North Island RoadTour - Rob Birnie's experience

The first leg on this year’s Better NZ Trust's #LeadingtheCharge Roadtrip started quietly, as EVs tend to do, on the morning of the 6th of October. Clouds of uncertainty, both metaphorical and literal,  surrounded the trip with the spectre of COVID lingering in the air to the north.  The lockdown measures slowing the spread of COVID have had many impacts, in this case resulting in a non-stop drive though the Auckland region for a number of our comrades, and the absence of many.

So it was the day started for the lower North Island contingent, as a spirited solo drive from Wellington and Palmerston North, through to our meet up point in Bulls. Whilst a small convoy, consisting only of a Model 3 Performance and Mini Electric, our ability to cut through traffic and easily pace each other was unparalleled. We only had just over half an hour of driving together before our first stop of the day in Mangaweka, to top up the cars from the ChargeNet fast charger and Tesla Superchargers. Most importantly, it was a chance to top up ourselves at Duke's Roadhouse, with the food at Duke's once more cementing this as the ideal charging stop when heading through to Taupo from the south.

By the time the coffees and breakfasts were done, the cars were more than charged and we were back on the road. State Highway One stretched out in front of us, with passing lanes just begging for the instant torque of an EV, letting us zip merrily along past the caravans and slowpokes. A brief stop in Turangi for five minutes for a charge turned out to not be required, thus was the regenerative capabilities of the Mini Electric.

And so we reached our first stop for the night - Taupo. A few hours later, our thirteen strong group met for the first time. We chatted and shared stories over dinner, many of us meeting people we'd only previously known as names and profile pictures in Facebook groups. This is always one of the most interesting parts of these trips, getting to learn about your fellow travellers, people from all walks of life and from all over the country.

 

Meeting Big Brother at the Taupō Supercharger

Our next meeting was the following day, popping into the Craters of the Moon to enjoy some all-natural emissions, before a quick detour to the Aratiatia Power station to watch the dam release. The convenience of nipping around the urban and rural roads of Taupō in electric vehicles is second to none. It's wonderful to drive vehicles that cost the equivalent of a few cups of coffee for an entire road trip, and high performing vehicles at that, which just require a three pin plug or twenty minutes on a fast charger to get you ready to roll the next day. Special thanks go out to all the accommodation providers now providing EV chargers. Charging the car overnight is the most convenient way to charge, so this is hugely beneficial.

These were the only emissions we had to endure throughout the trip!

Another group dinner and a good sleep, and then we were on to our last event in Taupō, a visit to Drive EV to check out their newest shipment. From the Volkswagen ID.4, the Vauxhall Mokka-e, to the humble Nissan Leaf, it was wonderful to visit Drive EV where Steve and his staff truly know about EV’s, inside and out.

The weather even turned on, bathing us in glorious sunshine, so much so that we pulled forward our group photo to capture some pictures and videos down on the waterfront. Check out a great video from Jay over on the Drive EV channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-O9KoaJa80).

Haere rā Taupō, what a great send-off you gave us!

Driving from Taupō to Napier on State Highway 5 has always been a wonderful treat and our trip did not disappoint! The power of even less performance-oriented EVs like the Hyundai Kona was on full display, overtaking slower vehicles like they were standing still, and taking the ‘windies’ as aggressively as the sportier Tesla offerings. The only downside to this leg of the trip is the length, there's simply not enough time to drive and enjoy the gorgeous weather and beautiful cars. Hitting Napier, the group split up to spend time with friends and families, spreading the EV message as we went.

We weren't separated for long though, gathering on the morning of Saturday the 9th at the National Aquarium for a meet with the local EV enthusiasts. The beautiful Hawkes Bay weather and our position on the waterfront quickly attracted attention. Passersby, both locals and travellers from as far away as the United States, were excited to see the wide array of EVs on offer, and several very excited folks were overjoyed at the chance to go for a ride and check out some of the cars they've been considering purchasing. This meet really highlighted the value in public visibility, being out and about, and engaging with the public. It also highlighted just how much of a fire the government rebate has put under EV sales, with public interest increasing day by day.

After some photos and checking with the Aquarium that their electric eels didn't need charging, we were off, heading through to New Zealand's first V3 Tesla Supercharger, capable of charging three vehicles at up to 250kw per car. In reality, this means charging takes almost no time at all, certainly not long enough for our meal at the No5 Cafe & Larder, resulting in people politely excusing themselves to shift their vehicles.

And for your author, that was the end of the road trip. A short, but sweet trip, though the pictures from the rest of the tour, including photos at the top of Te Mata Peak, and all through Gisborne and the beautiful East Cape definitely show that another trip is in order to capture those sights! 




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