Bob’s Perth to Adelaide Nullarbor electric car Easter 2024 road trip in Hyundai Ioniq 5 2022 RWD Standard Range

The following electric car road trip diary travelling well over 5000km return is written by Bob Hilton, a West Australian EV enthusiast who lives in Perth and drives a Hyundai Ioniq 5 2022 RWD Standard Range.

Despite his licence plate the trip was not a fiasco 🙂

My view is that crossing the Nullarbor in an EV is definitely doable but needs a bit of thought and planning. Where the infrastructure is good, I feel more comfortable and confident in the EV than in the legacy vehicles.

In the middle bit the infrastructure is only there by virtue of goodwill of volunteers and local staff. You need plan B and plan C but at the end of the day YOU CAN ALWAYS GET ELECTRICITY.

Stopping at night is a new thing for me. In my youth we’d drive non-stop through the night, accepting that many servos shut down midnight till seven and the cars often suffered major mechanical breakdowns.

Cheap flights have largely killed off the drive and certainly the coach trade. You do this drive as an adventure. Anyone who hasn’t seen the Nullarbor has missed a significant Australian iconic region.

A happily now ex Prime Minister used the line in his election campaign that EVs would ruin the great Australian weekend because they can’t tow, can’t go far from the cities etc.

We’re going to pop over to Adelaide over Easter. I doubt the said ex politician ever drove across Australia. He was rarely seen in The West anyway. To put the default WA-SA drive into perspective, it is near on the equivalent of Melbourne to Cairns.

Starting at a civilized hour we will do the equivalent of Melbourne to Sydney. We are not going to drive through the night and are prepared to stop for sightseeing, so it will take 3 or 4 days. I have done this drive there & back 17 times, going non-stop through the night most times.

I have pumped up the tyres and washed the car. Charged to 100% at home. Ready.

Perth to Adelaide across the Nullarbor

Casual late start Friday and heading for overnight at Coolgardie. The fast chargers of the WA EV Network at Merredin, Southern Cross and now at Coolgardie have been impeccable. Ioniq 5 has been a delight. The fast-chargers are easy to get to but not always near a food or toilet. We were doing 20 minute top-ups each 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

We stay at the Coolgardie Goldrush Motel and depart at a reasonable 6am with the glow of sunrise washing the main street and reach Norseman around 8:30, taking a 20 minute fill on the last of the WAEV chargers before picking up greasies and coffee at the Servo and turning east onto the Eyre Highway. The sun was high enough leaving Norseman to not be in our eyes, perfect.

We are in Balladonia by 11am. This is where the luxury of a series of fabulous 150kW chargers ends and the hardship of an irregular bunch of outlets begins. In time it will improve but this is what we have. Now we are at the first real roadhouse on the Eyre Highway. We have gone through the Fraser Range, undulating low woodland and a straight road. Lots of signs depicting animals we may run into. An overturned triple road train on the sloping road shoulder spells a warning.

At Balladonia we collect the ‘key’ from the counter and drive around to the rear of the building, next to an old shed. The box has an inscription that it is property of UWA and crowdfunded. It has instructions written on it. Insert key and turn on. Wait for boot up (the little LED display shows the boot up sequence. After 2 minutes it is ready to plug in. Success, if only 22kW.

It will take an hour to get to 80% and the prospect of a faster 40kW unit there. Sure this one is running on the main generators but possibly using not much more fuel than what it would cost to transport 100kg of diesel out here in a tanker.

There is time to use the toilets, walking past the fumes of the petrol bowsers and the idling diesel vehicles and trucks parked about the place. Time for a bit of internet, chicken nuggets and coffee. Balladonia’s claim to fame worldwide is the Skylab crash and there is a museum here for it. I still have a photo of a piece that was on display in Garden City shopping centre in the 1980s.

One thing I have to keep reminding myself is how quiet the car is. Modern construction and a big insulating battery in the floor means there is almost no road noise, no engine or exhaust noise and only a bit of wind from the kayak on the roof. We can hold normal conversation in normal voices.

Having finished slow charge at Balladonia it is 190km to Caiguna, where the busy attendant had to start up the fish and chip oil generator for a 50kW dose of power. Food and drinks.

We make it to Madura at 6:30 local time. The only problem is that their DC charger is broken. It burned out in February and they are waiting for the electrician to visit.

The next place is Mundrabilla and they only have a 3-phase connection. The 3-phase plug and transformer unit portable charger costs $1500 to buy and it is something you wouldn’t use very often.

