On the Road


[by Rachelle Tilsley and guest contributors]


Click the read more link to scroll through each days' diary entry.




Day One: 28th March 2019

[by Rachelle]

It's a wash out. No sooner had I left the mad Auckland congestion, I got a text to say the Rotorua Night Markets had been cancelled. Therefore our opening event in Rotorua was also cancelled.

Two choices then: turn back to Auckland or just continue on. I wasn't staying in paid accommodation in Rotorua, so decided to push on, knowing that the rest of the team would remain in Auckland.  I'm driving a BMW i3 REx. It has a 120 km range on BEV and an extra 120 km with the little petrol range extender generator if necessary.


First stop Hampton Downs for a free charge. Thanks WEL Networks. But could you please clean the great big spider off the touch screen? The world-famous-in-NZ coffee was as good as always, and then a push on to Matamata.

However, not needing to rush to Rotorua anymore, I decided to prove that even a low or mid-range EV can take a ticky-tour if it feels like it. I decided to go to Matamata via Te Aroha. It's a sleepy little place at the foot of the highest peak in the Kaimai Ranges. 

For years I have passed this strange local town without stopping - always in a rush. Today I decided to stop for two reasons. (1) To prove EVs don't have to panic making a beeline from charger to charger, and (2) because I'd heard that Te Aroha is trying to be the cycling capital of NZ.  And if there's one thing that the Better NZ Trust likes more than electric vehicles, it's pedal-powered vehicles.

And so with the brooding cloud covered ranges hovering eerily close to earth, I pulled into town feeling a bit like everyone was staring at the newcomer. No, not really. Well just a wee bit.

Anyway, I'd heard that there was a very special sausage dog worth checking out. And if there's one thing that I am, it's a fan of nice natured doggies.

I had only parked and walked two steps before I came across it. And what a gorgeous example of steampunk sculpture it was.  He doubles as a bike rack and a water fountain for both humans at the top (which I didn't try because of the water restrictions) and dogs at the bottom. This useful piece of sculpture was designed by Adrian Worsley. And if I'm not wrong I discovered the overflow of water dribbles out of his little bronze [BEEEEP]!

After lunch in a steampunk diner, it was time to push onto Matamata where I found a busy little charger and met a few very lovely locals and one pair of tourists in an Europcar eGolf. The weather was packing in, so after a small top-up, I left for Rotorua where around the glade - yeah the weather got bad, but it wasn't West Coast bad. And sure enough, by the time I descended into Rotorua, the rain was nothing more than a light drizzle. Such a disappointment that the markets had closed for nothing.



Day Two: 29th March 2019 Rotorua 

[by Rachelle]

I'll have to bore you a little longer with just me on the Road Trip, but I'm hoping to catch up with the first of the Trustees later on this evening.

I spent the morning fixing technology. ie: iphone broke. Gropro broke. Had to visit several fix it upper shops around town and the Rock Shop. Man the people in Rotorua are all soooo friendly. The traffic is cruisey. I love this place - always have.  I call it my second home.

Coming out of my street this morning, I came across another dog statue. Thought I'd share a pic. I've seen this many times before but never paid it much attention. But having loved my steampunk sausage dog yesterday, I was inspired to take a closer look at Hinemoa this morning. Perhaps I'll make finding dog statues my personal goal during the road trip. As I said before, it's not all about EV. This is a genuine road trip, just like any other. Only different.

So while I was on hold for a very long time to Spark NZ, I took the opportunity to dash across the busy airport road to find out why this dog statue had been placed in what is, let's face it, the most unlikely of places. 

It turns out that Harawene was a runaway mutt. He lived scared alongside this highway for most of his life and became a local identity. Scavenging, and wandering up and down the highway, for years he became everyone's dog. Then one year people began to notice that they hadn't seen him in a while. He had passed away, probably of old age. And he was so missed, that the locals banded together to make a statue of him. 

It's a rustic statue of an ordinary dog, who lived a slightly extraordinary life and inspired so many.

Arriving in Taupo mid-afternoon, I'm all set to catch up with the first of the other road trippers (chairperson Kathryn Trounson and Greg Trounson in the KONA Elite) and to get ready for tomorrow's opening event.



Day Three: 30 March 2019 Taupo

[by Rachelle]

9am, right in the centre of town — by all accounts we're setting up a fairly major event. We have 14 cars on display and two information tents. In addition, there are three, and sometimes four, drive cars courtesy of Drive EV in Taupo, as well as Melo Yellow ebikes, and several local EV owners in the adjacent carpark.  Fleet cars are on display from Unison — all the way from Napier, Taupo City Council, and Contact Energy. One of the volunteer cars is a converted Ford Torana which apparently was only finished the night before.

