If the thought of a road trip with your kids in the car raises your anxiety levels a bit, what about a road trip in an electric car, with your kids!?
When my husband casually said: “There is an electric vehicle event in Byron Bay, I think we should go,” forgetting the length of the drive from Sunshine Coast to Byron Bay I replied, “Oh, a weekend in Byron Bay with electric cars, that sounds terrible!”
Bahaaaa!! The car enthusiast, recently converted EV lover, travel lover and food lover in me got sooooo super excited!
What better way to go to an electric car event than in an electric car and Hyundai kindly offered to lend me the new Kona Electric again, so I was VERY excited because I just LOVE driving this car and I really didn't want to give it back after I had it last time to review!
Then the mum in me woke up and it wasn't the Kona's EV battery range I was most worried about, it was my toddler's! The thought of having our daughter in the car for hours, on a Friday afternoon, in M1 traffic I'll be honest fills me with dread!
I remember when we were new parents and our daughter screamed the street down if we so much as moved in the direction of the car, so a road trip used to cause me so much anxiety my hair turned grey!!
I had been testing the Nissan Patrol, an ENORMOUS seven-seater fuel guzzler, so we packed everything for our weekend into the back of that, including my daughter's bike, and headed to Brisbane where we would swap cars for the Hyundai Kona Electric. Tulsi was LOVING her week of watching Fireman Sam and Peter Rabbit on the screens in the headrests of the Nissan Patrol, knowing that would buy me the journey from Sunshine Coast to Brisbane but as I'm sure most parents might feel the same, I was definitely worried about how the rest of the journey from Brisbane to Byron Bay would go post Peter Rabbit and screen time!!
One thing I didn't consider when packing my daughter's bike into the Nissan Patrol was quite where I thought I would put it in the Kona EV!! Interestingly all this lot fitted rather nicely in the Kona EV boot and the bike fitted in the back seats!
I would love to show you a boot of matching designer luggage and neatness but I'll be honest my mum life isn't really like that!! We even have my daughters camping chair in there because she wouldn't leave home without it and I couldn't be bothered to argue!!
The transition didn't go too badly and the irony of swapping an enormous fuel guzzling V8 (a very nice one mind you) for an electric car wasn't lost on me so I had to take a photo!
Cars swapped, toddler in and we were off, a weekend of family fun and electric cars ahead of us! I punched Byron Bay into the sat nav in the Kona Electric and when I saw we were passing right by Ormeau, a town on the Gold Coast, where our FAVOURITE cafe ‘No Ego' is located I suggested a late lunch, to which no one in the car objected! I LOVE this place! Located on an industrial estate you would never guess from the outside the wonders that lie within!
The owner and his family started No Ego coffee company out of their beautiful green and cream Kombi and following its success opened this cafe, which I am VERY grateful they did! Their Kombi is now parked in the store room at the front of the cafe and we enjoy having a look around it!
It is here I have THE BEST acai bowl of my life! Complete with peanut butter and raw chocolate sauce, it is sooooo good! They are even happy to cater for my toddler's fussy Friday needs of a boiled egg, toast, ham and strawberry jam! She ate it all so I am not going to say anything!!
Our tummies and souls sated, we hop back in the Kona Electric and finally head towards Byron Bay. It's a peaceful drive, in the quietness of the Kona Electric we enjoy seeing the surrounding landscape get greener as we head south and we enjoy the heated seats in the front too! The battery was fully charged when we left Brisbane so I knew we had enough range to get us to Byron Bay with a range of 470km showing on the screen. In the back of my mind though is the fact that this isn't enough battery range to get us to Bryon Bay and back to the Sunshine Coast again so I am going to have to charge this Kona EV somewhere between now and Sunday!? The big question is when and where!
I am feeling pretty smug 230km down and we are nearly at our destination without any major toddler meltdowns! I have booked us an AirBnB in Bangalow, just ten minutes inland from Byron Bay and as the day draws in and the sun drops my husband goes to swap his prescription sunglasses and realises he has left his normal glasses in the Nissan Patrol in Brisbane! Imagine the atmosphere change in the car at this point!! The very idea of going all the way back to collect them, in an electric car, with a toddler in Friday night traffic is not one I am willing to even consider!! Especially because I know that we would use our precious battery up too!
Thankfully, he decides to own his mistake and spend the entire weekend in his prescription sunglasses. As I discover later that night, there is nothing like watching your husband read bedtime stories, in subdued ‘go to sleep please toddler' lighting, wearing sunglasses, to make you laugh quietly to yourself!!!
