DC Down Under Dispatch #4: Nothing Could Possibly Go Wrong From Here, Right?

With our finish line, Perth, within sight, it was west coast or bust for us. Only, we didn’t realize the Kia EV6 had a say in the matter, too.

byJames Gilboy, Lewin Day| PUBLISHED Aug 22, 2022 12:35 PM
DC Down Under Dispatch #4: Nothing Could Possibly Go Wrong From Here, Right?
James Gilboy

Just one day of driving separated us from our destination on the west coast of Australia: Perth. As the first to rise, Lewin had to recover the Kia EV6, a third-of-a-mile walk through the cold away. But when we saddled up, I ended up taking the wheel for what’d be my last stint of the journey. And we faced some familiar problems from the moment we set off—but the prior day's events had taught us to manage.

From the get-go, the cold temperatures sapped our range, which the EV6 said we didn’t have enough of to reach our charge stop in Ravensthorpe. Like yesterday, we poked along at 80 kph (50 mph) to close the gap, but this time there was no headwind to worry about. It was not long at all before we were into the black and speeding up to make time, so carefree that we missed a turn or two—to no real consequence, thankfully.

[Welcome to project DC Down Under, where The Drive is sending the indomitable Lewin Day and James Gilboy across 1,700 miles of the Australian Outback over the span of five days in a Kia EV6. Electric cars in 2022 thrive in places where there's a healthy number of public chargers; doing so across the Nullarbor Plain is another matter altogether. Follow along with Lewin and James' journey on our Twitter and Instagram accounts with the hashtag #DCDownUnder and watch this space for updates. This is the sixth story in the series. You can read parts one, two, three, four, and five here.]

Uneventful Is What You Want

Even if our lapses in attention had caused us a problem, staying hung up on them would’ve taken a conscious act of worrying as we transitioned back into pastoral landscapes. Yellow-green expanses of canola glowed on either side of the road, interspersed with flocks of sheep bunched up around watering holes. It was a pretty and uneventful drive, which was a welcome change from the day before.

We pulled into Ravensthorpe—which, to my surprise, wasn’t filled with headcrabs—to a charger that was marked 50 kW, but could only put out about 19. It was an excuse to fully explore the town’s main drag, from the candy shop with the world’s largest free-standing lollipop to a local boutique where Lewin bought a painting and a table. Flying back with them would be his problem, not mine.

We sourced lunch from a diner that sells something called a “lasagna topper,” or a breaded and deep-fried hunk of lasagna. Having tried it, I don’t know why you can’t find such a thing stateside. I also learned that Australians bind their cheesecakes with gelatin instead of eggs, for a lighter but equally pleasant take on the dessert.

To burn off some of the calories we’d consumed, I gave into Lewin’s insistence that we film ourselves dancing to “Take On Me." The locals noticed, and Lewin seemed extremely pleased to get the attention. We ventured down to this town’s football oval, only to find it too flooded to practice punts. I spotted a dingo—my first wildlife sighting at last—only for Lewin to point out that it was just a normal pet dog chasing a ball thrown by the woman walking with it. On our way back to the car, we were intercepted by another friendly pair of Tesla drivers that recognized us, emphasizing just how far word of our trip had spread in Australian EV circles.

Before setting off again, Lewin checked in on the next charger at Lake Grace, and got some bad news: it had been offline for weeks. That wasn’t a problem, as there was another charger further down the road at Katanning. We absorbed extra juice to bridge the gap, and Lewin took over as the sun began its early winter descent. Under the last daylight we’d see in this car, we stopped for photos just once, pulling into Katanning after dark (having still spotted no kangaroos).

Time for Some Reflection

With one leg of driving left, Lewin elected to celebrate by ordering big at the first chain restaurant we’d seen in 1,500 miles and did some reflecting. Despite more trouble than expected, it had been a successful voyage. I didn’t actually have any doubts we’d make it when I landed in Australia; Lewin had spent a year planning every last stop, and knew what to do if anything went wrong. The fact that we were here charging at a backup stop, with our faces full of garlic bread, was a testament to that.

What I hadn’t expected was how tricky our drive still had been. Chargers were slower than expected, the car's range worse, and if we hadn’t been busy this whole time trying to document the experience, we’d have been wanting for entertainment at a few points. Our encounter with a Tesla at Caiguna also showed that while the infrastructure for this kind of drive exists, it’s only really adequate for one car at a time and that multiple EVs can’t travel together in places like this. If you happen to set out in the same direction and at the same time as another EV driver, one of your plans will have to make way for the other’s.

But at this point in the drive, with our car finishing its final charge and us on the edge of civilization again, none of that mattered. Short of hitting a ‘roo in the dark—which would at least mean I get to see one—there was nothing left that could go wrong.

Nothing that we could have planned for, anyway.

To be continued... Lewin Day

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