Sharon and Gene Salvestrin charge their Tesla Model X at the Cairns charging station.
Sharon and Gene Salvestrin charge their Tesla Model X at the Cairns charging station. Anna Rogers

Queensland invests another $2.5m on 'electric highway'

EXTRA charging stations will be constructed as Queensland positions itself among the leaders in electric vehicle technology Down Under.

The State Government has committed $2.5 million for another 13 charging points on the Queensland Electric Super Highway - the $3 million 17-station, 1900km fast-charging network that stretches from the NSW border to Far North Queensland via Brisbane and west to Toowoomba.

Since completion last year there have been less than 2900 charging sessions.

Cairns was one of the first charging stations to open and led the way regionally, while the two facilities at Hamilton proved most popular.

Charging has been free since the highway was launched and the cost moratorium will continue until mid-2019.

While electric vehicle sales account for only 0.1 per cent of the new car market, incoming derivatives at lower prices with ranges of more than 400km are forecast to spark the market.

The Hyundai Kona Electric will launch in March.
Launching in March, the Hyundai Kona Electric will be able to travel more than 400km on one charge with prices estimated between $50,000-$60,000. Thomas von Salomon

Hyundai has released the Ioniq from $44,990 with a range of about 200km, but will launch its Kona Electric compact SUV next month with a price less than $60,000 boasting a range of more than 400km. Sister company Kia will have the e-Niro available by the fourth quarter with an estimated cost of about $50,000.

Jaguar welcomed the I-Pace into its showrooms late last year with prices starting from $123,814 plus on-roads boasting a real-world range of about 420km.

Tesla models start from $171,680, but the more affordable Model 3 is due in "the second half of 2019” and is expected to be about $80,000 drive-away with a range circa 500km.

Kia is expected to introduce the e-Niro electric SUV in the second half of next year.
The Kia e-Niro will arrive in the fourth quarter this year, starting from about $50,000. Estimated range of up to 485km.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the slow initial uptake of electric vehicles was due to an absence of a federal electric vehicle policy.

"National leadership is long overdue. Australia is a single market and we need a co-ordinated approach and commitment from all levels of government,” he said.

"In Queensland, EVs have the lowest registration costs, combined with lower operating and maintenance costs which can provide a competitive transport option.”

The electric-powered  Jaguar I-Pace has a range of more than 400km.
Released late last year, the new Jaguar I-Pace has a range of more than 410km and starts from $123,814 plus on-roads. Grant Edwards

He said the new stations would further alleviate range anxiety - one of the major barriers for future EV consumers.

Government fleets will include 36 electric vehicles by May. There are currently 211 hybrid vehicles operating in Qfleet with another 208 on order.

Brisbane-based company Tritium has worked installed charging facilities in 27 counties and chief product officer Paul Sernia said the electric tide had begun to turn in Australia.

"In the past 12 months the activity has really stepped up to the next level,” he said.

"We are seeing major charging networks roll out. Late last year we hit our 50th DC (direct current) charger in the country. All the signals are positive and we are going to find that activity accelerating.

"Once you hit that 400-plus kilometre driving range it starts to become a more accessible vehicle to a lot of different drivers. That's really exciting.”

The Mercedes-Benz EQC.
Arriving in October is the Mercedes-Benz EQC, with 300kW/765Nm dual electric motors with a range claim of 450km. Prices expected from $100,000.

Locations of the new charging facilities are yet to be announced.

Last month, findings of the federal Senate's Electric Vehicle inquiry recommended a national strategy be developed to "facilitate and accelerate” the uptake of electric vehicles. It was also recommended that the Australian Government introduce more stringent vehicle emissions standards and establish new CO2 targets.

Instant Hotel competitors Sharon and Gene Salvestrin charge their Tesla car at the cairns charging station .PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Sharon and Gene Salvestrin charge their Tesla Model X. Anna Rogers


Porsches and Audis have romanced him in the past, but nothing has stolen Gene Salvestrin's heart like a Tesla.

"I'm so glad that we did it. It's the best thing we've ever had ... it's my second wife,” he said.

Publishing entrepreneur Gene and his wife Sharon, a property manager and part-time model, are regular users of the public charging station at Cairns, which is the state's usage hot spot on the Queensland Electric Super Highway which starts at the NSW border.

It takes about 1.5 hours to charge their black $180,000 Tesla Model X 100D using the facility, which offers a range of about 400km.

Based at Bellenden Ker, south of Cairns, they've never had an issue with the head-turning superstar of the electric vehicle world.

"There is a point where you want to make a difference in a good way so it's a positive way to protect what we have and the environment is one thing we have to nurture,” Sharon said.

"It's amazing to not have to buy fuel.

"It's a computer not a car ... we have been to Port Douglas, the (Atherton) Tablelands and Mission Beach but we haven't taken the drive any further yet.

"The car will automatically shut down certain things that you are using, like the music or the air conditioning so you can get to the charge station.”

Initially nervous about the car and its capacity, they quickly gained an understanding of its range.

During their 18-month ownership there have been no mechanical issues and servicing is done at their home by Tesla technicians.

The greatest challenge was installing a fast charger at their home. When plugged into the standard household power point a full charge would take 24 hours but the Tesla unit reduces that time to 5-6 hours.

Additional work was required by an electrician, plumber and trench digger for the unit which cost $16,000 to install.

"If were living in an urban environment it's a half-hour job,” Gene said.

"The only thing I was taken aback with was we had to pay an extra (luxury) tax because of the value of the car. That is total hypocrisy.”

The pair, who are starring in Channel Seven's Instant Hotel which is a program where couples stay at each other's homes to vie for cash and prizes, also have a property on Bedara Island which is completely off the grid.

They now are in the process of installing solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall which will enable the Bellenden Ker retreat to be powered entirely by the sun.

The Salvestrin's Misty Mountains Tropical Rainforest Retreat features on Channel Seven's Instant Hotel, 9pm Mondays.

2019 Audi e-tron electric SUV for sport, family and leisure.
Expected to start from about $140,000, the 300kW/664Nm Audi E-Tron is forecast to travel more than 400km from one charge. It's forecast to arrive mid-year.


Queensland Electric Super Highway charging sessions in past year:

Bowen 46

Cairns 683

Carmila 16

Charlton 88

Childers 103

Coolangatta 540

Cooroy 98

Hamilton (two sites) 757

Mackay 33

Marlborough 29

Maryborough 104

Miriam Vale 64

Springfield 130

Townsville 62

Tully 46

UQ Gatton 49

Total 2848