Off the motorway, we drive up and down the hilly roads lined with more tropical greenery and with the most stunning sunset views, there is something about driving electric cars that for me is exciting but also not as tiring as normal cars, whether it is the quietness or difference in the motion I'm not sure but we all arrive in good spirits and apart from the forgotten glasses we're all in one piece! Bangalow is absolutely stunning, what a beautiful little town surrounded by greenery and rolling hills, with a quiet and calm demeanour. We keep it local tonight at the delicious ”Bang Burger Bar” in town, lucky we arrive quite early as there are soon people queueing for their dinner!
After a snuggly night in our lovely AirBnB we woke up refreshed and ready for brekkie, so we head toward Byron Bay, through beautiful cow-riddled country roads and as we drive in we spot The Byron Bay General Store which I am very glad we decided to stop at! WHAT a beautiful time we have here!
A kids' courtyard area and chalk wall keep my daughter happy, as my husband and I enjoy warming sunshine chai and coffee against the beautifully painted backdrop.
And our daughter is pleased there are burgers on the kid's breakfast menu!!
Byron is overcast for our Saturday of electric cars and for my husband in his sunglasses it is even darker!!! Wrapped up warm we head to the electric vehicle event Zero Emissions Byron. Where there are quite a few electric cars on display. First is another white Hyundai Kona! I overhear a lot of similar questions from people eager to know how it works because it looks so different under the bonnet.
Next to the Kona is the Hyundai Ioniq EV, which doesn't have as much range but is more spacious than the Kona (I tested the hybrid model Ioniq), but both cars get lots of attention and people trying them out for size.
There are a few older model electric cars on display too like the Nissan Leaf (I'll be reviewing the new one soon), a Mitsubishi i-MiEV and even a Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV van somebody had imported from Japan. These are quite interesting to look around and the little Mitsubishi van is good fun.
Of course, the Tesla Models S and X are there too. A beautiful red Model S, which makes me think about when I had the Tesla Model S for the weekend… such a nice car!
Lots of people turn up in their electric vehicles new and old! It is great to see this beautiful old VW Beetle converted to an electric motor. The strangest thing was how silent it is as it drives into the car park, there is not the normal bubbling and popping of the old VW Beetle engine!
The Beetle was driven by the founder of Jaunt, who I later watch give a presentation about converting old Land Rovers to electric motors for people to hire and go exploring regional areas of Australia.
Here is the clean and neat electric motor, not like the usual jumble of engine and old wires you would expect to see in the back of an old VW Beetle!
There is a good turn out for the presentations and the event as a whole, I can't sit through it all with a toddler in tow though! A few sticker sheets, colouring and the promise of a train ride later buys me an hour or so and then I have to leave before my toddler's reasonable behaviour range expires!
Back in our Kona Electric, we are happy to be off on our next exploration of the day, having bribed my daughter with the promise of a ride on Byron Bay's solar-powered train. We make our way to The Sun pub for their lunch deal of a hot meal, a cold beer and a ride on the solar train for $25. Kids are free and it is a short stroll from the pub to the platform.
The train is a beautiful old thing and I get to see them plug it in to charge for 30 minutes or so at the station before we head off toward Byron Bay village. It's quiet and not filled with the usual smells from an old steam train. Inside the carriages are comfy and old fashioned.
It's just a 10-minute train ride into Byron Bay village, where the weather takes a turn for the wet and colder, so we huddle with ice cream on the main beach and then go for a hot drink to warm us up in one of the numerous cafes around before heading back to the train station and making our way home.
Unfortunately, I discover later that my camera card is corrupted I lose my pictures from the Solar Train journey which is a shame because I got to sit in the driver's carriage and the driver kindly tells me a little bit about the difference he finds driving the solar-powered train to normal trains. Interestingly, he says the solar-powered train is harder to stop than a normal train.
Now dark and raining and hubby unable to see anything we call it a day and head back to our lovely accommodation for a cosy evening in, playing dominoes and hungry caterpillar board games!
In the morning the sun is shining and hubby is relieved to be able to see properly again!! We give our girl a run on her push bike around Bangalow streets before packing up the car and heading back into Byron Bay and yesterday's favourite The General Store Byron Bay!
We can't resist but go for another round of their lovely sunshine chai and brekkie chocolate bowls! If you go try them… they are to die for 😉
The sun is out this morning and we are desperate to get on the go and up to the lighthouse. The drive is stunning all the way up, twisting and turning through the headland. Windows down, the Kona EV is a pleasure to drive and it clings to the curves of the road nicely. The views are stunning as we are driving up and there are hundreds of people walking or running up and down the road for their Sunday exercise. With the window down I hear one group saying: “That's the new Kona Electric it looks awesome!”