We are also joined by Chelsea Sexton, international EV advocate - all the way from California. And trustee Sean Dick in the Tesla Model S, EV owners Little Green Tours of Rotorua, Maori Warden whaea Edwina who helped out all day with car parking duties, and Tesla SPELEO.


Crowds of people have come to have a look at the electric options and talk cars. We did 27 drives and saw about 500 people. By the end of the day, we are exhausted and happy, and just a little bit sunburned.

After all that hard work, we celebrated over a shared meal with Drive EV and Better NZ Trust.



Day Four: 31 March 2019 Raumati Beach

[by Rachelle]


It's an early push to Wellington's Kapiti Coast, for a quick one-hour Sunday afternoon charger opening.

Last farewell to Lake Taupo

First stop Turangi — just 50km down the road. Whilst stopped for an unnecessary but cautionary, 5-minute quick top-up, I met cyclist George who took my i3 for a drive.

From a scenic POV, the Desert Road was strung with low hanging cloud obscuring the mountain views. But as always, I was blown away by Transpower's massive lines of carriers linking the south to the north.

And while the long range vehicles again pushed through, I also stopped at Waiouru to charge up, because I don't want to be using my petrol generator if I can help it. Unfortunately I had my first experience of short cable syndrome, but luckily I was the only one charging so managed to straddle between the two chargers to make the cable reach.

Despite being in the lowest range car and stopping for four charges, 1 coffee stop, 4 scenery photos and 1 tickey-tour, I still made it to Raumati first. It's not a race but surely this proves the theory that lots of small charges is quicker than, or equal to, 1 long charge. The others also stopped for a leisurely lunch, while I made do with a quick pitstop at Burger King while charging in Levin.

Raumati Beach Charger Opening

[by Kathryn Trounson]

The journey from Taupo in terms of driving for the Road Trippers was only just over 4 hours, and having set off at 9 am, we had ample time to stop for coffees, brunch and a charging top up in Taihape and even a bit of gumboot throwing!  Rachelle even had time to visit the Dutch windmill at Foxton and give a test drive to a very keen member of the public in Turangi.

The weather in Kapiti was absolutely glorious when we arrived, so we were glad to see that Daniel from GVI had brought the EECA gazebo, under which we could shelter from the heat.  Charmead and Tania from the Kapiti Coast District Council had thoughtfully provided platters of crudites and fruit for the attendees, which were eagerly consumed.

Kathryn Trounson, Chairperson, Better NZ Trust & attendees

The range of cars that arrived was impressive – as well as the trippers cars there were several Leafs, an Ioniq, a Kia Niro electric (the first or second to be sold in the country) and from the local lines company, Electra, a brand new fully electric LDV e-80 van and LEAF.  We estimated there were at least 30 people attending over and above the organisers and dignitaries.

[left to right] Janet, Sigurd, Guru, Max, Kathryn

There was a short ceremony where trustee, Sigurd, acted as MC and introduced me to give a brief overview of the Road Trip. I was followed by Mayor Guru (Gurunathan), whose humorous words formally opened the charger. He was followed by Janet Holborow, the Deputy Mayor and lastly by Max Fieckart, the GM of Electra.

Max Feickert, GM Electra Energy

The three Kapiti ChargeNet NZ chargers that are being installed in Raumati, Waikanae and Paekakariki were helped into existence as a result of receiving partial financial assistance from the EECA Contestable Fund. The opening was so successful that there is talk about a similar opening for the Paekākāriki charger next weekend.



Day Five: 1 April 2019 Interislander Ferry Crossing

by Rachelle

We woke to a dismal April Fools Day morning in downtown Wellington.  Some of us, who shall remain nameless, did have trouble finding the hotel the previous evening, when after reaching Lambton Quay, drove the wrong way around the Beehive and found themselves back in Newlands.


However, said person did find their way back and even discovered possibly the best dog statue yet, indicating once again that NZers really do have a fascination with the companion animal.  This is a statue of the so-called "Father of Wellington," John Plimmer, who was often spotted on Lambton Quay with his dog Fritz.

Despite all the worry about the weather, the crossing couldn't have been much calmer and the service was superb as usual.  Hopefully, our electric miles will offset the diesel emissions—though time for Interislander to follow in Norway's footsteps and commission an electric ferry in my humble opinion.