The WA SA border is also a 3-phase only and then Nullarbor station has literally just opened a full fast charger but we can’t make Nullarbor straight.

Booking into a cabin at Madura, I park the car in the caravan parking and connect the default charger that comes with the car. It indicates 2.2kW, 24 hours to 100 percent. Our options are poor. We are just in time to order dinner.

The maths makes it that we could make Nullarbor by driving slower if we had 90 to 95 percent maybe but risky. Eucla is said to be EV unfriendly. The 3 pin 10 amp caravan socket at Border Village may be available as a backup.

The room at Madura is okay. We go for a run on a 5km circuit up the scarp and back then roadhouse eggs and coffee. The caravanners have all left. By 10:30 am local time we had spent enough time at Madura and with a 76 percent battery we drive at a strict 90km/hr to the WA/SA border, 170km at a consumption rate just below 19kWh/100km which included a cross wind tending to headwind and climbing the hill at Eucla.

It is 12:30 -80 km range remains but we need 180 to get to Nullarbor. Charging at a measly 2.2kW/hr this means at least 8 hours at the border village caravan park and the earliest departure of 11pm with the prospect of driving through the night to make up time. We pay for a powered caravan site to get access. We shuffle the contents of the car about to lay the rear seats down to make a resting space for later in the evening. We manage phone calls to Mary, at home with the dogs and Lintilla and the GCs and in the midst of Easter chocolate frenzy. The phone reception comes and goes.

Soon after we get the message that Ashby in Adelaide has tested positive on a RAT. This is going to further change our plans in terms of travel and staying there. We had COVID in November, so ought to be less susceptible but it will still be sensible to find alternative accommodation in Adelaide.

Now it is the long wait, becoming a sleep in the car overnight episode. I am reluctant to pay $200 for another cabin. Sleep is difficult with the other campers staying up late. We have spent about 14 hours on 2.2kW, including lunch, dinner, a couple of beers at the bar and some commercial television then sleeping in the back of the wagon on air mattresses.

By 4am, it is time to detach, at 62 percent, and lock in a sedate 95km/hr for the 180km to Nullarbor Roadhouse. Economy back down to 18.1 kW per 100km. It’s still dark at 6:30 on SA time, on daylight savings and we are overjoyed to reverse up to the brand new NRMA facility. Even better that a swipe of the credit card starts it charging @ 75kW. We are maybe the second vehicle ever to use it. It gets easier from here, heading east.

Even at 75kW the 40 minute charge was barely enough time to use the toilets and the roadhouse was just opening, so some breakfast foods and coffees. Now at the western end of the SA timezone the sun was only just rising by 7:30am to a magnificent red sky.

It is cool enough to leave the aircon off. Enough charge to start bringing the speed back up to 100 after yesterday’s Hypermiling at 90. Not a single nocturnal animal. The highway is barely good enough over the Eyre Peninsula to hold 105 km/hr, even with steering assist. Technically the car has steered itself across the bulk of Australia with my hands on the wheel as backup.

There are RAA fast chargers at Ceduna, Wudinna, Kimba and Port Augusta, all 150kW meant 15 to 20 minute stops only from here. Probably 5 hours behind our generous schedule over the whole weekend but we opt out of arriving in Adelaide late evening and solicit an offer to stop at friend Alison’s place in Port Broughton.

Sleep is good.

It is an easy drive into Adelaide in the morning.

Adelaide to Perth return journey across the Nullarbor

A week later- Home bound.

Setting out from Adelaide hills at 9am, skirting the NE of the city. Out of peak hour. First thing I’ve never seen before. Going largely downhill from Athelstone the energy consumption dropped to 8.4 kW per 100km after 15 km. I’ve never seen better than 12 under ideal conditions.

We started the day on 65 percent, so a short top up at Port Wakefield and some pastries and coffee at a busy highway bakery then on to Port Augusta. Something else that hasn’t happened before. 174kW on a 200kW charger. Stunning. Toasted sammies at a “Mediterranean ” cafe for lunch and back on the road, heading West onto the Eyre Highway. Unleaded is only just over $2 still.

Turn right after Iron Knob: still being mined after all these years. Small top up at Kimba, picking up some of the lovely curries at the servo as takeaways. We choose to short hop (“never drive past a charger”). This means 12 minutes at Wudinna where I watch the range ticking up, kilometer by kilometer on the dash as the Hyundai sucks up electrons. We resume motion with a 110 km safety margin on the guessometer.

