Dutchman's 95,000-km electric vehicle journey ends in Sydney
Dutchman Wiebe Wakker pulled into Sydney on Sunday having traveled 95,000 km over three years in his fully electric powered car.
This handout photo taken on October 28, 2018 and released on April 7, 2019 from Dutch driver Wiebe Wakker (C-R) shows him on the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory with his retrofitted station wagon nicknamed "The Blue Bandit" during his round-the-world trip in the electric car. [Photo: PLUG ME IN PROJECT/Wiebe Wakke/AFP]
In a journey which took him across 33 countries including Turkey, Iran, India and Malaysia, Wakker hoped to prove the viability of electric vehicles and spread a message of sustainability.
While not officially a world record, due to the car being modified for electric power, the 95,000-km distance is reportedly the longest ever driven in an electric vehicle.
Wakker told Xinhua that his harborside finishing point was part of the broader message behind the journey.
"I wanted to prove that you can drive an electric car to the other side of the world," he said.
"(In Holland), I saw that not many people switch to electric vehicles because there were a lot of prejudices. They assume they're not reliable or you can not cover long distances."
"So I thought that if I can show that I can drive on my own from Holland to literally the other side (of the) world then electric cars will be viable for daily use."
Dutch driver Wiebe Wakker (C) celebrates after driving his retrofitted station wagon nicknamed "The Blue Bandit" onto a platform to complete a round-an-world trip in an electric car with a backdrop of Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney on April 7, 2019. Wakker drove some 95,000 kilometres across 33 countries in what he said was the world's longest-ever journey by electric car. [Photo: AFP/Peter Parks]
Against a backdrop of the Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge, Wakker was welcomed by supporters and sustainability enthusiasts, who the Dutchman said have been a crucial part of the journey from day one.
"The most valuable thing for me is that I have seen so many people showing generosity and offering me stuff and helping me out and everything -- and that really changed my opinion on people and on the world," he said.
"Especially in places like Asia where I would just rock up sometimes with no place to stay and just start talking to people, and within a minute, (I would have) new friends and they offer me food or they say you can sleep at my home if you want to charge up your car."
This handout photo taken on December 31, 2018 and released on April 7, 2019 from Dutch driver Wiebe Wakker (C-R) shows him at Uluru in the Northern Territory with his retrofitted station wagon nicknamed "The Blue Bandit" during his round-the-world trip in the electric car. [Photo: PLUG ME IN PROJECT/Wiebe Wakke/AFP]
However, having travelled through 32 countries and run out of power only once, it wasn't always easy going, with Australia's vast deserts and stretches of highway seeing Wakker reach a flat battery five or six times.
With a 200-km range on his first generation vehicle, Wakker one day found himself having to traverse a desolate 255-km stretch of the Australian outback.
"I just knew like, I'm not gonna make it. So I waited 12 hours to get a tail wind, drove 50 km an hour on the highway and that day I actually did a record 235 km," Wakker said.
"Then I ran out (of power) 20 km before Coober Pedy, so I had to put on some sunscreen and put up my thumbs up and wait for somebody to pass by and give me a tow to the next town."
"That's a big problem, there is a lack of infrastructure for electric vehicles, I think, for rural Australia that really has to step up."
This handout photo taken on July 20, 2018 and released on April 7, 2019 from Dutch driver Wiebe Wakker shows him on Cable Beach in Broome, Western Australia with his retrofitted station wagon nicknamed "The Blue Bandit" during his round-the-world trip in the electric car. [Photo: PLUG ME IN PROJECT/Wiebe Wakke/AFP]
However, the lessons from his journey about not just technology, but humanity, have left the Dutchman optimistic and willing to continue his efforts and association with electric cars into the future.
"I find all the elements that are going on in that field super interesting and it's going really quick," Wakker said.
"So I want to remain an ambassador for electric cars, and still be doing my best to push electric vehicles."