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.
“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
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’.