It’s taken over 800 days to do it, but one man has driven his electric car all the way from the Netherlands to Australia.
Wiebe Wakker, who has been documenting his ambitious journey for nearly three years on Twitter and on his website, began the project with one idea: to showcase the potential of electric vehicles and everyday sustainability by driving an electric car to Australia – with no money.
By reaching out to ask like-minded people to sponsor him along his way with at least one of three things – food, bed or somewhere to plug his car in – Wakker has now reached Australia.
He landed at Darwin airport after around 26 months winding up and down the European and Asian continents, until finally putting his retrofitted EV station wagon (named the ‘Blue Bandit’) on a boat from Indonesia to the Northern Territory.
The idea took a good two years to get on the road (impeded by the fact that Wakker did not even own an electric car, and had first to secure sponsor who would provide him with one), and neither has its execution been straight forward.
Rather than taking a direct route, Wakker’s travels have taken him down to San Marino in Italy, then as far north as Tromsø in Norway, across the Middle East, through India and then down South East Asia – and now, finally, to the Antipodes.
“My route is determined by the offers I get from people for a place to sleep, a meal or the possibility to charge my car,” Wakker told RTL Netherland when he first began his transcontinental trip.
At first though, his decision to first head south to Italy sent him zigzagging back northwards eventually arriving in Norway in the north.
“When I was in Italy there not really a way to progress more south, into Asia. But there were a lot of people from Scandinavia, who said you can come here and charge your car. So I thought why not go up to the [North] Cape of Oslo, which is Europe’s most northern point,” Wakker told RenewEconomy.
Since then, nearly 1500 people from 45 countries have contributed to the project.
For Wakker, the expedition has already been a success, having broken the previous world record of “longest distance covered in an electric vehicle” by a factor of three, racking up an incredible 66,000kms on the odometer.
But now Wakker faces what might prove to be the ultimate challenge: traversing Australia’s wide open spaces in the Blue Bandit, which very modestly boasts a a 37kWh lithium-ion battery with a 200km range.
On arriving in Australia, his social networking skills have paid off, with a pick up at Darwin airport from one of Darwin’s only Tesla owners, Richard aka @outbacktesla, while Wakker waited for the Blue Bandit to make it through Australia’s strict customs checks.
Richard believes Wakker will not find the mission to cross Australia in an EV too difficult despite the distances – in fact, dispelling this myth was one of his reasons for purchasing his Tesla Model X.
“Here to Alice Springs is sort of 1600km and that’s sort of a road trip that people do,” he told Wakker. “One of the things we wanted to probably test but more importantly prove was EVs are fine for longer distances, you can own them up here in the Northern Territory.”
However, the Model X with its 475 EPA rated range is better suited to the long distances one must drive between public chargers across the Australian outback (which, let’s face it, is in all directions from Darwin).
Wakker is now in Pine Creek, heading westward with 4,000km to cross before he reaches Perth.
After that he plans to cross the Nullarbor to Port Augusta, upwards to Townsville before taking in Newcastle, then down to Adelaide and Melbourne and before heading back up to Sydney.
Wakker has been grateful for the generosity of many kind-hearted and sustainably-minded people who have offered bed, food or power to Wakker so far, but there is one problem.
“Australia is a country where most offers are coming from, I have over 300 people so far. The only issue is that 99 per cent are from people that live in the bigger cities,” he says.
No doubt the generosity of Australians will shine through, although looking at Wakker’s map he still has some big gaps to fill.
“I hope people living outside of one of the biggest cities, I hope that they want to sign up and offer me some food, a place to sleep or somewhere to charge my car,” he says.
After Wakker has finished his trip, he plans to transform Plug Me In into something bigger.
“I want to keep continuing with Plug Me In and make it a platform, [because there isn’t really] a website that has an overview everywhere around the world what people are doing in the field of sustainability…,some kind of wikipedia for sustainable-related projects or initiatives,” he says.
As for range anxiety? It seems Wakker has none. In fact, he has coined another term: ‘Range Excitement’: The pleasure you experience when discovering the natural beauties and opportunities that lie within the range of your electric vehicle.
To help Wakker on his journey visit www.plugmeinproject.com.
Bridie Schmidt is staff writer for www.TheDriven.io, and RenewEconomy.com.au. She specialises in writing about new technology, as well as using her technical skills in managing our websites.