After a staggering 33 countries and nearly 90,000km over 1000 days, electric vehicle campaigner Weibe Wakker’s epic global adventure to promote the EV cause will come to an end in Sydney in April.
With a modified 2009 Volkswagen Golf wagon as his zero-emissions steed, Wakker set off from Amsterdam in 2016 bound for Australia and immediately appeared to get lost. Rather than making a beeline for the land Down Under, what ensued was a meandering journey that lasted three years and marked an impressive set of EV milestones along the way.
Unlike modern production EVs, Wakker’s ‘Blue Bandit’ was retrofitted with a 150kW motor and 37kWh battery – long before a mainstream showroom alternative was available – and is limited to just 200km between charges, which made the challenge of getting to Australia even harder.
But the Dutch visionary had a secret weapon up his sleeve – philanthropy. Instead of spending months and years raising the funds to complete the landmark mission, Wakker appealed for help along the way and embarked on the trip with no money, food or planned accommodation.
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Of course, the key to success was finding places to top up the Golf’s battery and ultimately what determined Wakker’s route, which resembles a drunken transcontinental woodworm and includes notable detours to the far north of Sweden via central Italy and a few laps of the UAE.
Not only did the champion arrange a dot-to-dot of free sockets and couches all the way to his current position in Adelaide, Wakker met and interviewed pioneers in other businesses and governments involved in sustainable industry every step of the way, telling their stories through plugmeinproject.com.
On arrival in Darwin, any sane person would set a course south for the Sydney destination and get things finished. Instead, Wakker embarked on a protracted circumnavigation of the nation, following the Eastern coastline to Esperance, conquered the Nullarbor, turned north at Port Augusta and ended up almost back at the same spot via a loop that took him through Uluru, Brisbane and Bathurst.
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At the conclusion of his incredible trip, Wakker will have smashed the EV distance record by 68,000km, set a new record for number of countries visited in an EV and become the first person to cross Turkey, Iran, India, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia using a battery powered vehicle.
But as you might expect, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. During a section of the Nullarbor, the Golf’s sensitivity to unstable outback electricity frequency prevented charging and stranded the car for four days. It’s just one of countless spanners in the works over the three-year odyssey.
Ending such a significant journey in Australia – possibly one of the most EV-shy countries in the developed world – is an irony that we hope doesn’t go unnoticed.
But with extraordinary initiatives such as Wakker and the Blue Bandit, perhaps the relevant government bodies will eventually wake up and begin significantly contributing to the inevitable EV infrastructure.
And we certainly hope so because the reality is that, unlike Dutchmen, alternative energy vehicles cannot run on the kindness of strangers alone.
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