Dutchman drives an Electric Car Across the World
Wiebe Wakker is travelling across the world—specifically from the Netherlands to Australia—with no money, and in an electric car, specifically an all-electric Volkswagen Golf. We don’t know which would cause us more anxiety: the thought of having no place to sleep, not knowing when the next meal is coming or the car running out of battery and being stranded in a foreign country where one doesn’t speak the language.
Here he is in Penang where he is engulfed in, no, not polluted air, but incense smoke.
Wakker relies on sponsors and the kindness of people he meets along the way for food and shelter, and takes on jobs whenever and wherever he can. And believe it or not, Wakker says that the easiest part is to find a place to charge the car. He said, when speaking to an online news media, that “electricity is everywhere” and he carries extension cables with him to access electrical outlets. Of course, Wakker’s intention on embarking on this “Plug Me In” project, as it is called, is to promote sustainable mobility (our thoughts on that later), so it is expected that he is optimistic about the difficulty of charging an electric car every 200km or so, which is about every few hours, and wait for another few hours for it to charge. He has had to “steal” electricity from the back of shops that have closed for the night and has even had to be towed to a charging station once.
Yet, somehow, he has driven over 50,000 kilometres since March 2016, to arrive at Malaysia recently. The people he has encountered, in the 28 countries he has driven through, have been helpful, partially because they were curious about his electric car. In Tehran, where social media is greatly limited (blocked, to be exact) but is the channel that Wakker uses to find help, he met car bloggers who got to see an electric car for the first time, and he received more offers of accommodation than he could accept. Driving from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, when he ended up in a small town where the folks didn’t really speak English, he somehow managed to find his way to a police station where they allowed him to charge his car.
The journey so far.
Norway, he says, was heaven, where charging stations were ubiquitous. It was vastly different in Brussels (Belgium), where he found only one. In Malaysia, he found most charging stations in the capital city and while living here with a host who lived in an apartment building, had to make use of the extension cables to charge his car.
When he was in oil-rich UAE, he was surprised at the efforts and investments in the infrastructure to support electric transport. Electric car owners are entitled to free parking, charging and toll fee exemptions. The UAE government is certainly making an effort to future-proof its transportation system and, the larger picture, its economy, knowing that it will run out of oil in a couple of decades.
If there is proof that range anxiety is mostly in our heads, then Wakker is it. He doesn’t believe in it, but instead feels “range excitement”. “In the morning, I start driving, and I wait until I have 10 per cent battery left and then I have to make a plan,” he told Eco-Business. “That’s when I feel range excitement.” Well, that’s optimistic. Good on him.
Wakker is currently in Singapore to promote his cause, but without his electric steed because there is no official charging station in the country, so he is not allowed to drive his car there. And the vehicle entry permit is much more than he can afford. What? Malaysia is more advanced than our neighbour when it comes to electric vehicle infrastructure and support? Well, that’s Malaysia-1 and Singapore…er…most everything else. (When it comes to transportation, we throw in our tuala and hand them the crown…but our food is still better.)
Our final and succinct thoughts on the electric vehicle as a sustainable mode of transportation: until the source of electricity is itself sustainable (dirty, polluting COAL is still the main source of electricity generation) and the manufacturing of battery doesn’t require the mining and use of rare earth minerals, the electric vehicle is not quite a sustainable option. That said, Wakker’s effort to promote and encourage sustainability is interesting, to say the least. After this, he will continue with the last leg of his journey to Australia. To follow his adventure, go to Plug Me In.
Source: www.plugmeinproject.com; thedailypao.com; eco-business.com