From Netherlands to Australia in an electric converted Volkswagen Golf Estate
In 1222 days, sustainable adventurer and EV Advocate Wiebe Wakker covered over 100,000 kilometres setting what is believed to be the record for the 'world's longest trip' by an electric car. He started out with no money rather investing his faith in people to offer food, rest or electricity for his car. This is the Plug Me In Project.
How old are you?
Where did your love of travel come from?
I was born with it.
Where did your love of EV cars come from?
They are a way to tackle the climate problem.
Please tell us about your car?
The car originally came from a project of a Dutch utilities company. In 2009 they learned about V2G technology and they decided to convert 50 VW Golfs from petrol to electric to research this. Basically they removed the engine and fuel tank and replaced it with an electrical motor and battery pack. One of the owners from that energy company started his own venture, Bundles, so I got in touch with him and borrowed this car. It’s not an EV with high tech features, it’s just a normal car that drives on electric power. It has a 200km (124 miles) range which is pretty good since it’s a 2009 car.
Had you any experience in doing long distance trips in an EV before?
No, this was the first time I did more than 30km (19 miles).
What made you decide on this particular route? How many km did you cover by the end?
My route was determined by my followers. On my website plugmeinproject.com people could sign up and support me by offering a meal, place to sleep or electricity for the car. Every week I would look on the map and see what’s offered nearby, I travelled from plug to plug. Eventually this made me zig zag 100,450km (62,417 miles)through 34 countries in 1222 days.
So does that mean you didn’t need to make any plans beforehand?
Not much really. As I did not know my route I did not need to plan. I just took clothes to cater for warm and cold weather, equipment to capture my journey and loads of different charging cables/adapters. Oh and toilet paper – never go on a long roadtrip without toilet paper.
Did you stay mostly with locals then?
Yes, but sometimes I slept in the car when I could not find a place to stay. I also slept in a WWII bunker, a boat, a temple in india, on a ferry between rats and in the smoking area of an office.
You set out with no money – did this prove problematic?
Not really, as I was mostly powered by people who offered me a place to stay or a meal. Sometimes I looked for a job in case I needed some money for visas or shipping of the car. I also found sponsors to cover this and received donations when my car had mechanical issues.
What was your strategy in terms of maximising range?
No use of the car’s heating and coolong system, and to drive slowly.
Did you have any language barriers?
At the start I made some translation documents for what I knew I’d need to explain to anyone I met, but I never had to use them. In every village you can find at least someone who speaks English. Otherwise I’d communicate with hands and feet, or failing that Google translate.
What was the infrastructure like in terms of how powerful the sockets that you charged from and availability?
Most countries I visited had no EV infrastructure – even Western European countries, so I mainly charged at people’s homes which was not a problem. Only in India there were sometimes very low voltages, like four Amp and I would look all day for a factory or an office to find higher voltages. Also in India power cuts are very frequnet so I could only charge my car for a few hours at a time.
What have people’s reactions been to the expedition?
People are very amazed I crossed this many countries and distance.
How many kilometers does your car have now?
238,000 (147,886 miles).
Wow, so how is the battery – any signs of degradation?
I estimate only 5 per cent.
What was your objective in doing the trip?
To educate and inspire to ultimately accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future. I visited dozens of sustainable initiatives and interviewed them about the environmental challenges their countries face and what solutions are available to tackle the climate problem. You can find all the interviews on my blog. I managed to talk with various ministers, sheikhs and ambassadors.
Anything you want to add?
Follow me on Instagram – @plugmeintravel. I also give inspiring talks about my record-breaking journey to universities, schools, companies, embassies and NGOs to help spread people to understand why we need to switch to sustainable forms of transport. If you want to have me speak at your event, email [email protected].