A big rainbow greeted us in the Marlborough Sounds and on disembarking the convoy split into two - The Kona and the i3 taking the picturesque Queen Charlotte Drive, and the Tesla going the long way around but arriving first. 

Joining us for dinner in Nelson were local EV champion, David and wife Rachel, who will be helping at tomorrow's event at Millers Acre. Stay tuned.




 Day Six: 2 April 2019

The Nelson early morning chill soon gave way to yet another warm day as we set up in downtown right beside the river.

Barely had we assembled our table with goody bags and brochures, when people started arriving. All of them were full of curiosity and some had already made the switch to an EV, coming down to support us.  There was a total of 12 cars including an electric scooter, and an eNV200 van driven by the Nelson City Council Sustainability Consultant.

As well as members of Nelson City Council, who administer the Millers Acre site we held the event on, we were joined by Network Tasman staff who own the rapid charger, and Steve West whose company ChargeNet is responsible for the NT charger’s billing process.

The Car Company brought a 24kWh Leaf and a 40kWh Leaf along in which to offer rides and their expertise, but all too soon, it was time to pack up and head off to Westport.

With the big charging hole between Richmond and Westport, those of us who were in medium range cars were carefully constructing our charging strategy.  David in his Ioniq rolled into Westport on the turtle. Rachelle in the i3 had to resort to using the petrol generator for a good 40 km and may have to do the same tomorrow on the Lewis Pass.

Of course, the long-range Kona and Model S had no problem with range and were even able to engage sport mode through the Buller Gorge.

[Image Credit "Hawks Crag, Buller Gorge"] We passed through the Buller Gorge both on the way in and out of Westport. This one of two rock overhangs on a one-lane section.



Day Seven: 3 April 2019 Westport

[by Rachelle]

I can hardly believe we've been on the road for seven days already (well those of us who started in Rotorua.)

And we were welcomed in Westport by yet another spectacular deep blue sky, clean clear day — perfect for the official opening of the Westport charger at New World.

The event attracted a small but enthusiastic crowd of people. Most were considering taking the plunge into electric and very interested to hear about the string of new chargers being commissioned along the West Coast as part of the EECA Contestable Fund.

For the Sustainability Manager at Foodstuffs, Mike Sammons, installing chargers in their New World, Pak 'n Save, and Four Square carparks is all part of Foodstuffs desire to drive forward the sustainability message in a two-prong approach.

"Transport emissions are a huge part of carbon pollution," he says. "We are proud to say that in a few months 63 of ChargeNet NZ chargers will be on Foodstuff's sites. The other part of the equation is our fleet of 28 electric delivery vans which save 7 tonnes of CO2e emissions every month." 

Speakers: Mike Sammons, Steve West, Kathryn Trounson and Garry Howard

Garry Howard, Buller District Mayor was also right behind any initiative which might revive tourist numbers.

"It puts Westport back on the map as a destination for the growing number of tourists in electric cars."

He also pointed out that road pollution from fossil-fuelled vehicles is directly responsible for toxic runoff into the many rivers that criss-cross the region. A situation that he says is unsustainable given that New Zealand has about 4 million cars on our roads. 

The mayor announced that he would push for charging facilities to be included in the $26m refurbishment of Punakaiki Rocks.

The Mayor had the honour of pulling back the covering announcing the new charger was operational on the display boards depicting all the Foodstuffs South and North Island chargers.

"It was obvious four years ago that New Zealand needed a charging network," says CEO of ChargeNet NZ, Steve West. "And of course that includes the West Coast."

He congratulated the local New World manager, Chris Acklin and acknowledged Foodstuffs' commitment to the environment and their foresight in recognising that installing chargers benefits their customers and therefore their businesses. 

With a round of applause, Better NZ Trust chair, Kathryn Trounson had the final word.

"We never hear of anybody, who once purchasing an electric car, then says they regret it. What we do hear is that they bemoan the fact that they didn't make the switch earlier," she said. "So by hook or by crook, get yourself an electric vehicle."

The road trippers left Westport immediately after the opening event, needing to get to Wanaka via the east coast (because of the road closure near Franz Josef.) David in the ioniq returned to Nelson, but he will catch up with us again in Christchurch later in the month.

The remaining core group chose the Lewis Pass, stopping for lunch in Reefton to try out the 25kW charger.

The relatively new 25kW DC Charger in Reefton.

The Lewis Pass was a stunning autumn landscape where I really felt I was all alone in the middle of nowhere.

