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Wiebe Wakker's epic drive proves electric cars are viable

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by: Hans van der Broek
wiebe wakker s epic drive proves electric cars are viable

A Dutch man who has driven 89,000km from Amsterdam to Adelaide in a small electric car says he is proving to Australians that electric vehicles are a viable alternative. Since March 2016, adventurer Wiebe Wakker has driven across 33 countries from Europe to the Middle East to south-east Asia and finally to Australia in a 2009 Volkswagen Golf, converted to electric. Over the past seven months he has continued the journey around Australia from Darwin down to Perth, across the Nullarbor to Newcastle, up to Queensland, and back down to Adelaide. After Adelaide, Wakker will finish once he reaches Melbourne and then Sydney.

Electric cars and charging stations in Australia

“I expected that by this time I would be exhausted and starving but I’m still having a lot of fun,” he told Guardian Australia from Adelaide. “I’m actually a little bit sad that I’m coming to the end of the journey.” By driving such extreme distances, Wakker said he hoped to bust Australian anxieties over the lack of charging stations and how far electric cars can travel. Australia has one of the slowest uptakes of electric vehicles in the developed world. In 2016, only 0.1% of all new car sales were electric, compared to 29% in Norway, 6% in Wakker’s native Netherlands and 1.5% in China and the UK.

“In Australia the infrastructure for electric cars is still getting off the ground, but it’s already possible to drive all around Australia using charging stations,” he said. A lot of people say they are just waiting for the price to come down. Others say the electric car is just not viable for Australia because the distances are so big, which is a bit weird I think. The average daily commute is just 20km or so.

A Volkswagen electric car from 2009?

“My car is from 2009 and it has a limited range of 200km. Most cars that are available on the market now do 300km to 500km, so if you buy a current car in Australia you won’t have this problem. You can cover the whole country.” Wakker’s car, which he calls “Blue Bandit”, is a first-generation electric car that can be charged on domestic power sockets. “When I started this journey I thought I would mainly charge at people’s homes and whenever I get a charging station that will be a bonus,” he said. He said those with newer electric cars would find the journey even easier.

Charging electric cars in Australia

The Royal Automobile Club has built a chain of charges in WA, and the Queensland state government has built a 2,000km superhighway of chargers from Cairns to Coolangatta, which Wakker used. “Some states are supportive of installing infrastructure – Queensland has been doing very well. But it’s a pity that the (federal) government doesn’t really support it,” he said. “Most western countries where electric cars are taking off, the government is giving a lot of incentives for electric cars.” In Norway electric cars are exempt from import taxes and the 25% VAT. Users are exempt from tolls and sometimes get free parking and the right to bus lanes.

Despite his positive experience, Wakker said he found the journey between Glendambo to Coober Pedy in South Australia a challenge in his 2009 car. “It was 255km – I knew I wasn’t going to make it,” he said. “So I checked on my app to see how the wind was going, I saw that 12 hours later I would have a tailwind. I waited and drove very slow to save energy – 60km. I did 235km, which was my record. Just 20km from Coober Pedy I ran out, I put on a lot of sunscreen and waited for someone who could give me a tow. Someone came by within 10 minutes and said yes.”

By: Naaman Zhou. Cover photo: Wiebbe Wakker

https://www.whatsorb.com/category/automotive

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World traveler, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Has countless ideas and set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Has an opinion about everything and unlimited thoughts about a better world. He likes hiking and climbed numerous 5.000 m.
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World traveler, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Has countless ideas and set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Has an opinion about everything and unlimited thoughts about a better world. He likes hiking and climbed numerous 5.000 m.
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Wiebe Wakker's epic drive proves electric cars are viable

A Dutch man who has driven 89,000km from Amsterdam to Adelaide in a small electric car says he is proving to Australians that electric vehicles are a viable alternative. Since March 2016, adventurer Wiebe Wakker has driven across 33 countries from Europe to the Middle East to south-east Asia and finally to Australia in a 2009 Volkswagen Golf, converted to electric. Over the past seven months he has continued the journey around Australia from Darwin down to Perth, across the Nullarbor to Newcastle, up to Queensland, and back down to Adelaide. After Adelaide, Wakker will finish once he reaches Melbourne and then Sydney. Electric cars and charging stations in Australia “I expected that by this time I would be exhausted and starving but I’m still having a lot of fun,” he told Guardian Australia from Adelaide. “I’m actually a little bit sad that I’m coming to the end of the journey.” By driving such extreme distances, Wakker said he hoped to bust Australian anxieties over the lack of charging stations and how far electric cars can travel. Australia has one of the slowest uptakes of electric vehicles in the developed world. In 2016, only 0.1% of all new car sales were electric, compared to 29% in Norway, 6% in Wakker’s native Netherlands and 1.5% in China and the UK. “In Australia the infrastructure for electric cars is still getting off the ground, but it’s already possible to drive all around Australia using charging stations,” he said. A lot of people say they are just waiting for the price to come down. Others say the electric car is just not viable for Australia because the distances are so big, which is a bit weird I think. The average daily commute is just 20km or so. A Volkswagen electric car from 2009? “My car is from 2009 and it has a limited range of 200km. Most cars that are available on the market now do 300km to 500km, so if you buy a current car in Australia you won’t have this problem. You can cover the whole country.” Wakker’s car, which he calls “Blue Bandit”, is a first-generation electric car that can be charged on domestic power sockets. “When I started this journey I thought I would mainly charge at people’s homes and whenever I get a charging station that will be a bonus,” he said. He said those with newer electric cars would find the journey even easier. Charging electric cars in Australia The Royal Automobile Club has built a chain of charges in WA, and the Queensland state government has built a 2,000km superhighway of chargers from Cairns to Coolangatta, which Wakker used. “Some states are supportive of installing infrastructure – Queensland has been doing very well. But it’s a pity that the (federal) government doesn’t really support it,” he said. “Most western countries where electric cars are taking off, the government is giving a lot of incentives for electric cars.” In Norway electric cars are exempt from import taxes and the 25% VAT. Users are exempt from tolls and sometimes get free parking and the right to bus lanes. Despite his positive experience, Wakker said he found the journey between Glendambo to Coober Pedy in South Australia a challenge in his 2009 car. “It was 255km – I knew I wasn’t going to make it,” he said. “So I checked on my app to see how the wind was going, I saw that 12 hours later I would have a tailwind. I waited and drove very slow to save energy – 60km. I did 235km, which was my record. Just 20km from Coober Pedy I ran out, I put on a lot of sunscreen and waited for someone who could give me a tow. Someone came by within 10 minutes and said yes.” By: Naaman Zhou. Cover photo: Wiebbe Wakker https://www.whatsorb.com/category/automotive