When we reach the top, my daughter is devastated to find out you have to be five to go up the lighthouse!
I distract her with some giant binoculars!
Instead, we walk down lots of steps, carrying our enormous toddler who refuses to walk, and along the headland on the other side of the lighthouse, the sea is glistening turquoise and there are whales spouting and splashing a way out in the distance, turtles riding the rougher foam close into the rocks below and pods of dolphins in between the two riding the waves. Byron Bay's marine life really came up to show us its best, it really was quite magical!
We reached the most easterly point of mainland Australia, where you can walk do further and out to a spit of land that juts out into the ocean. Which would have been wonderful but…
Our daughters temperament wasn't quite so magical unfortunately! So after enduring her moan “can we go now!” For the one hundreth time that morning we made the walk back up to the lighthouse!
There is a cute cafe and gift shop at the top with stunning views if you walk up and need ice cream to recover!
Feeling a little anxious that the Kona Electric doesn't have enough charge to get us home and we'll need to charge it, we head back down toward the town and go looking for an EV charger and much to our shock we discover Byron Bay does not have a charging station suitable for a Kona! The two plugs there do not fit in the socket!!
This is a little worrying and I start to feel a little more anxious, to say the least! We look up the distance home and we definitely don't have enough range but we do have enough to get to Brisbane where we know there is a suitable fast charger at Hamilton on the river, so we decide to start heading there.
It is a beautiful sunny afternoon and spirits are high in the car, everyone is enjoying the drive home, playing games and chatting about our weekend. For some reason, our daughter settles down in the Kona Electric and doesn't make as much fuss on long journeys. I think about it as I'm driving and wonder if it's because of the angelic whale song sound instead of the sound of an engine. Or the fact it is quite compact so she sits closer to us?
Or the fact she can be involved in the charging of the car? I think about how excited she gets when we get to chargers and I let her hold the plug with me to plug it in, whereas fuel stations she is not allowed to help with the fuel pump. I'll just keep my fingers crossed it continues!!
The Kona says we will reach the charger in Brisbane with 40km left on the battery range and a blue line on the right side of the sat-nav screen handily keeps us informed of our battery range to our set destinations. (Sunshine coast is the flag in grey at the top showing we won't get there but half way up is the blue flag of Brisbane) I keep my eye quite closely on the light blue line that indicates our range and realise when I put the air-con on or the cooled or heated seats the blue line drops.
It is hot driving into the afternoon sun so we opt for driver only aircon because it seems to use less battery and the other passengers can remove clothes while I drive!
We turn the music off too because we want to preserve all the battery we have just in case the fast charger in Brisbane is full of other electric cars or worse not working and we need to find another one! I realise at this point I would like to be able to phone ahead and book a spot for a fast charger! Avoiding panicking I decide to enjoy the peaceful drive and leave the availability of the charger in the hands of the EV Gods!!
We have lots of discussions about what we will do if it's not working etc and as we approach Hamilton and the chargers are almost in our sights I say to my husband ‘if we had another electric car pull in front of us now what would you do'?!
Lucky for us this doesn't happen and the chargers are all free and all working! YAY!! I am as relieved by this as my hubby is to be reunited with his glasses now that it's sunset!! The chargers are right by the river, the Eat Street Markets and a big park.
We spend an hour on the sand, jumping, climbing and enjoying the surroundings. Tulsi gets a chance to run off some pent up energy and seems to have dropped the “can we go now” attitude from this morning thankfully!!
There are great sculptures the kids are all climbing on.
While we enjoy the view!
After an hour we head back to the Kona EV and Tulsi inspects the progress!
The battery now charged up to 78% we have more than enough range to get us home!!
Happy from our Byron Bay weekend and sated by our outside time running around at the river, we are excited to hop back in the Kona Electric. I realise as we drive the last leg of the journey from Brisbane to Sunshine Coast that the Kona has become a little part of our family and for some reason, we are all very happy travelling in it.
It is all the car we need for our little family of three and yes we could have gone in something bigger but there is something nice about being within reaching-distance of each other too.
No longer worried about using the battery we have music and heated seats all the way home! It's dark when we come into the Sunshine Coast and our daughter has been head-nodding for the last 20kms while we sing, tickle and whatever it takes to keep her awake!!
We've made it this far we are not going to let her fast charge her batteries with a power nap this close to bedtime!!