What is the RAC Electric Highway?

If you’re aware of some of the activity to support Electric Vehicle adoption in Australia, you may have heard of the RAC Electric Highway in WA.

But what exactly is this Electric Highway? What does it mean for motorists in Western Australia, both today and in the future? The RAC Electric Highway is an Australian Government backed initiative conceived and implemented by the Royal Automobile Club – or RAC.

Part of the RAC’s sustainable mobility program, the Electric Highway is designed to make it possible for drivers of electric vehicles in Australia to effectively, efficiently and reliably travel around Australia.

In order to achieve this, fast charging stations are installed at key points in Western Australia. This compliments other planned charging locations in Australia such as Queensland’s Electric Super Highway from the Gold Coast to Cairns.

These electric car charging stations act in the same way as petrol stations do for standard vehicles. When a driver needs fuel, they simply stop and fill up. When a driver of an electric vehicle needs to charge, they can do the same.

One of the problems that some drivers associate with electric cars is charging time. Drivers are not interested in checking into a hotel while their car charge overnight, and understandably so. The RAC Electric Highway and its fast chargers ensure that this is not the case.

Rather than providing alternating current (AC) and converting this into direct current (DC) for charging, these fast chargers offer the option of using use DC fast charging to charge the EV battery.

The electric vehicle provides feedback to the charger, informing it of how much more charge is required. This helps to control the charging process in a safe and effective manner.

When will the RAC Electric Highway be rolled out?

The RAC Electric Highway has already been rolled out between the Western Australian capital of Perth and the south west of the country.

This means that drivers can already navigate the 315.7 km from Perth to the seaside town of Augusta, safely and reliably using their electric vehicles.

While more recent electric vehicles can probably handle this distance on a single charge, this is beside the point. Weather conditions, vehicle load levels and a variety of other factors can reduce the distance an EV can achieve on a single charge, making the charging stations highly useful.

What’s more, there’s no fun in setting out on a journey and not being able to confirm that you will make it to the other end. The Electric Highway eliminates this anxiety.

Queensland looks set to be the next state to roll out an electric highway of their own. The route from Cairns to Coolangatta is expected to open in 2018, thanks to an initiative bankrolled by the Queensland government.

This is just the latest development in the construction of a mixed-ownership charging network which could eventually cover the entire country, however the efforts to build this network are not being centrally coordinated and are organic in nature, meaning this could take some time!

Who can benefit from the RAC Electric Highway?

Image via RAC Electric Highway

The key group of people who stand to benefit from the RAC Electric Highway is, of course, the owners of electric vehicles. The strategic locations of these chargers can and will help extend the limited range of their EVs.

EV owners looking to use the RAC Electric Highway need to do some prep before they leave home to be able to use the network.

To use the RAC Electric Highway® charging stations a ChargeStar RFID card is required. If you don’t have a card, you can get one by contacting ChargeStar at www.chargestar.com.au or by calling 1300 661 895.

The RAC Electric Highway charging stations support several of the most common charging plug types installed on EVs for fast DC charging and slower AC charging.

The Trio fast charging station has three cables, CHAdeMO fast charging, CCS Combo 1 fast charging and an AC cable that can deliver up to 43kW AC to type 2 IEC62196-2 (Mennekes) compatible cars such as the Tesla Model S.

  • 1 DC CSS Combo 1 mode cable/connector
  • 1 DC CHAdeMO mode 4 JEVS G105 cable connector
  • 1 AC Mode3 Type 2 (Mennekes) cable connector for the Tesla Model S
  • Compatible with AU/NZ 400V AC three phase power supply at a frequency of 50/60 Hz

EV owners will be the main group to benefit of the Electric Highway, however Electric vehicles are less noisy compared to their combustion engine counterparts so hopefully locals living near the highway will gradually experience less nuisance from traffic noise.

Hopefully, initiatives such as the RAC Electric Highway will also encourage more car owners to invest in greener vehicle alternatives.

Where can drivers charge on the RAC Electric Highway?

Image via News Limited – Justin Benson-Cooper

Electric vehicle charging stations can be found at the following locations:

  • Perth: RAC WA Building on 832 Wellington Street
  • Mandurah: 75 Mandurah Terrace
  • Harvey: Hayward Street
  • Bunbury: Symmons Street Carpark
  • Donnybrook: Town Centre
  • Busselton: Foreshore Carpark
  • Dunsborough: Dunn Bay Road
  • Nannup: Adam Street
  • Margaret River: Corner of Wallcliffe Road and Station Road
  • Augusta: Blackwood Avenue Carpark

Two more charging points are also being planned; one in Bridgetown and one in Fremantle. Although as of March 2018, no details on specific locations has been released yet.

There’s also an up-to-date map of where you can find these fast chargers.

For fresh updates as they are announced, subscribe to Drive Zero or like the Drive Zero Facebook page.

Why is the RAC Electric Highway a big deal?

Image via ABC News – Katrin Long

The RAC Electric Highway represents a significant milestone in the evolution of the electric vehicle in Australia and the way we approach transport in general.

Frankly speaking, Australia has a serious appetite for fossil fuels to produce our electricity and power our vehicles. While many countries in the developed world have reduced their fossil fuel consumption in the last half century, Australia has significantly increased it.

In 1960, 86% of Australia’s energy consumption came from fossil fuels. This increased dramatically through the ’80s and ’90s, before the curve flattened a little in the early 2000s. That said, Australia still managed to break its own record in 2009, when over 95.5% of energy consumed came from fossil fuels.

While electric vehicles still use electricity, and electricity must be produced in some way, centralised electricity production is much easier to regulate thanks to investments in renewable energy sources. Electric Vehicles become a platform for energy consumption from a mixture of sources, whereas fossil fuel powered vehicles can only over be powered by fossil files.

There is also less environmental impact when compared to petrol powered combustion engines.

By supporting moves towards electric vehicles through initiatives such as the Electric Highway, Australians are safeguarding the future of our planet. This is why plans for charging networks like the Electric Highway are more than just a big deal; they are a necessity.

Keith enjoys nerding out about Electric Vehicles, owning a BMW i3, Tesla Model X and now, running Drive Zero .