 2022 and the first six months of 2023, according to a report by the Electric Vehicle Council of Australia.

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Australia wide, 46,000 new electric vehicles were sold in the first six months of this year, translating to almost nine percent of all new cars sold and a jump of five percent on the previous year.

As these vehicles enter our traffic, increased demand is being put on the small network of fast EV chargers that support long distance travel for these drivers.

Most of the electric cars on the market offer a range of around 400-500 kilometres (km) depending on the roads driven and accessories used on the drive.

This works quite well for those staying in their local area who can charge the vehicle in their own garage nightly.

It also can be a saving for retirees or night-workers who have a large solar system installed on their roof and take advantage of the daylight hours to charge their car batteries.

However, when EV owners decide to take a holiday, there are many apps and maps to scour that determine the closest or best charging stations to use when away from home.

From Chargefox to Evie, BP Pulse and NRMA there are many organisations controlling the EV chargers that long-distance drivers depend on.

Each one has a mobile telephone app which will need to be downloaded before an associated charger can be used to charge a car.

None of these companies coordinate with each other and this is where PlugShare is another useful app for EV owners.

PlugShare is updated by other drivers and includes most of the available EV charging networks.

It is possible to leave messages for drivers coming in behind you like – “At the beach, back at 1pm”- helpful
information when you are desperately waiting for the one charger in town to be free so you can start charging up for the rest of the trip.

At one charging station, News Of The Area overheard one elderly man asking other drivers, “Can you help us use this charger?”

Like many others he was using one of these chargers for the first time.

Thankfully, the man’s mobile phone had coverage and he was able to download the correct application to make the charger work and pay for a load of electricity.

Another couple said they had pulled into a nearby NRMA fast charging station, only to find after much time and trouble that there was limited mobile coverage so they couldn’t download the necessary app and charge their car.

There was a long queue on a recent Saturday in Taree at one charger and some drivers found themselves waiting an hour and a half or more before they could even start their charge – a process which can take up to two hours in itself.

Frustratingly, mobile phone outages also affect the charging stations and last Wednesday when Optus was out, many stations were temporarily unavailable.

Here in the Nambucca Valley, we have one fast charger at the AMPOL in Macksville and another in Nambucca Heads at the BP Travel Centre, making a total of three fast charging ports offering the standard connection required for most cars.

Unfortunately, just one of these three was operational on Friday afternoon of last week when News Of The Area checked.

“It can take some time to fix,” said the service station attendant.

“They have to come from Coffs Harbour or Port to reset it sometimes,” she explained.

By the next day, all three of the Nambucca Valley’s fast EV chargers were working again.

During holiday season it is anticipated that demand on Nambucca’s chargers will increase as more tourists and travellers need to use these facilities.

However, if you are driving a Tesla, your situation may be different.

Tesla made up the largest share by far of the EV market in 2023 so far.

The company has its own network of chargers and most are currently only available to Tesla drivers.

This means Tesla drivers can use all the public chargers mentioned and those in the Tesla network – essentially doubling their options.


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