A few days ago I drove a Kia Niro EV S media loan review car for a 162km return trip from Marrickville, Sydney to try out and review the newly opened Ampol AmpCharge 6 EV charging bay location at Pheasants Nest South.
The similar Ampol AmpCharge Pheasants Nest North charging site should also be open within a few months.
Located about 70km South on the Hume Highway, Pheasants Nest North and South were the first dual Highway Service Centres constructed south of Sydney and were over 30 years old so needed major refurbishment.
This was approved by Wollondilly Council in 2022 including demolition of all existing structures including fuel storage, construction of 2 new highway service stations, food tenancies, dining areas, amenities, play areas, vehicle parking including heavy vehicles, caravan and bus spaces as well as 6 electric vehicle charging bays.
As of mid 2023 some of this had been finished at Pheasants Nest South but some of the site remains fenced off.
Artistic partial shade structures to hide under if it’s raining, covered with solar panels that will provide some of the necessary power for the site.
Lots of food outlets with a mix of fast food, proper meals etc depending on what you want.
Very good new, clean toilet facilities. I’m told that the previous old roadhouse buildings had terrible toilet facilities.
The three Italian made Alpitronics HyperChargers each offer two CCS 2 and one CHAdeMO cable, so six separate chargers didn’t need to be installed. As far as I know this is the first place in Australia using Alpitronics HyperChargers.
It is great to have 6 EV charging bays with 6 CCS + 3 CHAdeMO cables. This means 6 modern EV’s using CCS 2 ports can charge fast at the same time.
If by some chance 3 Nissan Leafs using CHAdeMO turn up they can charge while 3 modern EV’s using CCS 2 charge next to them.
What looked like a $30 credit card transaction upon starting charge. That surprised me but I knew it was probably a pre authorisation that would disappear or be refunded quickly.
No other Australian charging network does that large a pre authorisation as far as I know. From memory BP Pulse did a pre-auth of $10 the first time I used it. An hour later I checked my bank app and the $30 transaction had been reversed.
The second and main problem was I only wanted to charge a few dollars worth to try it out so I could write a review. I didn’t need more as the Niro EV has a long range.
Stopping charging using the app didn’t work despite multiple tries. As you can see in the screenshot below I pressed stop in the app at 2.63kWh but the HyperCharger wouldn’t stop so I couldn’t remove the CCS 2 cable plugged into the car.
I finally gave up on the Ampol Ampcharge app and figured out how to set a 70% DC charge limit in the Niro EV S so my car wasn’t held hostage and I stopped paying for kWh I didn’t need. In the end I was charged for 14.37kWh.
Later I noticed a small stop button under the charger screen but that doesn’t excuse the app from not sending a STOP signal.
ICEing is the next problem I want to point out. The day I drove there was during school holidays and all the parking spots on site were full with travelling families, couples etc.
It’s generally not best design for EV charging to be located right next to a food court or service station entrance because ICE car drivers will park there as it’s most convenient. A better spot for chargers is a bit of a walk away from any food/facilities entrance.
It’s a tricky balance. On the other hand I don’t want EV fast chargers shoved in a poor corner location like Chargefox Goulburn next to the big smelly can and glass recycling machine.
Two out of Six EV AMPCharge charging bays had petrol cars parked there for quite some time as Ampol had placed the charging site right in front of the Foodary entrance.
There were no signs in the EV charging bays I could see with parking rules. Each charging bay surface says “⚡AMPOL AMPCHARGE” . There’s no mention of anything like “Only for Electric Vehicle charging”.
The family with 2 ICE cars parked in the charging bays knew what they were doing. When I politely talked with them they said sure it was an electric car charging bay but they were hungry and these were the only empty parking spots near the Ampol Foodary entry.
If better signage and other ways of discouraging ICEing aren’t implemented by the Christmas holidays at this location, then it’s quite likely several EV charging bays will get ICEd quite often and this will cause anger between EV and fossil fuel car drivers.
I had to park at an angle because the charging cable couldn’t extend fully, movement was restricted with a cable tie. This is hopefully just an installation mistake not removing the cable tie. Someone else also noticed a similar problem with another charging bay and commented on Plugshare.
In some ways I found it to be a 10/10 new charging site but in other ways it was a poor user experience.
I appreciate it is a brand new charging site and Ampol Ampcharge is a small new network with not many charging sites yet so they are on a learning journey and will hopefully improve over time.
Perhaps AMPCharge sites should be free for the first week while ironing out bugs? I’ve experienced other charging networks like bp Pulse doing that.
I messaged an Ampol spokesperson to see what they had to say and they replied but haven’t addressed my positive and negative points yet.
I will publish their response here once they send it to me.