After leaving his home in The Netherlands on March 15, 2016, Wiebe Wakker has driven through 33 countries in his electric car the Blue Bandit as part of an epic road trip that saw him arrive in Orange on Friday for a weekend stay.
Through his Plug Me In Project, a journey from The Netherlands to Sydney, the Dutchman is on a mission to promote the transition to a zero carbon future and dispel apprehensions about the reliability of electric cars.
He said when people in Holland started to talk about electric cars he heard a lot of people saying they were not reliable and could not drive long distances so he decided to drive across the world.
Sixteen hundred people from 45 different countries signed-up and invited me over.Wiebe Wakker
Mr Wakker arrived in Orange after already crossing much of Australia, Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia during an adventure that has relied solely on the kindness of strangers, who invited him into their homes and lent him their electricity without expecting anything in return.
“I never planned the route, the route is planned along the way from offers I received along the way,” he said.
“I was just amazed by the generosity of all the people around the world.
“Sixteen hundred people from 45 different countries signed up and invited me over.”
Despite his converted Volkswagen, which previously ran on diesel, only having a 200 kilometre range he said he has gone “all right” while driving across Australia, even in the outback where most roadhouses let him recharge.
However, he said not everywhere had recharge outlets so he would have to charge the car overnight although the car also recharges as it drives downhill.
“In my car sometimes you are not going to make it so you have to get it towed to the next stop, it’s part of the adventure,” Mr Wakker said.
However, he said it was possible to drive across the whole country and the Tesla Owners Club had information on the availability of charging stations.
I was just amazed by the generosity of all the people around the world.Wiebe Wakker
“India was a bit challenging because electricity was not so reliable and low voltage, so it could take a long time to charge a car and power cuts as well. It could take a few hours or days to charge a car,” he said.
Mr Wakker said so far he’s had one flat tyre, a charger exploded, and in Indonesia he had trouble with water getting into the battery pack.
“I had to fly a mechanic from Holland to Indonesia to repair the car, which was not so nice,” Mr Wakker said.
Despite the few problems he said he drove from country to country and tried to do most of the journey by land to make it as sustainable as possible, although he had to put the car on a ferry and fly three times so he could get to places such as Australia and to islands in Indonesia.
Mr Wakker said Iran was his favourite country to drive through, he said the people were very welcoming and hospitable, he found the landscape beautiful and enjoyed the food.
“I love deserts, I never saw a desert before in my life,” he said.
Among his most memorable experiences was being invited to a palace by sheikhs in the United Arab Emirates and riding in a dune buggy, as well as meeting members of the royal family in Malaysia and having lunch with a man the day before he was to marry a princess.
He said the time spent in each location depended on how he was feeling and although he’s only hours from Sydney, he said his journey will not be finished until about April and first he will head west to Broken Hill and Adelaide.
He arrived in Orange after camping during a stormy night in the Bylong Valley then driving to Bathurst where he took the Blue Bandit on a spin around Mount Panorama.
Mr Wakker was invited to stay and recharge in Orange by Granton Smith, whose home has solar power, after he saw a video about the Plug Me In project on Youtube and was amazed by the electric car and the initiative.
“There’s no vibration, it’s silent,” he said.
“You can drive across the Nullarbor in a car that’s only only got a 200 kilometre range.”
Once Mr Wakker reaches the end of his three-year journey he said he plans to write a book about the experience and he wanted to create a platform about sustainable initiatives.
“I want to be an expert about sustainable mobility,” he said.
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