We arrived in Ashburton for the night at 7pm within about 5 minutes of each other, despite travelling different ways and using different chargers. 

"The thing with this road trip in 2019, is that the infrastructure is now at a point where we were able to make a quick change of plans (after the road closure near Franz Josef) without having to do massive planning, or to cancel any events, or to add on any extra days to our route," says Kathryn.

In Ashburton, local Canterbury champions, Martin Kane and Matt Harris joined the Trustees, Chelsea and Rachelle for dinner.



Day Eight: 4 April 2019 Wanaka

[By Rachelle]

We all left Ashburton, again with different charging plans to suit our different ranges and preferences. Rachelle in the i3 stopped in Geraldine, Fairlie and Omarama, the Kona topped up in Fairlie, and the Model S had a long fill from the Tesla destination chargers at the Wrinkly Ram in Omarama.

The scenery was top class and iphone photos just didn’t do it justice. To paint a mind’s picture of the beauty of the encircling hills framing the plains, the gentle early morning light, caught just the hill crests, unadorned without their snowy covering except for the barest sprinkling of yellow fuzzy tussock. And these highlights contrasted so strikingly with the deep sombre ravines. The combined effect looking just like they’d been casually draped in a soft velvet ochre fabric. Driving alone is certainly good for thinking about this wonderful world we live in.

This doesn't quite capture it, as I didn't think of taking a photo until later in the day when the light had changed

Geraldine was the most spick and span town I can remember ever visiting. I certainly can’t wait to come back in a week or so for our event.

When I arrived in Fairlie, Greg and Kathryn were just finishing their charging, so I went to find a mid-morning coffee and came across another dog statue. It was James McKenzie and his eye-dog Friday. Forgive me for asking, why a man who is essentially a ruffian, a robber and a rogue has been immortalised in bronze, and worse, has lent his name to the local area: McKenzie Country. It was suggested that perhaps this enterprising character had captured the imagination of the locals, who possibly half supported him in his many jail-breaks. Though, I can’t imagine the sheep farmers, from whose farms 1000 sheep he rustled, felt the same. 

The dam wall on Lake Ruataniwha, near Twizel. The largest manmade lake in the cascading series of hydrodams through central Otago

Not wanting to use my REx, I also topped up in Fairlie, and in Tekapo, but missed out Twizel and met up with the others in Omarama where there was a 25kW DC charger. We drove in convoy from there with the Kona setting the pace. I needed to apply the REx on the hill to the Lindis Pass summit, but arrived in Wanaka with 27 km battery range left so possibly was a bit too cautious.

The Red Bridge, Luggate

25 km out of town, in the vacinity of Luggate, we rendezvoused with three LEAFs, including one belonging to Dave Hawkins, the local champion who organised the day’s event.

[Event Report by Kathryn]

Pulling into Wanaka, we proceeded as a convoy of six to the Log Cabin on the lakefront where parking spaces had been reserved, courtesy of the local Council.

Photo Op at Luggate before setting off in convoy

Dave had rallied the locals, who were waiting with EECA flags and a Britz eVolve camper. Soon more locals arrived, including another i3 and an ioniq plus the new shape 40 kWh Leaf. People began streaming by, and we soon got chatting. Two reporters arrived. One, being Sean from the ODT, who is based in Wanaka, and wanted to interview Kathryn on video and get the lowdown on the event.  She also took him for a 15 km ride in the Kona to demonstrate everything she had told him.

The audience in Wanaka mainly wanted to know if there was a reasonably priced, fully electric 4-wheel drive, in order to drive over the Crown Range to Queenstown in all weathers, or up to Cardrona & the Remarkables for skiing. If only we could tell them that this was available in right hand drive. There were also long and earnest conversations on the other cars on display and most people interested in taking away reading material.

One gentleman was very worried that NZ did not have enough electricity available to power EVs – but as Richard Moylan of Orion had just reported this week, enough rain fell over 5 days last week to power 300,000 EVs for a year. 

There would have been 50-60 people at the event, which was cut short by 20 minutes as the rain advanced down the lake.  Most of the volunteers joined the road trippers for dinner and some we hope to see again in Alexandra and beyond.




Day Nine: 5 April 2019 Te Anau 

[by Rachelle Tilsley]

My main concern for today was the long trip and not being able to keep up with the other cars in my short range i3. I knew our date with the kids at Fiordland College was starting strictly at 2pm. But a new concern arose, after a pow-wow last night with local EV Owners, who warned that the dropping temperatures and rain would make the Crown Range hazardous. So the road trippers decided we'd go to Queenstown via Luggate and Cromwell - a longer but safer journey.

