How many chargers do you need for a remote road trip in an EV?

EV expert Bryce Gaton answers a question from a soon-to-be new EV owner about remote road tripping.

Hi guys

I was wondering whether you can write an article on the number of necessary cables, adapters, payment systems needed to make a safe road trip in Australia, especially the more remote and rural locations.

My EV is arriving next week and we intend to go camping with it here in WA but browsing PlugShare can be overwhelming with the cacophony of chargers, different sockets, adapters, rates and payment systems. It’s also a lot more expensive than I anticipated to get these extra cables and adapters, so I don’t want to buy wrong ones.

We also prefer to eat our own lunches at peaceful locations in parks rather than restaurants so we want to avoid, if possible at all, charging where we are tied up at wineries and restaurants, etc, as we want to enjoy nature not crowds.

Cheers

Rebel

Hi Rebel – You ask a good question!

Regarding leads and portable chargers, things have become simpler since I first wrote about them in 2019.

By the way: you forgot to write what EV you are getting. Whichever one it is, enjoy the EV Grin you will sport when you start driving it!

Portable chargers

Firstly: if you’re not going all that far, the portable charger that came with the car (except for Teslas – they have got stingy lately and not included one) will be enough to get you out of trouble using a normal power point.

For charging on an extended road-trip: these days I suggest simply buying an adaptable charger that can do anything from 6 or 8A single phase through to 32A three phase, plus an adaptor to use it with 15A outlets. That will cover you nicely for caravan parks, council parks, showgrounds and random 15A single phase and 32A three phase power outlets.

(By the way: always ask first before using one. People have been fined for stealing power! Plugshare will give details of who to go to).

32A three phase to 15A protected adaptor box with three phase adaptable charger (Image: Bryce Gaton)

In addition, you’ll need a Type 2 to Type 2 lead for the many public AC chargers out there.

Type 2 to type 2 'BYO' lead (Image: EVSE)

That’s it – including the charger that came with the car, you’ve pretty much nailed the major power outlet options. Adaptable chargers start at about $1300 and range up to around $2000. For the $2000 version you will get the ‘whole box and dice’ with adaptors for almost every possible power outlet. (10A, 15A, 32A single phase as well as 20A and 32A three phase)

For the cheaper one, you’ll need the 15A circuit breaker box to use it with a 15A single phase outlet (15A single phase and 32A three phase outlets are by far the most common outside of standard power points – all the others are ‘nice to haves’). That circuit breaker box would cost around $250 and any electrician can make it.

In my case, for long trips I carry one of those portable chargers plus the circuit breaker box to use it with a 15A outlet. I do, by the way, have a couple of other adaptors ‘just in case’, but hey, I am an electrician and can make them up easily: for the average EV owner, they are generally overkill – but having them does provide a certain peace-of-mind.

DC charging

DC chargers are actually very simple to use. If you do arrive at one that doesn’t have a credit card option (or you don’t have the particular charging network App on your phone) just download the App according to the instructions on the charger and you’re on your way. It is, after all, in the interests of the charging networks to make App installs and use as easy as possible.

Typical DC charger instruction panel including instructions for the App and the the credit card reader (Image: Bryce Gaton)

Mind-you, it is still somewhat annoying that you may end up collecting four or five charging Apps on a really long trip – but this is a teething problem. In more mature EV markets (such as the UK) there are requirements for Apps to be interoperable and all EV chargers above a certain size to include credit card payment options. My guess is that such mandates will happen here in the not too distant future.

Summing up

For simplicity and peace of mind, I’d probably just spend the $2000 for the portable charger with the adaptor kit for all eventualities. If wanting to save a few dollars, get a cheaper one and adaptor box – between it and the charger from the car, that combination will cover you for all the most common outlets.

For DC charger, just rock up and you’ll get the hang of it quite quickly. The EV fraternity is also always ready to help newbies – provided that is there is another EV owner at the DC charger when you arrive. (Personally: when I use them, I am more often than not still the only one there).

Oh, and don’t forget the picnic basket. 😉 That is my go-to accessory for a quiet AC charge when I get off the beaten DC charger track. That track however is getting further and further away now: the DC network is growing by the day!

Plugshare charger map, November 2023 (Image: Plugshare)
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Bryce Gaton
March 3, 2024
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