The annual Leading the Charge road trip is over for 2018. Another great adventure was enjoyed by the dozen or so drivers who took in large sections, or all of, the route this year.
By time we got to the start, ran the course, and took test rides, the total distance traveled was just under 6000km.
The various keen champions converged on Invercargill around the 13th of March. Everyone met up for the kick off dinner and got reacquainted. Then early on the 14th, with fully charged batteries, we met at the Bluff signpost. The evening rain subsided and the skies started to clear. We were lucky again this year to have International EV evangelist and expert Chelsea Sexton riding along for the entire trip. Chelsea can always answer any question relating to any EV model or charging related topic from most parts of the world.
We set off back to Invercargill for the first event. Once again PowerNet put on a morning tea and invited some guests. Some of us took the opportunity to top up using the Level 1 chargers installed in the car park. We were still missing the GVI car which was stuck on one of those delayed boats. Those stink bugs caused a big drop in EV sales for this month. But Daniel from GVI did catch up with us in Christchurch with a shiny new Leaf.
For now we set off to Queenstown. Last year a couple of long range cars went via the west coast which was too far for a bunch of short range vehicles. But there are now chargers in Wanaka and Frankton. In fact Charge Net pulled out all the stops to get Frankton online for us one hour before our event there. Thanks guys!
We didn't plan to go up the West coast this year but wanted to hit Queenstown. The local Champion Trent arranged two events. One on the water front in Queenstown ...
and a second at the Remarkables Park center. This is a lovely spot and we were able to take people for rides and drives without getting clogged in the Queenstown traffic. In Queenstown we met a few people not from New Zealand but a lot more locals at the Remarkables Park.
It would not be a LeadingTheCharge road trip without a stop in Dunedin, so we back tracked to the east coast with a stop off at the charger in Alexandra. There we met a local who had two Tesla destination chargers installed at his Vineyard/B&B. We took the opportunity to drop in with two Tesla's and plug in for a photo op. That's one of the great things about a road trip. Is meeting new people and tasting some local wine.
We joined a large selection of varied electric vehicles in the Octagon for most of Friday. There was lots of foot traffic and plenty of interest in the different vehicles. It's also a pretty place to hang out for a few hours. Pam really knows how to find the different EV treasures that exist in her neck of the woods. There were several "one off" vehicles both converted and imported.
Martin Kane arranged a stop over in Timaru at a local dealer. Several locals turned up to help and we added to our growing list of people who we got to drive an EV.
It was common throughout the trip for the young people to know more than even some of us. And it was delightful when a couple looked surprised and said "That's Chelsea Sexton!". These two got to ride in a Tesla and be photographed with Chelsea which made their day. And we were told the next day as well when they got to brag about it at school.
Mark and Megan Nixon are the Champions for Christchurch. Mark won the Champion of the year at EV World in 2017 and it is easy to see why. Their events generate more interest, and get more people behind the wheel than any other in the country.
In their own words :
"The Christchurch LTC Road trip event was a two pronged affair. After the Ashburton sleep over the road trippers attended the Farmers Market in Ashburton. A few Christchurch based EV owners drove down to meet the #LTC cars so they could form a convoy driving into Christchurch. One aim of the convoy was to community build for the Christchurch EV community. The hope was that driving in a convoy would be a non threatening way for EV owners to participate in the hope that they would then feel they could contribute to EV promotions in the future. In an attempt to limit strain on the charging infrastructure cars were encouraged to join the convoy at Dunsanndel, Rolleston and Halswell. Despite all our planning the organisers hadn’t factored in a car accident and resultant detour. Instead of the desired ticker-tape parade more of a confetti like convoy was experienced :). Never-the-less participants still experienced the buzz of being part of something greater and arrived en masse at the test drive venue.