All good plans ... but as I started out in the dark to get a quick warm-up on the rapid charger and then left in the dark trusting the sexy voice of the i3 navigation unit, she sent me on a wide loop and before I knew it she had me heading back towards Wanaka and over the Crown Range in the dark. This much to the concern of the other road trippers who awoke at a more sensible hour and saw where I was on the Google Map app.

But the worry was over nothing in the end with the road being an easy cruise. If I rated the roads I learned to drive on, such as The Klondyke in Onewhero at a 10 in the difficulty scale, I'd rate the Crown Range as a 2. It's a fabulously manicured road.  Mind you, going south was probably easier than the other way, and admittedly, I could see it would be a different story if chains were required.  I have to say that I'm so glad I went that way as the beauty coming down into Queenstown just after dawn was unrivalled by anything I've seen so far, and the hairpins were really fun in the responsive i3.

Dawn at the Crown Range Summit: the highest sealed road in the country at 1076 metres.

After rapid charging in Frankton, and still no sign of my fellow road trippers, I headed out to Kingston, where a 2017-road tripper, Dave and his partner Michele, have set up a gorgeous cafe in the old Kingston Flyer railway station (not to be confused with the Kingston Corner cafe on the main road.)  They opened especially for us, so we are so very grateful for this picturesque and cosy warm stop over.






[Event report by Kathryn Trounson]

We left Wanaka at 8:45am and travelled over the Crown Range for that most spectacular journey into Frankton and the DC charger at Pak 'n Save for the i3 and the Kona and to the Tesla Supercharger for the Tesla Model S.  We had a morning tea date with Dave and Michelle at the Kingston Flyer café at the bottom of Lake Wakitipu.  The last time we saw Dave was on the 2017 RoadTrip when he was driving an Ioniq for Hyundai. It was great to see him again and sample the amazing cheese scones that had just come out of the oven.

We had an appointment at Fiordland College at 2:15pm but apart from Rachelle who motored in on petrol, we comfortably arrived in Te Anau with an hour to spare, so had time to check into the Anchorage Motel, where the owner, Nigel Humphries, is both on the Board at the College and also owns a black Model X! We convoyed to the College and decided to space the cars out whilst the different year groups came out one by one to see the cars and ask questions of us.  The students were dressed quite strangely we thought initially until someone told us it was mufti-day and the theme was ambulance/doctor/injury victim – so there were several mean looking students sporting bandages and fake blood!

The absolute attraction was Nigel’s Model X which he happily let the students jump in – however the i3 was well liked by students and staff alike for its sustainability credentials, and Greg was in hot demand explaining the drive of the Kona!


Once the school day was finished we moved to the Te Anau Events Centre a kilometre down the road and parked up for the general public to come and view the cars.  Tim Gow also brought his Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – which is the kind of car residents of Te Anau appreciated for it having 4WD.  The most asked question was ‘When will there be a 4WD SUV or ute available on the market?’.  People in Southland travel large distances routinely and have snow and ice to combat for several months of the year.  Although there is one Gen 1.2 Leaf that lives in Te Anau, that range of car is never going to persuade Southland residents to move to an EV.  In total we spoke to about 30 people here, including a group from Auckland and a couple who had just bought a new Kona and have travelled from Golden Bay and dropped in on their way south! They were somewhat dismayed to find that a DC charger did not exist in Te Anau (it is due in a couple of months) but Nigel had access to a private 25kW charger inside the 100% Electrical store who was able to offer them some free electrons.  We furnished them with some education on the use of the PlugShare app and gave them some Etiquette leaflets for their onward travels!



Day Ten: 6 April 2019 Milford Sound - Rest Day 

It's day ten (for Rachelle), day eight and nine for those that started in Taupo. The Road Trippers are definitely in need of a day off, but they had held off until reaching Te Anau, so that they could do a side trip to Milford Sound.

Here's a very rough 7 minute video of the trip which Rachelle threw together at midnight last night. https://youtu.be/59AF_fiJYVU



Day Eleven: 7 April 2019 Mangapiri Downs Organic Stud Farm™ Blackmount

Two power lines poking out of the mist on the road to the Mangapiri Downs Organic Farm™.