Light misting rain sets the wipers going which cleans the windscreen and we do some leapfrogging, doing the overtake of the same caravans several times after each charge. The sun was on our right but as it gets lower and highway1 curves round it comes to our left. The wind goes tail then head then still.

Arriving at Ceduna at 7:30 in the dark we use the after hours codes to access the gate and our key at the East West motel, that we booked by phone.

We have managed 885km today at a cost of about $80.

Our sleep at the East West Motel is interrupted early when a new arrival to the unit next door had noisy unpacking and showering. After that sleep is reasonable.

The Tesla wall charger was running at 11 kW and charged us to 100% overnight for a $25 flat rate. We depart by seven, as the glow of the morning sun in the misty grey dawn ushered us through the main road where a cafe was already open for coffees and toasties.

This is the longest single hop for us, about 300 km. I started off enthusiastically but settled on a fixed 100 km/hr for economy. This meant that we were neither overtaken nor overtaking very often.

Two horse floats carried four police horses to a property near Penong. (where the biggest windmill in Australia is situated.

The light rain that helped clean the windscreen dissipated and a cool grey morning followed. Once you leave the pasture lands the bush is low mallee and saltbush. The last 80 km is Nullarbor proper.

I have been watching the expected range and the distance remaining and we sit on about 44 km reserve for the greater part of the three and a half hour drive. I crib a little by sitting behind caravans at times but they keep giving me the sign to overtake.

We have chosen to drive to the Head Of the Bight scenic stop, This will cost us about 25 km but we are on holiday so we give it a go. The view from the walkways is quite lovely. No whales.

5 Km out of Nullarbor the car informs me that it has gone below 10 percent and can’t find any chargers. I think the mapping is the poorest feature of the Hyundai.

Surely it wouldn’t take much to add charging stations into the maps. We cruise into Nullarbor at 8%.

The fabulous NRMA facility is offering 40kW, less than the 75kW we got on the first pass through. Time for coffees, food and a bit of social media.

From here we close back toward the coast and the regular viewing spots. The old road was more inland until this highway opened in the late 70s.

There seem to be some spots where camping is allowed. A tailwind keeps the figures good. A toilet stop only at the WA SA border and we reach the Mundrabilla roadhouse on 28 percent. NO ULP AT ALL.

Here we have the borrowed 3 phase five pin adapter lead from TOCWA courtesy of Ant Day. We can’t make Madura Pass without this top up.

The helpful ladies here say we can’t “fast-charge” but they are referring to a previous unit that drew too much current and tripped the roadhouse’s fuses. Our 3 phase will draw max 11kW but I tentatively start at a lower rate, so as to not annoy them too much.

After a second conversation I realise that using the full 11kW isn’t “fast-charging” as they described, so I turn it up to full taking us to 60 percent in 2 and a half hours.

Mundrabilla is known to have the best food on the Nullarbor (but no ULP petrol) and we treat ourselves to lamb shanks and do some social media. No beer for me, however. The charge is a flat rate $30 but they knocked it down to $20 for us.

There are no units available tonight, so we decide to ring ahead to Madura, where we can get a unit overnight, albeit with late check-in.

The arithmetic is that two and a half hours here and 8 hours on the trickle charge overnight will get us to Madura and then Caiguna where we will enjoy 50kW of fish and chip oil powered generation.

So we are at Madura by 9pm, reverse up to the cabin door and run the charger into the socket near the fridge.

We are awake by 5am, shower and depart for our long drive home. 1250Km if we make it before midnight in one go.

Silently we drive out of the servo and creep up the steep Madura Pass in pre-dawn darkness to the plains above. And I mean silently. No roaring engine and whining gearbox.

I start off really conservatively, 85-90km/hr until the “average consumption” drops to under 24 then incrementally bring the speed up until I an happy we will reach Caiguna with a comfortable buffer.

In the end it is 30km and 21kWh per 100km and the big red alarms go off as the battery dips under 10 percent.

The horizon lightened, ushering sunrise behind us and lighting the road’s white lines in a brilliance of yellow dayglo. Only a few trucks about and we reach Caiguna at 7:30 am, by which time they have opened the doors and turned the lights on.

The till girl summonses the mechanic to fire up the chippie but it takes three attempts to initialise the charger, with a five minute countdown on each attempt.

