The “Plug Me In” electric road trip, dreamed up and undertaken over three years by Dutchmen Wiebe Wakker, has finally come to an end.
Crossing three continents and 34 countries, and using exactly zero litres of fossil fuel, Wakker finally reached the end of his journey in one of the world’s most southerly towns, surpassing 100,000km driven and setting a very high bar for any fool hardy enough to follow in his, er, tyremarks.
Pulling up in New Zealand town of Bluff on Friday, Wakker celebrated the end of his journey with a characteristic jump for joy, posting on social media site Twitter a selfie next to the “Blue Bandit”, Wakker’s converted electric VW Golf.
After 1.222 days, 100.450 kilometres and 34 countries I reached the end! The end of the world and the end of my journey.
This signpost marks NZ's most southern point Bluff and that's as far as you can go by car. Proud that I made it, sad it's over but excited about the future. pic.twitter.com/QtwkbDz5Av
— Plug Me In (@WiebeWkkr) July 19, 2019
The trip, which will surely go down in history as one of the world’s great expeditions, caught global media attention when Wakker finished the Australian leg of his trip in Sydney in April 2019.
During his trip, the route of which was set by offers of free food, sleep and of course, electricity, Wakker traversed a wide gamut of landscapes and climates, from northern Europe to the Middle East, down through South East Asia and then onto Australia.
In Australia – sadly still noted for its “laggard” status when it comes to electric vehicle uptake and infrastructure – Wakker tested the very limits of range anxiety, such as being stranded at the Madura Pass for three days without a charge until he could convince someone to tow him to allow him to recover some energy through the car’s regenerative braking.
Reaching New Zealand, though, Wakker may have found his soul country.
The number of EVs in New Zealand amounts to just under 15,000 vehicles, but the country is already well prepared for a further influx of the zero emissions form of transport thanks to recent Clean Car policies introduced by the NZ government aimed at penalising high polluting vehicles and encouraging uptake through a feebate scheme.
Electric car charging stations abound, with around 200 DC fast charging sites distributed evenly across the country (about every 70km says Wakker), 7 Tesla Supercharging sites and about 250 public AC sites.
“Australia feels medieval compared to New Zealand,” Wakker says with a laugh.
While in NZ, Wakker also had some time to explore a new way of travelling – in an all-electric Britz camper with about 120km range, he visited camping sites in New Zealand’s northern region of Coromandel for 9 days.
“At camping sites they are also already well prepared,” says Wakker. “They have AC chargers and dedicated spots of EV campers – what a luxury.”
This is of some contrast to tales of charging spots that were inaccessible, parked in by internal combustion engine vehicles or simply did not work, as told by Australian woman Linda Röhrs who on the same day finished her own solo trip around Australia.
Unfortunately, due to the different voltage of the camper’s drivetrain (400V) compared to the 12V/240V electrics of the camper van’s interior fixtures, Wakker could not power off the camper’s battery.
“To have warm water, or power the induction cooker you need to plug into caravan mains socket,” he says.
While he says that he did not see any other EV campers during his journey, he says it could take off if only because it is a more cost effective way of travelling the country.
“Rental costs about $NZ70 a day ($A67) and unlimited charging is included,” says Wakker.
While Wakker cannot apply for a Guiness record for his trip (the rules exclude modified vehicles among other regualtions) Wakker says that, “it’s not about the record, it’s about the adventure and about educating people.”
“People have told me they are inspired, and because of that they bought an electric car. It’s so good to be influencing people and changing attitudes to electric cars.”
“I’m proud that I came this far, I’m so happy with the results I achieved and a bit sad that it’s over.”
Now that his trip is over, Wakker will be travelling back to Auckland and will ship the Blue Bandit back to the Netherlands where it will be shown at a few events and may even end up as a museum piece.
Will he buy a new electric car?
“One day definitely, he says with a laugh, “but at the moment I’m so broke I cannot even afford a pushbike.”
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.