Charging directions: EV owners tell all

Automatic solar charging

From a plug-in Prius conversion to an electric vehicle charged from the sun to an e-bike as a vehicle for change, EV owners describe how they’ve made an EV work for them.

From plug-in Prius to Leaf on PlugShare

Tim Johnston shares his electric vehicle experiences so far: converting a standard Generation 2 Toyota Prius hybrid into a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), becoming an owner of a 2011 Nissan Leaf in 2014 and registering their home as a charging station on PlugShare.

OUR family of two adults and two kids is very energy conscious and concerned about environmental issues. In 2009 we needed a second car and we wanted that choice to be as carbon-neutral as possible. We also wanted a car that was large enough to carry the kids comfortably, had the latest safety gear and cost less than $20,000.

We’ve always had an interest in electric vehicles; my brother-in-law has had one for a while so I’d seen that electric vehicles were a practical alternative. A test drive of a Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV at an RACV event in 2009 further piqued my interest. However, a new EV was well beyond our budget, and options were limited at the time. As a compromise, in 2010 we purchased a secondhand 2006 Prius i-tech and so began our electric vehicle journey.

Converting a Prius to plug-in

The Prius is a hybrid vehicle that uses the efficiency of an electric motor/generator system to improve fuel economy. The 2006 Prius can be placed into full-electric mode (using an EV mode button on the dash), but the small high-voltage 1.3 kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery means it can only travel short distances in this mode. I researched ways to increase the battery size and settled on a 4 kWh plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) conversion kit, produced by a company called Enginer.

The Enginer kit is a rechargeable battery pack that supplements the Prius OEM high-voltage battery. In Australia, the kit was rebranded by NilCO2 as K40 and was suitable for both the Gen 2 and Gen 3 Prius and came in 2, 4 and 6 kWh sizes. In 2011, we purchased the 4 kWh kit for approx $5000. We bought it mainly for environmental reasons and as a bit of a hobby, so we didn’t expect to recoup the cost on savings in petrol.


Towards a fossil fuel free EV: charging from the sun

Based in Canberra, Dave Southgate and his family are aiming to be a ‘fossil fuel free family’. Transport is a big challenge in that arena, but Dave found a smart way to maximise solar charging of their EV. Dave explains the system.

E-vehicle for change

Indigenous elder, actor and educator Uncle Jack Charles is a long-time e-bike rider. He spoke with Eva Matthews about the joys and value of this mode of transport.

Accommodating EVs in strata

How do you charge 15 Teslas in one apartment building that’s not wired for EVs? Resident Gordon Streight spoke with Eva Matthews about this interesting conundrum.

EV stories, two years on

With their stories first shared with us two years ago (‘Best EVer Stories’ in ReNew 131), Eva Matthews caught up with first-time EV owners Linda Hamilton and Ross Ulman to see how they’ve been getting on.

Charging regime and V2G

Consultant at Beyond Zero Emissions and energy expert, Richard Keech takes us through charging the Holden Volt and the potential for backup electricity to the home.


Read the full article in ReNew 139.