I drove an electric car from Sydney to Melbourne: Here’s what happened

Electric vehicles have been dubbed the future of everyday travel for Australians.

But I recently took a trip from Sydney to Melbourne – and back – in one go and can confirm the low-cost, high-convenience EV dream is far from reality.

Not only did it cost me more in electricity each way than it would have in petrol, but it also took 25 per cent longer to reach my destination because I had to keep stopping to power up.

The car itself, a 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5 worth $87,000, with less than 4,000km on the clock, was certainly impressive.

It went from zero to 100km/h with little effort and ran so silently I could hear my five-year-old and his puppy snoozing as we soared down the highway.

It was comfortable and had a fresh interior, which made it look and feel like a much more expensive ride.

I took this Hyundai Ioniq 5 all-electric vehicle on a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne

I had to stop to charge the car three times between Sydney and Melbourne, and spent $210 on electricity throughout the trip

The futuristic-looking mid-sized sedan boasts a 500km mileage per charge – but I quickly learned this is ‘best-case scenario’ and the most I got was 330km, and by then the car’s dash was lighting up to let me know I was quickly approaching powerlessness.

It didn’t take long for the problems associated with taking an electric vehicle on a long-distance road trip to appear.

In fact, it took just 134km: the distance from my home in Sydney’s east to Sutton Forest’s rest stop where we parked up for 30 minutes to top up the battery pack. 

I chose to map out my journey before leaving the house after realising ‘fast’ 350kw chargers are few and far between in Australia.

And each company requires you to download its app and sign up with bank details or Apple Pay before you can connect.

I was overconfident as I backed up to that first charger in the car park behind the service station at Sutton Forest. 

It took me more than 10 minutes to connect to the charger because Vodafone doesn’t have reception in the area, meaning I couldn’t access the charger’s app to get the ball rolling.

I ended up getting on the nearby McDonald’s Wi-Fi while a kind stranger connected the car at my signal, leaving me to wonder why regional chargers don’t have a hotspot.

The first charge cost $19.71 and took 29 minutes.

I thought this was quite competitive until I watched the battery drain as we headed south along the Hume Highway – a road that arguably offers some of the best driving conditions in the country.

We had to stop again at a truck stop in Tarcutta – the well-known ‘halfway point’ between the two cities – just under three hours, or 290km, from Sutton Forest.

The car's dash started flashing when my battery percentage dipped under 10 per cent

The car's interior is very upmarket - and the electronic displays are easy to navigate

The car felt more luxurious on the inside than the $87,000 price tag suggests

The charging apps keep records of each charge, and can be clicked on for further details

The car’s dash information said it still had 100km left in it – but that wasn’t going to be enough to get to the next fast charger.

We spent 35 minutes powering up and spent $35.56.

The next stop was in Avenel, Victoria, just north of Seymour – and the warning lights were going off.

We had travelled 330km down the road, yet the car display showed there was just nine per cent charge remaining – or an estimated 32km.

It was 11.38pm by this time and I was keen to get to my final destination, in Melbourne’s northern districts, so we didn’t charge the battery the whole way.

After 14 minutes and 26 seconds, I was ready to unplug my ride. Being hooked up to power at a dark service station at that time of night felt unsafe.

My gut feeling was validated when three blokes in a banged-up Commodore with no plates hooned past throwing empty bottles into the street.

The dynamic display explains how much power you have left - and changes in real time depending on things like fan use

The charge cost me $30.94 and gave me enough juice to get to my destination – then back to the same stop to get a full charge on my return trip. 

The car came to me with a full battery – and was on 90 per cent when I left for Melbourne – and cost just over $85 to power up on the 819km journey.

The trip back cost $120 because I had to power up again in Avenel – this time stopping for a full 42 minutes.

The charge cost me $38.37, which seemed cheap considering I only got half a charge a few nights before for $30.94.

I stopped again in Tarcutta and spent a whopping $47 and more than an hour of my time.

The back seat is roomy and can fit three booster seats, although we just used one. The anchors are 'hidden' behind the seats

The slight delay came after someone seemingly walked past and turned off the chargers just six minutes in. 

The app lets you know when you are actively charging; I was keeping an eye on that when I realised the supply had stopped.

I was shocked the charger could have been turned off by someone walking past – had I not been watching and just came back 30 minutes later I would have been fuming.

Sutton Forest was the last stop; we were there for 26 minutes and spent $37.81. This time I had a second device I could hotspot off to overcome the reception issue.

The trip showed me that the ‘long-distance anxiety’ surrounding electric vehicles in Australia is completely valid.

Having to stop for 40 minutes every three hours simply drags out road trips.

While I didn’t have any problems with faulty chargers, if one on your route was broken it could also spell disaster as ‘the next option’ is usually a little too far away. 

Fast charges have 350kw of power while regular ones run on 50kw – so it would slow down a road trip or force an impromptu overnight stay.

The boot is extra large, making it the perfect size for pets, busy parents and weekend getaways

I drive interstate at least once a month, so wouldn’t entertain the idea of getting an electric car until a long-distance-friendly car boasting a 1,000km battery range is released (knowing this will be cut down by aircon use) and infrastructure improves.

The Ioniq 5 is, however, a lovely car to drive.

And for the thousands of Australians who don’t leave the city or are happy to stick between neighbouring metro areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, it has a big enough battery to get door-to-door without hiccups. 

A nice addition is the car’s maps, which include information on the nearest chargers, whether they are slow chargers or fast chargers, the company that operates them, and the chargers that are available on your chosen route.

It will also sound an alert if you ask it to navigate somewhere and don’t have enough power to get there. 

The same journey typically costs me $140 in petrol – in my 2011 Toyota Corolla – or just one ten-minute, $70 fuel stop each way.

Hooking the car up to solar or taking advantage of subsidies available to new EV owners and NRMA customers would bring the running costs down on road trips like mine.

Using slow chargers is also cheaper; however, they typically require the car to be left for most of the day or overnight. 


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