Launch of Tesla's Big Battery at Hornsdale, SA - a road trip 27 Sept - 3 Oct 2017

Categories: General | Travel

As owner of a Tesla S (aka “Tess”, now 2 years-old & 35,000km travelled), I was invited to the launch of a battery 3-times bigger than any other in the world. I picked up Warren “Billy” Boyles (a Hobart mate from the AEVA = Aus Elec Veh Ass) from Tulla at 10am Wed 27 September and took <=30 min breaks at Ballarat, Horsham & Keith to stretch the legs, eat and/or syphon the python (and simultaneously top up the electrons at brand new Tesla superchargers at those stops). With Tess on Autopilot (it self-steers and maintains set cruising speed, slowing if necessary for traffic) we arrived relaxed in Adelaide at 7.30pm to dine and be accommodated by Billy Boyler’s friends. A long drive but a doddle in Tess.
We took Thursday breakfast in the Adelaide CBD at the Supercharger opened by the SA Premier Jay Wetherell the previous day (incidentally not covered by “The Advertiser” even though it was the first of 50 such multi-point stations for Teslas and other EVs being rolled out by the SA Government. Instead the Murdoch “Advert-teaser” had four articles that day attacking renewables, including one attacking labour-relations at the Tesla factory! A nice welcome for Elon Musk, who was a keynote speaker that day at an aerospace conference in Adelaide, attempting to kick-start an Australian aerospace industry. After conducting some business at Wine Australia, we lunched in the adjoining Botanic Gardens with old Hobart friend Charlotte, before driving to the Barossa Valley. That evening we visited the oldest sporting facility in Australia, the Kegel Club in Tanunda, and enjoyed a game and the hospitality of local winemakers. Overnight we topped up the charge by plugging into a normal three-pin plug (240V, 10amp) at a motel. 
On Friday we explored the Clare Valley (my first visit), topped up at the brand-new Clare Supercharger, then joined a rally of pre-1918 motor vehicles and cycles further north at Burra (attracting much interest with my more modern iteration of horseless carriage!). From there we joined a procession of Tesla vehicles – a Roadster, numerous Model Ss and a sprinkling of Model Xs – passing a forest of wind turbines to Hornsdale where, in a massive 300-person celebration, SA Premier Jay Wetherell spoke before Elon Musk outlined the operation of the Tesla Big Battery, and his sustainable eco-system of solar roof tiles/PowerWall/electric cars.

Within 30 days of the contract signing, 50MW has already been installed, and the other 50MW will be delivered within the window of Elon’s extravagant promise of “delivery within 100 days or SA gets it all for free”. Musk spoke of how all the world’s power needs could be supplied by solar arrays covering an area the size of Sydney (which he illustrated with a tiny red dot on the map of the Australia, which he placed at Hornsdale for demonstration purposes). Clearly Tesla is well-positioned to capitalise on supplying battery back-up for sustainable energy produced in dispersed locations globally. This has already been done, for example, for all energy needs on American Samoa. That night, we proceeded back to Burra and plugged our extension cord into a 240V, 10amp outlet from our motel room. 
On Saturday morning the Tesla Owners Club of Australia (TOCA) held a Big Battery Burra Brunch (BBBB) to encourage camaraderie and support for electric vehicle initiatives, before we dispersed to all states of Australia. Proceeding north to Jamestown, we plugged in to the local Council’s new Tesla “destination charger” (3-phase, 22kWh) while watching the first half of the AFL Grand Final at a local pub. We then accepted a real challenge and drove the 300+kms to Broken Hill, knowing that, on arrival, there would be a drought of EV-infrastructure, and we may not be able to "re-fuel” there efficiently. Arriving late on a Saturday night, we found the minimum (a standard 10amps at a caravan park) overnight to provide a small range.
On Sunday morning we found the one destination charger at a rental chalet’s carport being occupied for 8 days by an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle, whose owner was happy to let us plug in while he recovered from his AFL-function hangover! So we quickly visited Broken Hill attractions: mine museums & memorials, art galleries inc. the Pro Hart gallery, a shearing demo at the Jazz Club, and the pub where many scenes from “Priscilla of the Desert” were filmed. On picking up Tess, we wowed the ICE-owner with a razz on a road, then Auto-piloted the 300-km to Mildura, where we dined. Overnight we plugged in to a destination charger at the Mildura Motor Inn - the second Tesla to use it!
On Monday morning we gave the motel owners a thrill spin in Tess as the owners hadn’t experienced sinuous silent speedy EV travel. After a breakfast stroll along the Murray, we pointed Tess to Sea Lake (curiously named, but it is next to a large salt lake) where we lunched for 30 mins while topping up on a destination charger at the motel. And on to Bendigo for a Chinese dinner (after all, there is a mining heritage there), while Tess enjoyed some electrons overnight at the City Centre Motel.
On Tuesday morning, after a little further local exploration including the superb Bendigo Art Gallery, we cruised to Woodend, where co-pilot “the old billy boiler” was to spend a couple of nights with friends before returning to Tas. Turned out I knew his friend Joni from my teenage years! After lunch I cruised back to Melbourne by mid-arvo. It’s been a buzz to be, variously, the first or fourth or so to use the new free superchargers and/or “destination chargers" at all the above locations mentioned, and to pioneer easy EV-cruising around the country, including off-piste areas - and not a cent expended on fuel, as Tesla and/or accommodation providers provide a charge without charge!

For the technically-minded:
2,613 km driven over 6.5 days
503 kWh of electricity expended at a rate of 193 Wh/km
Extra electric leads kindly lent by TOCA for charging at remote 3-phase outlets (such as workshops, garages, showgrounds) were not needed, despite the oft-piste routes chosen.
BTW - thus far, I have NOT NEEDED to service/oil/lubricate/repair Tess in any way but, SHOCK HORROR, have needed to pump up the tyres twice in two years and 35,000km! I’m expecting to be alerted to the need to top up the windscreen washer bottle sometime before the first service scheduled after 4 years unlimited km ownership. I’ve found it really efficient, cheap and fast motoring (0-100km/hr = 4.0sec) - top speed unknown, as I just don’t need to exceed twice the legal limit - in the safest production car in the world (the cavernous front & rear trunks are crumple zones) and the battery pack positioned between the four wheels provides a very-low centre of gravity. Perhaps the most revolutionary personal transport since the Model T Ford?