Sweetness & Light

Socket Rockets to the Power of None

Everybody needs a hobby, according to various family members whose hobby it apparently is to tell me I need a hobby. Not wishing to cause any increase in domestic disharmony, a hobby has lately been settled upon. A ripper hobby.

It’s easy and fun yet also upsets the sort of people you want to upset, which is important for your modern hobbyist. Basically, all I do is read accounts of electric vehicle road trips until I get to the bit where the rechargers don’t work—and then I write about it, as I’m doing here.

Tim Blair appears in every Quadrant.
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Believe me, this is a terrifically rewarding pastime. I’d recommend it to anyone with a few hours to kill. Such as, for example, EV owners who are stranded at a recharging centre because of busted equipment. Here’s a recent example, posted in January by Clayton4115 on the NRMA’s community noticeboard: “Just completed this trip over Christmas, one word, horrible experience.”

That’s two words, but a slight numerical blunder should be forgiven considering the torment our correspondent endured. Clayton continued: “Cost $130, but the experience with broken chargers, drivers charging to 100% hogging the chargers, long wait times (at one point 1hr and 20 mins) to charge, was a terrible, stressful experience, never again in an electric car.”

The trip to which Clayton refers was a 4500-kilometre jaunt from Brisbane to Melbourne and back, which invited deep contemplation of Australia’s electrified driving future—a future that evidently involves much damaged and useless recharging machinery, with forlorn Aussies glaring angrily at it. 

New South Wales was particularly grim, by Clayton’s account: “Armidale one broken … delay about 2 hrs. Parkes charger broken … On the way back similar issue, had to wait at Nabiac for 1 hr and 20 mins to charge and all the surrounding chargers were out of action.”

That item delivered a broken charger payoff almost immediately, but a 2023 piece in Forbes about a Nevada-Utah EV trek rambled on for more than 1000 words before the author encountered “a fast charger which has been broken for at least a month”. Although, to be fair, the article did feature an earlier line absolutely soaked in delicious existential distress: “Something goes wrong with disturbing frequency.” If Morrissey ever writes a song about EVs, he’s got a great starting point right there.

Hobby-wise, it’s obviously much more satisfying to hunt down mention of a broken charger deep in copy than to have it served up directly. This suspense-wrecking headline ran last year in Australian EV news site The Driven: “Unfit for purpose: Broken EV chargers spoil the Electric Super Highway.”

Thanks for nothing, The Driven. At least give us connoisseurs of compromised charging something of a challenge. Or, failing that, give us art. Give us a creative take on the EV experience so sublime that it transcends issues of mere travel inconvenience and launches into a realm from which Edgar Allan Poe himself would recoil in horror.

In short, give us something that approaches the malevolent majesty achieved by CarExpert founder Paul Maric in his March 2024 YouTube masterpiece: “Our six hour EV charging disaster.” (Subtitle: “How is it still this bad?”)

Maric is from Melbourne, so he’s familiar with misery, but this particular tale takes place in Los Angeles. Setting it up, Maric mentions a recent EV trip from Sydney to Brisbane, during which he “had so many issues with faulty chargers”. We’re only twenty-one seconds into the video, but there’s so much more to come.

A genial and communicative host, Maric aims to discover how much easier it is to use EVs in California, home of the modern EV industry. The numbers suggest a massive step up from the situation in Australia. By 2022, California already had nearly 15,000 charging stations—most with several recharging devices. By comparison, Australia at the same time had only 2400 or so public charging locations across our entire nation.

As of early March this year, there are 5010 charging stations in Los Angeles alone. Depending on who’s counting, Sydney has somewhere around 250.

Based on those figures, then, California (and particularly LA) should be an absolute EV nirvana. Even with a few busted units here and there, public recharging should be a breeze. California should be now what local EV advocates want Australia to be tomorrow. It should be the sort of eco-paradise that proto-Teal MP Zali Steggall had in mind when she declared in 2019: “I want Warringah to be a mini-California and lead the way.”

Be careful what you wish for, Zali. For that matter, be careful what you legislate for, Anthony Albanese and Chris Bowen. Those three dimbulbs ought to host a parliamentary viewing of Maric’s YouTube video, beginning with him driving to a supermarket charging station aboard a posh Rivian EV. “I think this will be a good indication,” says our optimistic host, “of what the government could achieve if they put their mind to it.”