Test drives were offered in the Fendalton New World car park. This car park hosts a pair of Orion sponsored 22 kW type 2 charging stations. The carpark is usually under utilised especially the half of the car park the charger is situated in. At 12 noon this all changed. Drawn to the ECCA tent and flags and Christchurch EV Group signs and banners, the non-convoying members of the Christchurch EV Group had set up earlier, interested members of the public descended on the site. Like a well oiled machine and with hint of a church meeting, CEVG members donned their group name tags and clipboards before reaching out to the public to talk about their experience with EVs and signing them up for test drives in their cars. The fever pitch increased as the convoy members arrived. This swelled the ranks to six Teslas, and multiple Leafs including the new 2018 model, a Smart car, three Zoes, and two each of the BMW i3, Ionqis and PVEV Outlanders cars; all but the Teslas and the Smart car offered test drives. Cars were provided by CEVG members, #LTC participants, Yoogo Share, and Orion. The two hours of test driving flew by. The local Tesla Model X owner encouraged her car to do the crowd pulling 'Tesla dance' to entice people over to our half of the car park. Fendalton is an affluent suburb and the cost of the EVs did not seem to be a barrier to uptake. Many locals were finding it hard to decide between the model X and S and I’m sure the numbers of EVs will swell in this suburb following the promotion. Signed up members of the public enjoyed the chance to test drive a full range of cars many taking the chance to drive everything available. Many people stated they were too busy to take a test drive - but enjoyed having a quick look at the range of cars available. The organising group were very happy with the turn out, weather and the level of enthusiasm shown by the public."
After the Christchurch event the shorter range cars headed off across Arthurs pass. They would stop there overnight to get some charge while the drivers slept. The longer range cars would stop here for the night and leave early in the morning because they make it easily on one charge.
For most of the evenings the crew meet up for dinner somewhere and chat about the day. We also keep in constant communication throughout the day with a messenger group, relaying important information as well as social chit chat. It is a bit of work doing the events each day but we all have fun along the way. Like most EV champions we love to talk with existing or potential owners about the joy of driving an EV.
EECA had arranged a photographer, Mark Tantrum, to met up with us in Christchurch and travel part of the way. He took some great images going across Arthurs pass.
Either Mark or his associate Elias took images in Christchurch, Arthurs pass, Wellington, Palmerston North and Hastings. (More on Facebook via the link at the end of this post).
The Greymouth event was again held at the recreation centre. A local council member came along and was so impressed after a drive in the Ionic, he went away and brought back a friend in his Mustang. After the Greymouth Charge Net charger developed a fault, we found three Tesla destination chargers to top up the 4 Tesla's. Its a great initiative. Tesla gift a charger and money to install them. These are normal home chargers suitable for a 3 hour charge time. Perfect for an overnight stay. The Charge Net support team however were fast in sorting it out. It was back up before we had finished dinner.
The next leg was a full day drive over to Nelson. It is a few hundred kms and the small battery cars need to stop at a camp ground along way. This delay will be removed when the Murchison charge comes on line. And during that day the crew, in two groups, visited three different schools. Kids are always so up with the play on EV's and delight in seeing the cars.
In Nelson we set up show at the Tasman charger and the adjacent parking lot. There was a constant stream of people who kept the drive administrators busy. The french girls driving around in the Jucy van stopped in to participate, and we also met up with the Loop crew family. More friends everywhere we go.
We never go past Blenheim without making a stop. After a night stopover and another group meal, we staged the cars in the middle of town and fielded the standard series of questions from passers by. Many of whom took the opportunity to go for a drive.
Interislander sponsored our ferry crossing for the third year. And put on some fine weather for a smooth sail. Arriving in Wellington, where we stayed for three nights, we were greeted with the worst weather of the trip. With the exception of some rain at night in Invercargill the rest of the trip had been sunny skies all the way.
The Wellington champions had arranged two events for our lengthy stop over. The first was at the Dowse Museum and this day gave us the worst weather.