We left Te Anau in thick fog at 8:50am and were travelling to an organic farm inland from Manapouri, where Tim Gow and his family farm Shire® sheep and Tufty® cattle in a truly organic and sustainable way.  The fog persisted until 15km out of Manapouri when we climbed over a saddle into a wide valley bathed in sunshine – and it got warmer and warmer throughout the day!  The Gows were on the Road Trip last year from Bluff to Blenheim in their Mitsubishi PHEV Outlander and this year will start in Blenheim and finish at Cape Reinga.

Tim and son Bob organised the event

Our Te Anau (Anchorage Motel) hosts Nigel and Fiona Humphries also brought along their Tesla Model X to add to our three travelling cars and Tim’s Outlander.

As well as hosting a 2019 Great EV RoadTrip event, the Gows were also celebrating 30 years of farming organically, and for those 30 years have used no pesticides, drenches or fertilisers, and in the face of many naysayers have proved that their no chemical and sabbatical fallow routines actually both work, and leave the land in a better state than their conventional farming neighbours.  There are smart restaurants in Queenstown that only serve organic lamb from Mangapiri Downs, and even in Manapouri people were talking about them in the local pub!

Lachie Hayes, Paul Obana Jones, and host Tim Gow

Tim Gow had organised live music and a food wagon serving burgers, cheese rolls (a new favourite for us northerners) and coffee for the attendees of the EV event – and very good indeed. The crowd was wooed by the soulful original artist Paul Obana Jones and backed by the very talented and versatile local hero, Lachie Hayes with his incredibly strong voice. The sheep kept creeping closer and certainly appeared to be relaxing to the deep seductive sounds floating through the air.

There were at least 30 attendee vehicles parked in the paddock, so we estimate there would have been at least 80 people and children at the event. Many wanted to see the livestock and listen to the blues music of Paul Urbana Jones, as well as quiz us on the merits of our EVs.  This is a beautiful part of Southland but pretty remote so good range and 4WD were the elements that would be most required in an EV – nevertheless we had long conversations with many of the attendees!

The view from the unused (because Shire sheep don't require shearing) shearing shed



Day Twelve: 8 April 2019 Manapouri Power Station 

[by Greg Trounson]

Today started with a special treat – a trip to Manapouri power station. A crisp Fiordland morning greeted us as we boarded the 6:30 am Meridian worker shuttle boat at dawn for the 45-minute commute to the far side of Lake Manapouri and the power station complex.

We were observers during the daily briefing, while our host Brian Sinclair, Maintenance Co-ordinator, completed his start-of-day work commitments, followed by a look at the control centre. It’s a small room with computer monitors displaying figures for the station’s power output and related parameters. It is now largely unattended as full control of the power stations is operated out of Wellington. It was also a surprise to learn that the entire power station runs entirely unmanned over the weekends. The Wellington control room is still attended of course.

The underground Generating Hall

At the time of our visit, one generator turbine was down for maintenance – the remaining 6 were generating 680MW, of which 600MW was being delivered directly to Tiwai Point Aluminium smelter and the remainder to the national grid.

To put those numbers in another context – the energy this station alone produces in a day is enough to supply the daily charging needs of approximately 3 million electric cars! (based on EECA data for average vehicle usage)

The drive shaft of each one of the generators is spinning at 250 rpm

Following that we donned overalls and hardhats, received a safety briefing, and were driven deep into the bowels of the mountain to the generator hall itself, hollowed out of the Fiordland granite 200m below the bottom of Lake Manapouri. The air was filled with a constant loud hum from the generators, the water rushing through pipes from the lake above and the generators which step the voltage up to the 220,000V being delivered to the DC transmission lines.

We had been fascinated by the insulation model in the office above ground, so in a demonstration of how far technology has improved with regard to insulation, our host placed his hand directly on the outer surface of one of the three 220kV cables which deliver power to the grid with no ill effects.

Then a quick trip over Wilmot Pass to visit the twin Deep Cove tailraces in Doubtful Sound before returning to catch the tourist boat back to Manapouri township.

A big shout-out to Richard Moylan at Orion and Brian Sinclair at Meridian for making this possible—it was an eye-opener to realise the scale of energy generation that is needed to keep our country running


A glimpse of Deep Cove, Dusky Sound on our way over the hill in the staff bus (not electric, but Meridian do have two EVs on site)

There was no time to lose as we set off on a ‘determined’ journey through Lumsden, Gore, and Roxbourgh to Alexandra and Hawkdun Rise vineyard to hold our late afternoon event for the day.

