If ever there was a place to get range anxiety, it’s Australia, with its thousands of miles of uninterrupted desert. Who would even think of driving a battery-electric vehicle there? (Not many; Queensland only hosts about 700 electric vehicles.) But now some Australian travelers can say goodbye to range anxiety, starting in 2018. The state government of Queensland has announced that it’s going to install a network of 18 charging stations along a highway stretching more than two thousand miles. It runs along the east coast of Queensland from Cairns to Coolangatta and then turns west to Toowoomba.
The government didn’t state how long it will take vehicles to charge at the stations. Other reports from the US claim that they can fully recharge a vehicle in 30 minutes, but it’s not clear which vehicles this applies to. In the US, we tend to associate fast charging almost exclusively with Tesla and its Superchargers, but there are other fast charging solutions in other parts of the world, often generically referred to as DCQC (Direct Current Quick Charge). These stations can theoretically match Tesla for charge speed, assuming compatible vehicle hardware is installed, though the charge time and the average distance between each station (assuming the stations are themselves equidistant) works out to about 70 miles each. That’s technically within the Nissan Leaf’s range for the 2017 model, though I wouldn’t recommend taking a 1,200 mile trip in one.
But fast charging isn’t the only trick Queensland is taking from Tesla’s book. The Queensland stations will be available for the public to use at no charge, at least for the initial phase. The “world’s longest” appellation has to be a bit qualified — it’s the world’s longest electric-vehicle highway in a single state, stretching some 1,260+ miles (2,000 km).
The sticker price of this enormous coast-to-coast infrastructure investment? $ 3 million. This is practically chump change in terms of infrastructure; installing a similar length of regular asphalt highway would run upwards of a million dollars per mile, but Queensland doesn’t have to put in the entire road, just the charging stations. Queensland’s Minister of Environment, Steven Miles, says it’s all about getting more people using electric cars. “This project is ambitious, but we want as many people as possible on board the electric vehicle revolution, as part of our transition to a low-emissions future,” Miles said in a statement. The Australian government has also announced that the energy provided to the charging stations will be itself either generated by renewable power or purchased by using carbon offsets.
As for what the automakers think, Audi Australia managing director Paul Sansom told The Guardian that EV drivers need to have confidence they’ll be able to find a charging station when they need it, even when driving in an unfamiliar area.
“This is the current expectation around frequency of petrol stations, and it’s, rightly, what consumers will demand as often become more prevalent,” Sansom said.