Australia is a lot like the U.S. — a large country with major cities on the coasts and vast stretches of nothing in between. And, much like in America, convincing car buyers that an EV can handle driving through such large empty stretches has proven a challenge. A retired engineer partnered with Polestar to solve the problem of getting EVs through one of the most wild, empty places in Australia using old “chip” frying oil.
Jon Edwards (no, not that one) is a former engineer turned inventor. He partnered with Polestar to build his BiØfil fast-charging system outside of the roadhouse community in Caiguna, which serves as a midway point for drivers crossing the Plain. For Americans, a roadhouse community is a small isolated town that exists as an outpost to travellers on the vast mostly empty highways of Australia. Caiguna is literally in the middle of nowhere — drivers have to travel 362 km in either direction just to find the next major outpost of civilisation.
The BiØfil fast-charging system used old frying oil to charge a Polestar 2 to 80 per cent in over an hour, according to the Drive Australia. The car went on to complete the 698 km-journey between Caiguna and Southern Cross, Western Australia. The unique landscape of the Nullabor Plain, which features over 199,429 of flat, barren, and often treeless desert stretching across parts of Western and Southern Australia, has long provided unique challenges to the EV driver. From the Drive:
Prior to the Caiguna-based charger, electric car owners looking to cross the Nullarbor would need to use polluting diesel-powered generators, which can only provide slow AC power at 7-11kW (as reported by the ABC), for a full charge in approximately seven hours.
While the BiØfil charger uses a combustion-engined generator to extract energy from the waste oil – powering the zero-emissions electric car with fossil fuels – Polestar says the charger is “an entirely net-zero exercise”, thanks to the way the vegetable oil is produced in the first place.
“The vegetable oil for the fryers comes from seed crops, such as canola and sunflower, which absorb CO2 and sunlight, and the CO2 produced to power the charge system is the equivalent to CO2 absorbed,” Polestar claims.
Not only is the BiØfil faster at charging EV while producing no greenhouse gases, it’s also much cheaper to build. Edwards told the Drive that installing a similarly solar powered charge would cost five times as much, making this bio-diesel powered charger more cost effective. There are still vanishingly few people who travel across the Plain, and even few EV drivers. At least now, everyone has the option to traverse this incredible landscape with ease regardless of their drivetrains.