Blue Mountains Trip 417kms in my Electric Vehicle

Categorised as EV Trips
Road to Anvil Rock, Blue Mountains National Park Blackheath.

We were now allowed to travel in greater Sydney, including Blue Mountains and Central Coast, so that is a good opportunity to go for some exercise, recreation and shopping and check my real range and performance.

The Trip

I planned my trip today to travel to the Blue Mountains then back home via Wisemans Ferry and the Central Coast then on home to northern suburbs of Sydney.

I started 7am with 86% battery, which my car said to be 463km, which I thought should be plenty, but on my cold, wet, mountainous trip, it gave me about 346kms with about 12% remaining (50-60km),  before I topped up – story below 🙂

In the Blue Mountains, Mount Victoria, just past Blackheath, rises 1,043m above sea level. For me by road it’s 119km via the Great Western Highway. The car rode really smoothly and comfortably with cruise control on. It was also the first time I had tried Autopilot. I tried it along the M4 and part of Great Western Highway. While it was clever, keeping the car in the lane and following the road around bends. It doesn’t change lanes or turn, you would need FSD to do that and self driving is not allowed in Australia yet. I was happy with just the adaptive cruise control, and will stick with that.

I arrived at Blackheath around 9am and did a short tourist trip out to Anvil Rock for a bushwalk to the eroded cave, which was quite spectacular. That short trip was 14kms return, (half on gravel road through the National Park).

All together, my trip meter said I had travelled 130.6 kms using 25kWh consuming energy at 192Wh/km, which was the highest consumption rate I had in my 4 weeks of driving. I think it was because of the very cold weather, rain and because I’d climbed the mountains.

Road to Anvil Rock in Blue Mountains National Park

At Blackheath, I put Wisemans Ferry in the navigator and headed off. Through Mount Victoria and down Bells Line of Road. That is 123km, of windy hilly road, along the undulating ridges, descending down the Blue Mountains to the Hawkesbury at Windsor, then rising back up to Maroota, at 228 m above sea level, before descending down to the Hawkesbury at Wisemans Ferry. The navigator said I’d arrive at Wisemans with 31% charge left, which I did.

At Wisemans Ferry, I went for a walk in the park at Wisemans, then set the navigator to Gosford and headed to the ferry, giving my Tesla its first trip on a ferry.  After crossing on the Ferry, the drive up to mangrove Mountain is 50km rising to 307 m before turning south east and descending to Gosford 25 kms away. The navigator predicted I’d have 14% charge left by the time I reached Gosford. I thought that would be ok, as I had looked on plugshare before my trip for charging options around Gosford and I knew there were both destination chargers and the Tesla Central Coast Supercharger nearby.

On the Ferry

Heading up from Wisemans Ferry to Mangrove Mountain, I saw a guy standing by the edge of the road. He had lost his motorbike on the wet corner. I stopped and helped him lift his heavy bike back up. I chatted for a while to make sure he was ok. He had full leathers and assured me he was ok, so then I headed on.

On arriving at Gosford just before 2pm, I had 14% charge left as the navigator had predicted. When I shifted into park, my Tesla popped up a warning, saying that if my battery got any colder, my range would significantly suffer. I was down to the car showing 77kms, but home was 65kms away, so I thought I better do what Tesla suggested.

I drove ~7 kms to Erina Fair shopping centre to use their Tesla destination charger. I had now travelled 346kms, using 51kWh at 146Wh/km. They have two Tesla destination chargers and both were available, so I plugged in and went to pick up a coffee and food and had that outside in the fresh air. I could have gone to the Tesla Central Coast Supercharger, which was at Tuggerah, 19 kms north of Gosford, but I didn’t need a big charge and I wasn’t in a hurry.

Topping up at Erina Fair

After my break, my car had topped up from 12% to 35% which was plenty to go home with. The navigator said it was 69kms from Erina and I’d arrive home with 19% charge left. So I headed home from the Central Coast, back to northern Sydney. I drove out of Gosford, climbing back up onto the ridge to head south, back home for 65 km, which includes another 300m descent and ascent again to cross the Hawkesbury on the M1.

Driving conditions
This was not a WLTP type of trip 🙂 . I wanted to experience what country driving range was like when I was in conditions that used lots of energy. The trip started early on a cold day with a cold car. It involved motorways, highways and regional country roads. It involved ascending and descending the mountains around the Sydney Basin. The car was in “standard” acceleration mode, (using its full performance) up the hills and overtaking, not in the more conservative “chill” mode. The air temp was very cold, 8 degrees max at Katoomba, 16 degrees max for Gosford and light showers the entire trip. I have read that the Tesla needs to use energy to warm the battery when it’s cold and it was cold all day.

My Range
On reaching home, a bit before 5pm, my car trip meter said the total trip was 417km and I had used 62kWhr, that’s 6.7km per kWh. My average energy use was at a rate of 148Wh/km.

I didn’t top up fully before starting my trip, I started with only 86% of charge and I arrived home with 18% charge, (after topping up with 23% at Erina).

So if I were to ask how far a full charge would get me, in a Model 3 LR? 6.7km/kWh*75kWh = 502km as the theoretical max range for my mountain driving, in cold wet weather for my car. (When I bought my 3LR it was sold with a WLTP test rated range of 580. )

I learnt allot from this big trip. I ran my Tesla down to 12% before topping up, which I was ok about, and I think from my real range that day I could probably rely on that 12% giving me 50 kms to get to a charger. But I wouldn’t really want to go below 10% before recharging.

Also topography is important:

  • Going up the mountains 130kms using 25kWh = 5.2km/kWh
  • Going down 216kms using 26kWh = 8.3 km/kWh
  • Average for whole trip 417kms using 62kWh = 6.7 km/kWh

For my car, 100% is 75kWh and 500km, so a quick rule of thumb might be to know 1% will give me 5 kms.

So, if 502kms is 100%, I think, my goal for travelling on trips going forward, will be to plan to top up before each ~350km, (~70% used) so I maintain a comfortable buffer left of ~30% (~150km).  A stop each few hours is good for safe driving too.

Conclusion
My conclusion from my mountainous trip, is that I would be comfortable in future doing 350 km between charging stations.

Of course if its convenient to recharge earlier that’s good. I think driving an electric car I need to adjust my habit from a big fill of petrol, once or twice in a 1,000 km trip, to short top up charging when I have my 4 or 5 breaks in such a journey.

As fast chargers and destination chargers increase in Australia, it will be so convenient to just top up at each the places I stop at on my trip.

I have had a good look at the Plugshare map and there are now chargers across eastern Australia. Even the long gap between Narooma in southern NSW and Gippsland has been filled with a new supercharger at Moe and one planned for Bairnsdale, so there are several charging options on most routes. This means when I have my rest stops on my 1,000 km trip, I can just plug in while I’m there.

Plugshare Map SE Australia 2021-10-12 at 10 am from from plugshare.com