We had an extra selection of cars for people to see and drive courtesy of GVI.kiwi. They had trucked in several more to add to the trip pool. Daniel never stopped smiling even as he ran in and out of the rain to take people for their drives. Such a nice guy to have along on the southern part of the trip.
Mindy Greenwood from Drive EV in Taupo joined us in Wellington. And Steve Greenwood met us in Napier to carry the baton all the way to the Cape.
From Wellington we headed up to Whanganui. The supermarket car park was great location and we were very busy as soon as we arrived. Plenty of interested people both looking for information and a drive. We assume because this was an area of the country where they had not been many EV's yet.
Last year a couple of cars went up the West coast of the North island but this year we wanted to keep the group together. This meant some back tracking and so we headed back to Palmerston North. As always Sue Pugmire arranged a huge event with plenty of speakers, and a band to keep a festive mood. The Square is a great place to attract attention and grab passers by.
And we just had to photography the Cars at the Wind Farm on way up the saddle road. I mean how could we not!
And the same at Te Mata peak in the Hawkes Bay. This is the scene as the photographer arranged multiple cars and everyone looked on and snapped their own pictures. You see there was a big turn out of locals from Hastings and Napier to assist with the events and join in the convoy. So many that a Leaf had to be left out of the photograph!
Steve and Mindy Greenwood from Drive EV reunited when we arrived in Havelock North.
We had an event in Havelock outside Porters Hotel and then in Napier at the Sound Shell.
Many thanks to Nigel from Unison who not only arranged the events but put on a BBQ for the crew and billeted most of them at his house. Nigel and Unison are very active supporting the uptake of EV's in New Zealand.
The next day was a wonderful drive through to Gisborne, with a stop at Wairoa for a charge and some lunch. The Gisborne event was held outside the stunning Electric Village offices. They made a video of our visit.
Another spectacular drive through the gorge to Opotiki and on to Tauranga. Bayfair has been a big supporter of ours from the start, and we pretty much always make a stop here. It's great to be under cover and right by the entrance of the mall where people are coming and going.
Pushing on to Hamilton, Justin had arranged a huge turn out in the Hamilton Garden Square. Many local businesses and center stage was Evie, the Mercury converted Ford.
Then on to Auckland where most of the crew live. The trip was timed to get us in Auckland over Easter for a rest and to avoid the traffic in or out of Auckland that weekend. But we still had a large event at the AUT Akoranga Campus. Once again GVI came to the party with a handful of different cars for people to drive.
With Easter over we all met up again in Whangarei. Northland was the first region to get a fast charger and has a high number of EV's per ratio of the population.
Northpower were a big help again, setting up an impressive spread at the Canopy Bridge.
Then on to Kerikeri to participate in the new Charger opening as well as the launch of the Crimson Coast Highway.
We stopped in Kerikeri for the night. Plenty of nice restaurants to enjoy on our second to last evening.
The next day, bright and early, we headed up to Kaitaia. Another new Charger here, now the northern most one in the country. This one is situated in the carpark of the impressive Te Ahu centre. This will be great spot for travelers to visit while charging.
Using this new charger the shorter ranger cars no longer needed to stop at a campground for a slow charge on the way up to the Cape. So everyone topped off here and after a little lunch set off for the top of the country. We checked in at the camp before heading up to be at the Cape around sunset.
It is very beautiful up there as well as being a powerful place. You can see where two oceans meet and the landscape is spectacular.
And after the sunset it is time for the last supper with the crew. And perhaps one or two drinks afterwards around the picnic table.
Thanks to Mark Nixon for the bottle of Whisky. And that's a wrap. Thanks again to everyone involved. You can see there are only happy faces.
And you can see more photos from the 2018 Road Trip in our Facebook Album.
Many organisation contributed to events along the way. But The Better NZ trust would like to make special thanks to all the volunteers who organised events or came along to help. And special thanks to the companies that sponsored a vehicle. Without these two groups the trip would not have been possible.