Early signs are positive. It’s a fast-charging site, so loading up on sparks won’t take long. Even better, as Maric announces upon sighting the charging ports: “Oh my God, there are heaps of them! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight—that’s a really nice setup.”

But all of them are taken. Every single one. Which wouldn’t be an issue if this was a petrol station, because every car would be refuelled and gone in just a few minutes. With EVs, however, you’re stuck until the car in front is sufficiently juiced. Maybe thirty minutes. Maybe two hours.

Maric’s optimism takes a hit when he realises that there are four EVs in a queue ahead of him. “This is a bit of a disaster,” he observes, “because there are now all of these cars waiting, plus they’re queuing around the corner.”

A quick note: in Australia, Maric owns an EV. He is not opposed to them. This video is not a hit piece. Rather, it is pure journalism, without an agenda. If anything, the piece is more powerful for Maric’s reasonable expectation that EV circumstances would be better in California than here.

Back in the video, he’s down to 10 per cent power and needs to find an alternative electricity source. Maric eventually finds a site with four chargers but two big problems: there’s another long queue and three of the chargers are broken. And we’re still only seven minutes deep on a thirty-minute program.

Everybody on all sides of the EV debate needs to see this show, because it will considerably reduce at least one side of that debate. Everybody should also take up my little hobby, which has so far provided exactly one cheerful insight.

We fossil-fuelled folk will sometimes experience range anxiety. We’ll sweat as we see the fuel gauge head towards empty. But our anxiety evaporates like Labor’s Yes polling as soon as we arrive at a petrol station.

For our EV friends, however, rocking up to the rechargers is when the torture begins. They’re portals to panic. Are the machines working? Is there a line? Can I download the proper app? Are all these other users slowing my charge? Why won’t the people in that ancient V8 Commodore stop laughing at me?

EV breakdowns happen to owners instead of engines. You wouldn’t wish this on a nation you despise, much less Australia.

THE ONLY reason for heterosexual males to attend Sydney’s gay and lesbian Mardi Gras is if they’re politicians pursuing the pink vote. There’s been quite the parade of them over the years.

Good luck to all involved, but the event is lame compared to an earlier Mardi Gras held appropriately enough in Manly some seventy-five years ago.

According to the January 23, 1949, edition of Sydney’s Sunday Herald, the Mardi Gras—“a super-carnival in aid of Manly charities”— was possibly Australia’s greatest all-inclusive occasion, in that it included celebrations of proper and dignified bloke-ism.

Not everything went to plan. Do-gooders forced the cancellation of a Mardi Gras duck hunt, so fifty of the creatures were handed over to the Far West Children’s Home. At least someone got a feed out of it.

Wowsers also tried to stop what the Herald described as “a stunt proposed for next Wednesday night, in which a girl will take a bath in milk opposite the Manly ferry wharf”. They objected to the milk being wasted, which seems largely to miss the point. In any case, Mardi Gras organiser W.R. Nicholas was having none of it. “The show will go on,” he said. “We will give the milk to the cats’ and dogs’ homes.”

If attendees turned skyward, they’d have witnessed six RAAF Mustang fighter planes carrying out “aerobatics in formation at 450 miles an hour over Manly Beach”.

With 2024 being the diamond jubilee of the Manly Mardi Gras, a commemoration is required. I’ll sort out a Mustang. The rest of you gather up some milk and ducks.

We’ll also need a girl.

14 thoughts on “Socket Rockets to the Power of None

  • terenc5 says:

    Life could be so improved by some people leaving it. Chris Bowen staked to a panel or windmill comes to mind.

  • Podargus says:

    No doubt about the power of humor well expressed.
    As for the power of EVs, no doubt they have a niche, eg – home and return short trips or commercial use where they can be charged at the workplace.
    Long trips – forget about it.

  • cel47143 says:

    Early this year my husband found a vehicle recharging at our remote town’s EV charging station, where only 1 of the 2 units was working. They were well equipped for the job, which was just as well the temperate was over 40 C. They were sitting on their camp chairs under a portable shade, each sipping cold water from one of those expensive hand-held personal hydration containers, patiently waiting to get enough charge for the next 200k or so leg which would get them to another town where the temperature was over 40 C. Why would you bother?

