By JOHN DOOLEY

ELECTRIC cars are destined to become more prevalent on our roads as the technology advances and the cost of vehicles comes down. 

Important, of course, is the ability to cover long distances, and that is something that requires a network of fast charging stations to be located across the country.

Mildura already has one such charging site courtesy of the NRMA and Mildura Rural City Council.

Located in Orange Avenue, the station provides a free charge for users of electric cars travelling through our region or those who live locally.

Adelaide Hills residents Peter Murphy and Stephanie Whyte were in Mildura last week and the ‘Weekly spoke to them while they were charging their new Hyundai ‘Kona’ that they had purchased recently.

Their visit to the charging station coincided with the Victorian Legislative Assembly’s Environment and Planning Committee’s public hearings in Mildura and the delegation met the couple at the charging site when they inspected the facility.

Peter and Stephanie said they were in Sunraysia to visit friends and relatives. The trip also provided an opportunity to take the car on its first long distance journey to see how it performed.

“It’s all electric – 100 percent. The reason we chose the Kona was because of its good range which is about 450 kilometres,” Peter said. 

“If were just driving around the Hills we generally get about 500 kms which is pretty good.

“Up until this trip, I have only ever charged it at home and do that through our solar panels, and because we are retired we can do it during the day.”

Peter said everyone who has been for a drive in the car is sold on it immediately.

“I have taken about 30 people for a drive in it and they all absolutely love it,” he said. “Not one of them has said “Oh I don’t want one of these” – they all say “Yes!”

The acceleration is instant – really sporty and so quiet – it’s just lovely to drive and Stephanie loves driving it too.”

Stephanie said she likes to drive the car at every opportunity, something she is very comfortable with now.

“It took a bit of getting used to because as soon as you take your foot off the pedal, it slows right down. It’s extremely responsive and very smooth,” she said. 

“I feel quite safe in it because you are able to take off, virtually from stopped, very quickly, and there was one particular time – I’d only driven it a couple of times, and I was turning right and a car came round the corner heading straight for me and I just had to take off extremely quickly. It was no effort and off I went straight up the road and well out of the way of the other vehicle.”

With a price tag of around $65,000 on the road, Peter said that while that it is fairly pricey, the savings in fuel will soon amortise the cost. 

“If you asked me the fuel price I wouldn’t have a clue!,” Peter said.

“It’s expensive, but I’ve been involved with electric cars and solar cars during my time at the University of South Australia, where I was a lecturer in Engineering, and I did the trip from Darwin to Adelaide many times with the students and their solar-powered cars and was involved with designing and building the solar and electric cars.

“It got to the point where I said blow the cost. I want to drive an electric car before I disappear, and so we went for it and I haven’t regretted it one iota – it’s been really good.”

Peter said that his decision to purchase an electric car was in large part motivated by his desire to contribute to the reduction in greenhouse emissions and to make an impact on climate change. 

“I know it’s a small thing, but people taking initiatives will get other people on board and already we have had a lot of people say well this is the future – but it’s already here,” he said.

Peter and Stephanie said in every other aspect the car was like any other modern vehicle with all of the creature comforts they provide.

“It has everything and we are still trying to work what all the knobs and dials are for!” Stephanie said.

Peter added that knowing when the car needed recharging was easy. 

“There are lots of things that tell you, foremost being the power level gauge that is just like a fuel gauge. It also tells you how much range you have in the same way that a distance to empty fuel gauge indicates. There are also other warnings that keep coming up if it isn’t put on a charger.”

Peter said it was possible to extend the average range by driving slower and without the air conditioning on. 

“With the air conditioning on you are looking at 450km to Adelaide and so we would only just make it,” Peter said.

“There is nowhere to charge between here and Adelaide and that’s a major problem, although I believe there is a charger in Murray Bridge so we might have to call in there. 

“Using these fast chargers and normally you have to pay for those, a full charge to give me about 500km of driving distance would cost me about $25. A lot cheaper than a tank of petrol or two. 

“Today we have had it on charge at the station here for about an hour and a quarter and it’s almost fully charged. 

“On a fast charge it’s possible to charge from zero to 80 percent in 40 minutes, after that it takes a little longer to reach maximum charge, as the system slows down once it reaches above 80 percent. 

“I’m trying to get it completely charged to 100 percent and so it has taken a bit longer.”

In fact, the trip to Adelaide via the Sturt Highway is just less than 400km so Peter and Stephanie should have made it to the next charging station with some charge remaining …but not much!