Mar 19, 2021
Intyalheme Project Manager Hannah Farrow on her new experience: driving an electric vehicle.
Intyalheme Project Manager Hannah Farrow at the Desert Knowledge Precinct, where the Geoscience Australia Ground Station, featuring an Arrernte design, is a prominent landmark.
The Intyalheme Leaf sports branding of the collaborative project it’s leading: Alice Springs Future Grid
Earlier this year I moved to Alice Springs to continue my new role as Project Manager for the Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy. Intyalheme is leading the Alice Springs Future Grid project on behalf of Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA). Future Grid involves a consortium of key energy stakeholders across the Northern Territory, which are collaborating on a series of trials to remove barriers to further renewable energy penetration in the Alice Springs electricity system. Ultimately this process will inform the pathway to show how Alice Springs can achieve the NT target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
Excitingly, Intyalheme has a Nissan Leaf, as part of the DKA fleet, which I’ve been able to use since. It’s also not the first electric vehicle (EV) in Alice Springs, with Teslas gaining a particularly noticeable following in the past few years.
I was keen to avoid developing any sort of range anxiety and so I set out to learn what the range was and where I would be able to charge the car. And importantly, finding which sites I could reach, along the MacDonnell Ranges. First up I found the EO Universal EV charger at Alice Springs Town Council to be excellent (close to the hotel where I was staying, fast, and powered by solar on the shade structures over the carpark). The PlugShare website helped identify other charging locations. In total there are 11 plugs of various types in Alice Springs (correct at the time of writing).
Former Intyalheme General Manager Glenn Marshall, who instigated the procurement of a Nissan Leaf to support project activities. Pictured at the Alice Springs Airport charger.
When not charging at the Town Council I can also use an adapter for an ordinary single-phase household connection. Although slower to charge, having the car plugged in at work during the day will increase the available range by at least 100km. Plenty, given driving between work at the Desert Knowledge Precinct and home is under 30km return. I choose to charge at the Precinct, because it is powered by about 40% renewable energy from the DKA Solar Centre. As the amount of renewable energy in the Alice Springs grid increases, the car’s emissions will decrease even further.
My first weekend in Alice Springs I was ready to hit the Ross Highway and the East MacDonnell Ranges. The car was fully charged – displaying 253km as my range. While using the aircon dropped this range to about 230km I figured Trephina Gorge about 80km away, one-way, was a real possibility. As it was an unusually cool day at 23°C, I was able to use only the fan rather than the aircon; and setting the cruise control to 100km per hour we reached the destination easily. I was even able to press on to reach the Ross River Resort, adding a further 25km to the total distance.
On the way back to town, the aircon was back on and the cruise control set. Arriving back in town with 12% energy left in the battery and 38km remaining range. In total I covered 185km, and with the remaining 38km I now know I would feel comfortable taking the fully-charged car over 200km, which is excellent. Since this trip I’ve settled into a routine of driving the car between work, around town, here and there; plugging it in on either Wednesday or Thursday, and really not worrying about it.
I have taken to the EV routine quickly, I’m impressed with its performance, and I hope to see a strong future for electric vehicles in Alice Springs.