Lake Manapouri in background


Day Twelve: 8 April 2019 Hawkdun Rise Vineyard, Letts Valley, Alexandra

[By Chelsea Sexton]

After serendipitously meeting John Grant on an Alexandra street corner during last year's Road Trip led to being the first to use his new chargers, we moved our whole Alexandra event to Hawkdun Rise this year.

We had a spectacular turnout at what remains one of the prettiest places I’ve ever done an EV event, followed by an amazing meal by the lovely Suzanne Lee Bali, and comfy beds for the trippers.

In addition to the electrons, our most fastidious team members were delighted to borrow a much needed water blaster, and our hosts were sweet enough to hoist an extra flag out front to welcome the rogue American. ☺️

We are well fed and fortified for the next leg of our journey, and grateful for all of the camaraderie and hospitality so far.





Day Thirteen: 9 April 2019 Mosgiel

We travelled via St Bathans for another photo op, and charged at Ranfurly enroute.

Then a successful afternoon at Mosgiel in the New World carpark adjacent to the rapid charger organised by our fabulous champion Pam McK.

The moment the first car arrived, people stopped to ask questions and a steady stream of people continued to join us. Many local EV owners turned up including one that was directed where to park until he finally told us that he really only wanted groceries. But others were there especially, including Robert C, who turned up in his Tesla all the way from Christchurch.



Day Fourteen: 10 April 2019 Dunedin

[by Kathryn Trounson]

The first event in Dunedin was a display set up in the Octagon, which always generates lots of interest as people walk through the centre of town.  Pam Mckinley, the local champion, has a great network of people to call on and there were many vehicles on show as well as the travelling three!

We had a Kia Niro electric, a Hyundai Ioniq from Dunedin City Council, 2 Smart electrics, several Leafs, an i-Miev, and an i-Miev flatbed truck. The local EV dealers – Autocourt and Gilmores – brought several cars and the Niro was brought along by the Kia dealer in town. Electric bikes were displayed by Dunedinelectricbikes and it was also demonstrated just how many bikes you can fit into a Leaf!

The EV Aquavan from the University Marine Dept with a display of crustaceans, that delighted and disgusted us in equal measure!  One of the hairy crabs (camouflage crab) looked particularly menacing!  

We discovered the pink stuff (coraline algae) and micro coccolithophores releases more oxygen for our earth's atmosphere than the rainforests, making it a critical resource to protect.

There was a steady stream of visitors, many of whom had family members who already own an EV, and so the questions were very much slanted to price versus range for their particular circumstances.  One of the yardsticks for range was whether the trip to Christchurch from Dunedin could be done without stopping, and what the hills into Palmerston would do to the car’s efficiency!  Overall we all commented on the maturity of the questions from the public – they had a base knowledge which they wanted us to top up!


The event was scheduled from 10am to 2 pm, but the rain started in earnest about 1pm and so we closed down early, but there would have been at least 300-400 people spoken to!

The second event was at Otago Museum and at 3pm it was still raining hard.  However we got the cars into position and despite the need for umbrellas there were more interested parties there asking questions.  Another 40-50 people were spoken to here. 

This event then ran seamlessly into the screening in the Hutton Theatre of ‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ at 5:30pm.  This free screening attracted 30 people and there was a Q&A session afterwards with our international traveller Chelsea Sexton who was the Consulting Producer of the film!  She has a wealth and depth of knowledge of EV transport, having worked in this space for over 25 years.

Chelsea holding a sculpture of an enlarged microscopic oxygen maker



Day Fifteen: 11 April Rest Day in Dunedin  

[By Rachelle]

Finally, a real rest day. While we had fun at Milford Sound on our last day off, it was still a long strenuous day with an early start. Today we managed to catch up on sleep, our laundry, emails, and all those other domestic things.

Being spoilt by the A-grade roads of Queensland Lakes, and the Canterbury Plains, and largely the roads of Otago district, we Aucklanders felt more at home in Dunedin with its terrible roads, heavy traffic and hills. Although the one-way streets certainly weren't welcome. Once the chores were done, we each went our own way sightseeing in and around the city. Our EVs ate up the hills effortlessly with Kathryn and Greg choosing to go out to the Zealandia Bird Sanctuary and Rachelle heading out on the slightly formidable road to Lanarch Castle, while the others had a more leisurely day exploring the town by foot.

The Old and the New

At the "Castle", I was approached by several EV enthusiasts and managed to give away some EV collateral and shared my EV experience. They had read about our trip in the Otago Daily Times. I was privileged to be able to park right in front of the great house.

I even managed to come across another dog statue. This one was quite impressive, standing guard over the harbour.

