EVs in the Outback

Nov 16, 2019

Res­i­dents of Alice Springs might have spot­ted the licence plate TES­LA around town. The Tes­la Mod­el S is owned by Hunter Mur­ray, and it’s not his only elec­tric vehi­cle (EV).

The long-term Cen­tralian, who owns and runs local busi­ness­es Alicetron­ics and iGear with his wife Trudy, has recent­ly tak­en deliv­ery of a Tes­la Mod­el 3

The two vehi­cles make up the busi­ness fleet, mean­ing the com­pa­ny runs 100 per cent elec­tric vehicles. 

When asked whether he thought this could be a North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry first, he said I’d like to call it, and see who we can stir up!“

Mr Mur­ray is not one to com­pro­mise on qual­i­ty, com­fort or per­for­mance, and delight­ed in show­ing the Intyal­heme Cen­tre for Future Ener­gy how respon­sive the vehi­cles were. He was also able to demon­strate the dri­ver-assis­tance sys­tem that includes lane keep­ing, cruise con­trol, and the abil­i­ty to sum­mon the car from a park­ing spot. 

Under the bon­net: plen­ty of room to keep the charg­ing cables

We’re not going to lose our stan­dard of liv­ing, in fact we are going to make it bet­ter” said Mr Mur­ray, acknowl­edg­ing some people’s con­cerns about elec­tric vehi­cles and new tech­nol­o­gy in general. 

When peo­ple see they’re cheap­er to run, cheap­er to reg­is­ter, cheap­er to main­tain; peo­ple will see it real­ly comes down to eco­nom­ics,” he said. 

If I charge this ful­ly off the Alice Springs Grid it’s about $8 for 400km, but it would be vir­tu­al­ly free of charge if you had solar.”

There are two Tes­la charg­ing points in Alice Springs, and a hand­ful of oth­er pub­lic charg­ing options

Mr Mur­ray said the most fre­quent­ly asked ques­tions from peo­ple who find out he owns EVs are around the charg­ing logis­tics and costs. 

How long does it take to charge is the num­ber one ques­tion; and the answer is it depends on the charg­er and the pow­er source,” he said. 

You prob­a­bly want a 32 Amp plug, which would get your charge down to about six hours.”

Mr Mur­ray charges his cars for about 90 min­utes per day, or a few hours every oth­er day, for use around town. He also just drove the Mod­el S to Ade­laide and back. Ful­ly charged overnight, the range is 400km, and then he sim­ply topped up with one hour stops at each roadhouse.

Far from mun­dane rest stops, Mr Mur­ray used his time at road­hous­es to update the Plug Share’ app with the lat­est infor­ma­tion about the charg­ing points, for the ben­e­fit of oth­er EV users. His pas­sion for encour­ag­ing EV uptake extends to offer­ing a charg­ing facil­i­ty at his Alice Springs business.

We’re actu­al­ly giv­ing the charge away for free,” he said. 

It’s a bit of a nov­el­ty and peo­ple that do use it are usu­al­ly vis­i­tors with Tes­las, so they come and see us because we’re enthu­si­asts as well.”

There’s no doubt Mr Mur­ray is sold on EVs, and the next thing he wants to see is vehi­cle-to-grid (V2G) tech­nol­o­gy being put to use. 

They’re a big bat­tery on wheels,” Mr Mur­ray said. There’s enough ener­gy in the bat­tery to run a house for four days.”

Elec­tric vehi­cles are pri­mar­i­ly con­trolled via an LCD dis­play, leav­ing plen­ty of room for a min­i­mal­is­tic interior

Hunter Mur­ray with the Tes­la Mod­el 3

Mr Murray’s com­ments illus­trate efforts around Aus­tralia to work out how EVs can be plugged into the broad­er pow­er sys­tem, not only to charge the car, but to play a role in fre­quen­cy and volt­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion on the grid. Util­is­ing tech­nol­o­gy for two-way ben­e­fit is becom­ing increas­ing­ly impor­tant as renew­able ener­gy sys­tems are installed on homes and businesses.

Updat­ing the tech­nol­o­gy to achieve var­i­ous out­comes is no prob­lem for these EVs, that Mr Mur­ray also calls iPads on wheels’. The min­i­mal­is­tic design sees the cars most­ly con­trolled via a large LCD screen, which can facil­i­tate updates as tech­nol­o­gy or leg­is­la­tion devel­ops. For exam­ple, the cars will have the capac­i­ty to dri­ve them­selves when the time comes. 

Prices are drop­ping and Mr Mur­ray believes they will achieve par­i­ty with reg­u­lar com­bus­tion vehi­cles with­in a cou­ple of years. Hav­ing expe­ri­enced the advan­tages of EVs, Mr Mur­ray won­ders why so many of us still dri­ve around in what he calls type­writ­ers on wheels’. 

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