Soon we are sucking up 50kW and I take it all the way from 8% to a full 100% which gives us time to sit for breakfast (and instant coffee!! we are so spoiled!) and take a wander through the bush behind the roadhouse. $50 flat rate here but better than the next stop where the charger is half as fast and you pay $2 per kWh.

153km and I can confidently set the cruise control to 105km/hr with a consumption now under 21 all the way. I think there is a slight tail-wind.

Signs of a serious accident and another of a burned out car-carrier. Added to the overturned triple and the burned out truck on the trip over and another serious fatality near Yalata yesterday highlight the real dangers of the Eyre Highway.

Triple trailer trucks, doing at least their maximum 100km/hr pass each other in opposite directions with a metre to spare. The drivers are generally polite and if you sit patiently behind them they will indicate when it’s good to overtake.

The Ioniq is A DREAM to drive. Higher seating than a Model 3 but with a longer and wider wheelbase it trucks like a Roman Chariot.

With two flicks of the right thumb I have full steering control and cruise control and with quality white lines on the sides and centre of the lanes I pretend I’m driving but it is really just somewhere to hang your arms. It is genuinely relaxing.

The wind noise isn’t so bad, even with the kayak on top and you can hold a pretty good conversation without shouting. In the afternoon we use the aircon for the first time with the sky clearing of the cloud that has been present since Port Augusta.

At Balladonia I go around the back and boot up the charging unit but really only need 15 minutes to make up the power to do the 190km to Norseman where we will be in fast charger territory.

Honestly, buying a coffee and using the toilets takes longer. The terrain to Norseman includes the Fraser Range, about the only geographical feature out here.

This is the Great Western Woodland and as a biodiversity hotspot it contains 20% of Australia’s flowering plant species and 30% of the eucalypt species in the continent.

Stands of Mallee vary from grey trunk to red trunk although I somehow feel there are sparse areas that were more wooded 35 years ago when I last drove through.

We are at Norseman at quarter past one and after a lightning half hour fast charge we spend 25 minutes trying to get a quick toasted sammie at a very slow cafe in the main street of the town.

This is the deal, when the infrastructure is good it is the food/toilet stuff that takes the time, not charging the car.

The Esperance-Coolgardie Highway is a bit of a roller-coaster and the surface is often not good.

Now that we are in 150kW Synergy/Horizon territory I want to sit on 110km/hr cruise control but I keep a very firm grip on the wheel. My mental maths tells me it is maybe 8 hours to Perth plus stopping time.

At Coolgardie there is an ATTO 3 at the charger when we arrive, a couple from the Eastern States, with a hire car, travelling to Kalgoorlie. As second-in we start at 40kW and the gentleman is very chatty but I am keen for him to unplug so that we can use the full 123 kW.

The sun sets in our eyes on the way to Southern Cross and soon it is dusk. The same scenario plays out where I grab a pie and a coffee at the servo on the way into town then we plug in at the fast charger down the road.

There is a hotel over the road and Jane walks across and orders a veggie burger.

We are charged to 80% in 20 minutes but the saga of the burger (“almost ready”…”just wrapping it up now” …oh, gave it to someone else but we can make another one”…) takes a further 20 minutes. And Jane walks out without her burger, in disgust and rather dark.

We rock and roll to Merredin for our last top up. We really only need 10 minutes to give us the range to cover the 245 km to home, taking into account the bonus regeneration we will get down Greenmount Hill. There are youths hanging about nearby and we lock the doors and depart.

Not far to Northam and we are now in “home territory” having driven about this part of the country in Avon Descent season so many times. Approaching Sawyers Valley the very last bit of 110km/hr highway runs out then it is a plethora of speed zones.

The “bonus” down Greenmount amounts to a 5km stretch where you gain almost 2% battery, a full 5km of range.

Turning onto the Roe highway, 11pm and the last disaster is a slow moving Oversized Load, looks like a section of bridge on multiple trailers.

We are able to re-navigate across to Leach Highway and still make it home by 11:28pm- same day. Our remaining dog is doing okay, thanks to the family (Mary, Murray, Tilly) looking after things in our absence.

If you’re an Australian electric vehicle owner and would like to share your road trip experience please contact me directly or add a comment below and let me know.


One response to “Bob’s Perth to Adelaide Nullarbor electric car Easter 2024 road trip in Hyundai Ioniq 5 2022 RWD Standard Range”

  1. Ten Twenty

    Nice blog Bob, it seems we are retro to the late 1970/80 where the Nullarbor trip was actually fun rather than a race to the East.
    Regards 20/10 10/5….

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