  • call it out says:

    Mitcham Council in SA had declared a “climate emergency” so followed it up with two EV charging stations, free to all, at ratepayers’ expense. They were slow, unreliable, and rarely used. So thy closed them down within a year or so.
    Bill to the ratepayers? About $100,000. The mayor declared “they were a great success.” The council CEO has now stated “they were just a trial.” Spin beats truth in Mitcham.
    Woke amateurs wasting our money on frivolous political adventures while the rates rise, and the roads and footpaths go unattended.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    “But all of them are taken. Every single one. Which wouldn’t be an issue if this was a petrol station, because every car would be refuelled and gone in just a few minutes. With EVs, however, you’re stuck until the car in front is sufficiently juiced. Maybe thirty minutes. Maybe two hours.”
    I hate to be the one to bring this sad news to Tim Blair, but the petrol that comes so cheerfully forth from his favourite bowser, being a fossil fuel, will not last forever. It’s not like recycling energy – hydroelectric for example; and we have one helluva long supply of solar to come before the Sun dies.
    But look on the bright side. It’s a technical problem, and solvable. During daylight hours in Australia, one coninuous kilowatt of solar energy falls on every square metre of this vast continent. Soalr panels on the EV roof (maximised in area) maybe?
    Time was, back in Great-Granpa’s day, a bloke with a red flag had to walk in front of every new-fangled horseless carriage to warn all and sundry of its approach (at up to 15 miles per hour.! Shock, horror.!)
    I wonder what Tim Blair would have said, if he had been around then? In the light of this piece, I could have a pretty good guess.

  • Bill Ireland says:

    I have been fortunate to lose some “friends” by referring to their “coal fired car”.

    • STD says:

      That’d be an “odd” comment, if it wasn’t from you Bill. By chance, you didn’t happen to drop that clanger in the middle of a who’s who cocktail party, that was a by / bye invitation only-e-vent?
      Did any one choke whilst quaffing or did the horrendous realisation manifest itself during or perhaps after the imbibing processes of this Dunsborough delight/obviously a tipple U launched on the hypocritical senses/ census of the diminished acumen of the self?-make that a statement of fact!
      If I might say you definitely haven’t lost that Ireland cheekiness.

    • Lewis P Buckingham says:

      That’s the way China is already going.
      Cheap coal fired powered city electric cars with no tailpipe pollution.
      Super fine efficient coal fired power stations with scrubbers running for 24/7 industry.
      Soon they will have solved their human caused particulate and sulphur problem.
      Next the desert.


    Part of the problem is people like Zali Staggall who exemplify a fantasy mini-California bubble lifestyle. In their fantasy state of bubble bliss these people fail to realise that their bubble economy is maintained on life-support by real people doing real work with real resources in a real world.

  • ianl says:

    My comment is repetitive here, as EV’s are actually dangerous for long highway trips (or worse, off-highway) due to the high risk of being stranded. This not range “anxiety”, it is NO range. Fact.

    Try these parameters for, say, a Sydney-Melbourne trip on the Hume:
    1) three adult passengers, driver and their luggage
    2) winter, so heating and air con
    3) raining, so wipers
    4) night travel, so headlights, tail-lights
    5) radio or car MP4/CD player
    6) cruise control at 105 kph for about 6 hours (swapping drivers)

    That’s NO range. I doubt even Stegall would think that’s possible. Whenever I list this out, one can hear the electronic gates clang shut as EV proponents run away from the answer.

  • bomber49 says:

    The best way to fight the righteous is to pile on the ridicule and sarcasm. Tim Blair has buckets of both and I never tire of reading/hearing him.

    • Daffy says:

      No, best way to discuss with a couple of buddies, and loudly, the long trek through the bush in your 4WD (none of this joke AWD stuff) towing bush campers. How you drove for hours in low range up hill and down other hill, ran the generator that evening for dinner, and were all set for another 10 hours of the same the next day.
      Of course, you did a bit of hunting of ferrals on the way.

  • Aussietom says:

    EVs are rather like socialism.

    Their defenders respond to criticism with sentences like: “It’s not working fully yet” or “it hasn’t been tried properly.”

    At which point, walk away.

  • Katzenjammer says:

    Try to imagine public phones today if everyone had the expectations they’re now used to with mobile phones. Haven’t got the right coins and the coin slot’s blocked with gum. The handpiece was stolen. It smells of piss.

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