Shaking like a Leaf (II): Cities, big and small

This blog post is part of a series about my road trip around South/East Australia in an electric vehicle. Read other posts using the same tag.

Day 2: Newcastle to Sydney

Even after the long day yesterday, I was already up at 6, with the warm sun beaming through the windows.

I had already charged the car to 90% overnight, but because there’s free charging I thought I might as well get the car charged to 100% before heading out to Sydney – saves me a bit of cash and also helps get my car further with the hilly terrain expected along the way. Two of the four spots were already occupied at the charging station near the wharf by 7:30am – all chargers were occupied soon after, which wasn’t surprising considering it didn’t cost anything to charge here.

Screenshot of ABRP app with a graph indicating expected battery charge level and altitude along a planned route from Newcastle to Sydney.
ABRP app showing expected
charge and elevation.

Speaking of terrain – the ABRP app does actually consider elevation and gradients when calculating estimates which is helpful because it adjusts range/charge the car has at certain points in the journey. It’s not perfect and I wouldn’t rely on it entirely, but you can tell that it knows that going uphill uses charge faster, and downhill less so (and in some cases it ticks back up because it expects regenerative braking to give you power back.)

I spent next 90 minutes roaming around Newcastle under the blinding sun and ended up having breakfast by the beach. I found Newcastle to be quite nice in some parts, with a mix of well-preserved historic buildings and new development, especially along the wharf. The “CBD” is tiny and walkable, but I didn’t get enough of a chance to fully explore. Maybe next time.

Off to Sydney – and I decided I would mostly go on a slightly more scenic route via A43/Pacific Highway before joining up with the M1. With all the trucks and road trains around on the highway, I tried to see if there was any effect attempting to catch their slipstream would have. I’m not sure if I noticed any improved efficiency or range,1 but one thing it did give me was an excuse to go slightly slower on the highway. Yes, you’ll be in the left lane behind a slow moving vehicle and everyone’s changing lanes behind you, but it does reduce the rate of energy consumption. However, this really only works on flats and moderate gradients – once you get to steep climbs, driving at half the speed limit on a 110km/h road because you’re stuck behind a road train is… really painful.

Macquarie Centre was the place I planned to stop at for a charge and lunch. Getting to the shopping centre was the easy part – finding the EV charging station inside was much harder. It took me almost half an hour circling the complex and its various disjointed parking areas to finally get to the charger. One of the two compatible ones was available – a miracle considering how busy it was in the lead up to Christmas. A 45 minute lunch looking over the indoor ice rink with the car charging up from 27% to 92%, and I was back on the road.

There’s not much to post about the rest of the day – I didn’t drive around that much, having spent the afternoon with relatives. I would wind up the day staying at an Airbnb located south of the Georges River, that would be my base for the next couple of days.

Day 3: Wollongong

I had never visited Wollongong before – all I had known about it were the beaches, university and the port.

The Leaf still had plenty of charge from the day before: 75% and an estimated 189km range – enough for a round trip from where I was staying. So I just hopped in and went for a day trip to Wollongong! Going via the Great Pacific Drive, the first stop was the lookout at the top of Bald Hill – and you couldn’t have asked for better weather that day.

Absolutely majestic with hanggliders everywhere.

If you know the area, you might also notice the famous Sea Cliff Bridge in the background there – it looked cool up here, but by the time you’re driving on it, it just feels like any other road. Got to the other side of the bridge where the parking spots for the bridge viewing areas were absolutely packed so I ended up stopping some distance away instead. The track to walk up to the viewpoint for the bridge was closed, and the ground level one was… meh.

After that was a random wander through Wollongong city, the beach and the botanic gardens. Don’t really have much to say about Wollongong itself – it felt just like another small city? It was overcast at this point which probably didn’t help, but the visit was enjoyable nonetheless.

Returning back to Sydney, the car still had enough charge for the next day’s travels, but I had enough time for a quick charge at a BP not too far away from where I was staying… so why not.

Day 4: Sydney

I hadn’t visited Sydney in basically a decade, so I put on my tourist hat on and decided I would explore the CBD again.

I wasn’t going to spend all my money on expensive parking in the inner city, so it was going to be more public transport than car for the day. But first I needed to get to a train station! Luckily I still had my Opal card,2 which entitled me to free Park&Ride parking if I also used the same card to travel on public transport that same day – so I drove over to Kogarah Station3 and dropped my car off there and took the train into the city.

The day started off with a walk through the city a bit before popping into Kinokuniya bookstore to balance the inner-city rush with some peace and quiet.

The Powerhouse Museum was my next stop and I got there just before it started absolutely pouring down with rain, so I spent my time indoors with their displays ranging from old transport vehicles to retro cultural items, and even a uranium chandelier! Only found out that they were closing for 3 years for renovations, after I visited. Lucky I got I chance to visit!

The day wrapped up with a tram ride to the harbour and doing the most touristy thing in Sydney – taking a picture of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. I’ve been here a number of times already, but what the heck.

Returning back to Kogarah, I took the opportunity to charge at Kogarah Town Centre located on the other side of the station. Since it was the weekend, parking was free for 2 hours – it took an hour to get the Leaf charged from 49% to 99% and also to witness two Teslas seek a feed plug in under the pouring rain. (No pictures sadly as I didn’t want to test the watertightness of my phone…)

Continues in Part III (to be published.)

Most of the charge I used during the Newcastle to Sydney leg was free because of the city-run free chargers – thanks Newcastle!

Macquarie Centre, Sydney11.10
Caringbah, Sydney8.46
Kogarah, Sydney10.00
Subtotal (excluding discounts)29.56 / 405km
Trip total (excluding discounts)87.41 / 1175km
  1. I did keep a safe distance for this, which probably negated any positive effect. ↩︎
  2. Surprised it still works to be honest – I got it when I was still studying in Canberra back in 2014. The balance is still off the original $50 I put on it all the way back then! ↩︎
  3. Boy was it tight to drive around the multistorey Park&Ride building at Kogarah. The spirals you take to go up and down levels are really tight that I had to back up a bit at times to clear the turn. Might just be me and my relative lack of driving, but the Leaf’s turning circle isn’t as small as I thought it would be. ↩︎