We were getting sick of driving and thought it might be best to have a break and stay for a while at the Midlander Comfort Inn. Of course, we took advantage of their Tesla destination charger. We hoped to catch up with two friends. At our home in Bracken Ridge, we had boarded students who were doing their apprenticeships in small motor mechanics at a local technical college. 30 years later, we showed up in their hometown driving an electric car.
We met up with Ryan for lunch. He’s now in his late 30s and a supervisor of hydraulics maintenance at a large mine. Surprisingly, he was curious, and keen to explore this new beast. We hadn’t seen another Tesla since we left Rockhampton. It was a rare sight.
He couldn’t get over the torque and the tech. The word “cool” kept springing to his lips, especially when we allowed him to drive it. “The kids will love it!” Shame they were in school. We had a discussion about how many electric vehicles are being used in the mines where he works and the coming transition from coal. Unfortunately, our other apprentice was in quarantine for covid — we would see him on the way back.
Back at the hotel, I met a coal company IT worker. We had a chat about BYD, as he had heard those cars were coming. His main concern was: how will we buy Chinese cars when they stop buying our coal. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to discuss our iron ore exports. Thermal coal exports are not the long-term future, but there is no stopping the iron ore.
When we plugged in to charge, just to top up for our drive to Barcaldine (310 km) the next day, nothing worked. The manager thought there might be something wrong with the car — had we blown up his charger? I prepared a backup plan — using the 10 amp powerpoint in the bathroom (see photo). Then it twigged — there had been a storm overnight that triggered a power surge that had tripped his computer. He had reset that switch but not realized the charger switch needed to be reset also. A quick trip to power box and we were cooking with gas.
Now we were ready to hit those long straight roads in the morning.
Heading out of Emerald the next morning, it was great to see a solar farm in the midst of coal country. The future is slowly intruding. On the long, straight, seemingly endless roads it was great to use Autopilot — the car steering and braking itself, and maintaining an even cruising speed. No more leg cramps from holding my leg in the same position for hours.
We had a lovely stop at a lookout as we passed over the ranges. We shared the lookout with a V8 aficionado. Turns out he knew a lot about electric vehicles — but wouldn’t want to own one as he would miss the sound of his engine!
When we put Barcaldine into the navigation, we got the warning that we wouldn’t make it — the yellow triangle of death! It was only 310 km and the range said 320 km. Fortunately, I had a backup plan! Before the trip, I thought this section would be a little tight, so I rang a motel in Alpha (170 km from Emerald) and had a great chat with the manager, Rav. He said, “No worries mate, I’ve got a 15 amp socket in the driveway you can use.”
Dev opened up the pub for us, made us lunch, and shouted us a beer. While we ate, he told us of the town and how it was doing tough under covid. Many trucks and caravans stop at Alpha, but they don’t seem to spend any money — use the toilets and have a picnic with food they have bought elsewhere. He thinks it is only the local coal mines that are keeping the town alive. As a thank you for the charge we took him for a drive – he was very impressed with the torque and the tech, as well.
We talked solar energy. He was paying $23,000 a year in electricity when he got involved. He did the research and put on as many panels as he could. He also installed energy efficient HVAC systems and light bulbs — now it is much more manageable. We still had a little more time, so we chatted with the store owners and the tourist information center people.
The owner of the general store was very interested — he was keen to install a destination charger and hopeful that captive EV travelers might spend a little in the town. The bakery made great cakes, so got some for the trip. Time for a little relax in the shade of the trees and a play on our iPads.
Soon, we had enough charge to carry on, bid farewell to Dev and Alpha and, headed back out on the road. It was a reasonable uneventful section of road and we arrived at the Barcaldine Country Motor Inn ready to enjoy the comfort of their Tesla destination charger with 35 km of range in our battery.
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