UPDATE: As Confusion Abounds Concerning Charging Requirements, Tesla Model S Goes on Sale in Australia

After years of patient waiting, Australian businessman, broadband guru and long-time Tesla fan Simon Hackett flew to Sydney from his home town of Adelaide yesterday to become the first Tesla Model S owner in Australia.

Simon Hackett picks up one of his two Tesla Model S cars in Sydney on Tuesday night.

Simon Hackett picks up one of his two Tesla Model S cars in Sydney on Tuesday night.

Hackett, who already owns several Tesla Roadsters, set a world record back in October 2009 for the longest-distance travelled by an electric car on a single charge by driving his U.S.-spec Tesla Roadster 313 miles on a single charge with ten percent of the car’s battery left at the end.  And yesterday evening, he took ownership of not only the first Tesla Model S to be sold in Australia, but the second one too.

Yet as Hackett and the other lucky handful of Australian Tesla customers enjoy that new car smell that comes for free with every new Tesla Model S, fear and misinformation in Australia about the power requirements of a Tesla home charging station have lead to some pretty salacious headlines.

One in particular, claims that the average Australian couldn’t buy a Tesla Model S and charge it at home because it would require their home electrics to be upgraded at a cost of up to $10,000 AUS before they could fit a home charging station.

[UPDATE: We’ve received an email from the media relations consultant at Master Electricians Australia providing some background to the quotes used in the original article. You’ll find it at the end of this article.]

Claims that the Tesla Model S can't charge form a standard charging station are simply untrue.

Claims that the Tesla Model S can’t charge form a standard charging station are simply untrue.

Without enough power to operate the 40-amp, optional high-powered wall charger Tesla offers its customers, the article claims, Tesla Model S owners can’t charge their car. What’s more, it claims that regular electric car charging stations — ones used by other electric cars on sale in Australia — wouldn’t be powerful enough to work.

Frustratingly, the claim can be traced back to Master Electricians Australia, a 74-year old trade organisation which represents electrical contractors across Australia. An organisation which we’d imagine would understand that not all electric car charging stations are equal.

In an interview with News.com.au, the organisation’s spokesman Greg Bryant warned that the 40-amp high-power charging station offered to Tesla Model S customers with their cars would simply be impossible to install in most homes, and said Tesla owners could be faced with bills upwards of $50,000 to upgrade their local substation to handle the extra power demand brought by their electric car charging.

“It is highly unlikely the mains cable coming into the home switchboard will be adequate to carry the extra 40 amp load to recharge the car,” Bryant said, insinuating that the average home in Australia doesn’t have enough spare power capacity to accommodate the installation of Tesla’s high-powered 40-amp home charging stations.

You don't need one of these to charge a Tesla: any charging station will do, with a suitable adaptor.

You don’t need one of these to charge a Tesla: any charging station will do, with a suitable adaptor.

As Hackett points out, claims that you must upgrade your home wiring if you install a 40 amp capable charger are “just rubbish”.

“The 40 Amp rating is simply the maximum current that charger (supplied at no extra cost with the car) is capable of,” he wrote in an email earlier today. “In the event that you want the car to consume less current than that, you can simply turn the [Model S] charging current down to 32, 16, 13 or even 10 amps, with a few taps on the touch-screen of the model S. The car then remembers that charging limit using its on-board GPS and respects it automatically in the future, at that location.”

Like the UK, Australia’s domestic power supply operates on 230 volts, single-phase AC. As in Europe, some homes also benefit from three-phase power supplies, which are ideal for larger, higher-demand equipment such as heating and air conditioning systems. In those cases, there’s usually more than enough power supply for a humble electric car charging station: no rewiring required.

What’s more, Hackett argues, even Tesla Model S owners with a 40 amp home charging station and a low-current supply to their home will be likely charging their car at night — when other high-power devices like the stove and air conditioning system — won’t be operating at full power.

If you’re still worried, Hackett suggests worried Model S owners ask their electrician to install a circuit breaker so that it becomes impossible to draw more than the appropriate current level at home while charging.

Then there’s the myth that the electrical grid can’t cope.

“Studies have shown that the overnight recharging of electric cars will not demand upgrades to a typical Australian electricity grid until more than 75% of all cars in Australia are electric,” Hackett says. ” This is simply because, again, the cars are recharging during off peak periods. The total demand on the grid, even with a large demand from electric cars, is going to be nowhere near the peak grid demand on a 40 degrees Celsius summers day.”

In other words, it won’t be a problem.

Here at Transport Evolved’s offices, our power supply is fed from a domestic 100-amp, 230-volt supply. Once you’ve taken care of things like the stove and water heating system, there’s still enough spare capacity in the wiring to a accommodate several charging stations: one 13-amp ‘UK’ domestic outlet; one 32 amp, 7 kilowatt tethered charging station; and one 7-kilowatt ‘type 2’ charging station.

We’ve charged a Tesla Model S P85 from nearly empty to full in under 10 hours from a 7 kilowatt domestic charging station. Given most Tesla owners are unlikely to empty their car’s battery pack every day on the daily commute, we’re guessing that in some situations, an even lower-powered charging station would work.

With Australia’s current coalition government and Prime Minister Tony Abbott being cast as Australia’s most dangerous yet to Australia’s environment, dismissing the science behind climate change and continuing at pace to allow the majority of the country’s power supplies to come from coal, electric cars have always been given a hard time down under.

Luckily for Tesla and other automakers however, there are the few who are willing to set the record straight when yet again, electric cars are cast as Australia’s bogeyman.


UPDATE: We’ve just received the following email from Malcolm Cole, Master Electricians Australia’s social media consultant.

I assure you that Master Electricians does “understand that not all electric car charging stations are equal”. Our members have significant experience in the design, operation and installation of these systems.

However, the spokesman Greg Bryant was not asked about various type of charging stations. He was asked very specifically about how the 40-amp charger specified by Tesla would work. In the article, the journalist – not Master Electricians – asserts that Tesla “requires a 40-amp single phase charger”. On the basis of this information, Greg gave unbiased answers drawing on a lifetime of experience as an electrical contractor and a regulator. He had no commercial agenda (unlike Tesla) and simply was providing information in response to a specific question.

At no point did he state – as you claim – that it would “simply be impossible” to install the chargers in most homes. He set out the rational steps a home owner would be required to take and the hurdles they may face depending on their circumstances in installing a 40-amp charger. In fact it is Hackett’s claims that are “just rubbish”. There are maximum load restrictions in all states except New South Wales. These restrictions impose legal obligations on electrical contractors installing a charger capable of drawing 40 amps, which may extend to upgrading the switchboard, the supply to the home or in extremes even the local substation. These are facts.

You say that Greg “insinuates” that the average home doesn’t have enough spare capacity for a 40-amp charger. This is not an insinuation. This is a statement of fact. It’s acknowledged by later Tesla’s clarification that the recharger can be adjusted to match the lower output of Australian homes. That is to say, even Tesla acknowledges that 40-amps is generally beyond the capacity of Australian homes. It’s great that you have a 100-amp home, but most people don’t.

Master Electricians is highly supportive of electric cars, and has no particular agenda in relation to Tesla. But perhaps you could give the experts some credit for knowing a little more about the electrics in an average house (for example, they understand that circuit breakers are already fitted to prevent overloading of circuits), and for providing a less biased appraisal of the situation for potential buyers than they will receive from someone who describes himself as a “serial Tesla driver”.

We thank Malcolm for contacting us and clarifying the situation.


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