Now electric vehicles (EVs) can cross the Nullarbor Plain thanks to BiØfil, a world-first EV fast charging system that is fully off-grid, self-contained and powered by used chip (vegetable) oil from roadhouse deep fryers.
On Sunday 16 January 2022, BiØfil was installed at the Caiguna Roadhouse, approximately 370 kilometres east of Norseman and 370 kilometres west of the South Australian border, making it one of the most remote EV fast charging stations on the planet.
In what is perhaps a synchronicity of names, BiØfil inventor and retired engineer Jon Edwards is the first to make it possible for EVs to cross the Nullarbor Plain along the Eyre Highway, National Highway 1, a road which was first opened 80 years ago and named after explorer Edward John Eyre who was the first European to cross the Nullarbor by land in 1840-1841.
Starting from Norseman (WA), the Eyre Highway is the only sealed road linking Western Australia and South Australia and stretches 1,660 kilometres (1,030 miles).
Australia’s longest straight stretch of road and indeed one of the world’s lies between Western Australian roadhouse settlements of Balladonia and Caiguna and is known as ‘the 90 Mile Straight’,146.6 kilometres (91.1 miles) with no bends or turns.
Mr Edwards said that WA has been isolated from the rest of Australia for a long time due to the pandemic.
“Once borders open up, BiØfil means all vehicles, EVs included, can travel across the Nullarbor,” said Perth-based Mr Edwards, who is originally from South Australia.
“We’ve had 14 EVs make the journey to Caiguna for this historic installation and the first one to charge on BiØfil was the new Polestar 2, but any EV with a CS2 charging connector can fast-charge using BiØfil,” Mr Edwards said.
“The WA Government is planning the world’s longest electric highway, which is great, but it doesn’t connect WA to SA – there’s some 720km of desolate highway with no fast charging for EVs – as we say, the big lap has a big gap – but not anymore.
“BiØfil plugs the gap and fast charges the EVs with no incremental impact on the environment.
“The chip oil that is used in deep fryers comes from seed crops such as canola and sunflower, the plants absorb the CO2 and sunlight to make the oil, which is put to commercial use as fryer oil, then it becomes a waste product – BiØfil extracts the energy from the waste product to charge EVs using a generator, the CO2 produced is the same as the CO2 absorbed, so the process is net zero,” Mr Edwards said.
BiØfil was initially developed as a carbon neutral solution to a problem: a way to fast charge the TOCEVA Racing Tesla rally car during competition in Targa West Events tarmac rallies.
In partnership with University of Western Australia, there is a Chuffed crowd-funding campaign for the BiØfil units called “The big lap has gaps”; UWA plans to collect usage data.
“I’ve had some assistance from Gemtek and a number of EV owners and clubs in the development of BiØfil, and what’s interesting is that it’s the EV driving community who are donating funds to the BiØfil units,” Mr Edwards said.
“I am often asked, ‘why?’ and the simple reason is that I wanted to see this happen – I’m from South Australia originally, so you could call this a philanthropic endeavour,” Mr Edwards said.
BiØfil is a not-for-profit venture and it was developed for the benefit of the electric vehicle driving community.