Dog Sculpture by Stephen Mulqueen

One of the most common questions we were asked while in Dunedin was "could EVs cope with Dunedin's hills?"  The answer is an obvious yes, but still, the challenge was set and Baldwin Street had to be claimed much to the delight of the walking tourists.

Baldwin Street was no match for an electric car

And another challenge was to get around on those Lime Scooters.

Chelsea watches Sean take off on a Lime Scooter

More on the Bird Sanctuary to come.



Day Sixteen: 12 April School Visits and Tekapo 

By Rachelle (who is getting very tired and occasionally not sure of where on earth she is - sorry Tekapo folks)

Today we travelled through north Otago splitting into two groups to visit two schools. The blue Tesla S and a car from Network Waitaki visited Fenwick School in Oamaru, while the Kona, i3, and Outlander went to Waitaki Valley School in Kurow.

Kathryn Trounson held the orderly rows of students' attention in three age group sessions, as she explained how all the clean electricity produced in the region could be used for cleaner transport. There were intelligent questions asked and answered, and giveaways for the children and teachers, including two Hot Wheels Tesla toys for the best questions.

We were delighted to look at the string of hydro dams and the picturesque scenery plus stop-offs at the Salmon Farms on route to Lake Tekapo (not Methven as I previously wrote - that's coming up today.)



Aviemore Dam forms part of eight clean energy power stations operated by Meridian Energy, taking water from the Southern Alps in a series of ever lower dams starting with Lake Tekapo before releasing the water below Lake Waitaki. Aviemore has 4 x 55 MW generating units and, at 7m wide, they are the largest in NZ.


17 tonne turbine used to drive the Waitaki Powerstation from 1941 delivering 17,000 kW (125 revs/minute). Made of Cast Steel.


In the burgeoning village/city of Tekapo we were mainly approached by the many tourists and our growing convoy was joined again by the white Tesla "camper" SPELEO.

And Tekapo is another NZ town that loves and respects their sheepdogs. This border collie is looking a tad forlorn, obviously waiting for a new forever home. 

Overnighting in Fairlie our motel was also accommodating a group of Model T Fords. We had a modest tea of cheese and salmon and wine, and an early night for all, especially those who were really tuckered out.

Leading The Charge, baby!

The nostalgia took hold until they tootled off and we remembered why Electric is the future we need. And as Pam (Otago Champion) says, "I bet nobody asks how fast they can go."


Day Seventeen: 13 April Geraldine, Methven and Christchurch Film Screening

[by Kathryn Trounson]

On a very sunny Saturday morning we set up shop on the village Green at Geraldine – a very small patch of grass as it turned out on which we could only just squeeze in three cars.  Nevertheless we also managed to commandeer a couple of street parks around the corner, from which some rides were organised.  Paul Deavoll from Orion, and his wife Helen, brought along a branded Orion Kona and in addition to the three travelling cars we were joined by Martin Kane in his X, David Reddecliffe in his Ioniq, Phil Round in his white Model S and Oana and Paul Jones in their Mitsubishi Outlander.  Councillor Kerry Stevens, himself an EV driver, gave a short welcome speech and Kathryn explained the purpose of the event – and off we went!

Posing for "Stuff" press shots in Geraldine

The response from the Geraldine public was overwhelming! Lots of people wanted to talk and look at the cars and we also had David’s cousin Tony, from Ashburton TV, making a video of the event for us – which is posted on Facebook.

The ioniq at the Geraldine Charger while Ashburton TV was filming us - take 2

We estimated at least 400 people stopped by, and again we sensed that there were many who were on the verge of moving to an EV. Many had family or friends who also drove one!

We concluded the event by eating lunch at Café Verde just up the road and then got back into the cars to head to Methven!

The EA charger at Methven was commissioned just last Thursday, two days before we arrived and like the other EA Chargers is currently in free-mode. We certainly made sure that whilst the event was happening, that charger was fully utilised! Thanks to Matt Harris and Shaneel from EA Networks for their hard work getting it in on time. This charger is adjacent to the i-site and the Blue Pub. 

Representatives from EA Networks, Orion and #LeadingTheCharge watch the charging progress of the KONA on the new Methven rapid charger.

The Christchurch EV Group are a well-oiled machine and the EECA gazebo was already erected by the time the trippers arrived, with flags and collateral displayed.  The sun continued to shine and we had a steady stream of interested parties. Drives were done as well as a few rides.

Thanks to the new rapid charger, we were able to offer Drives at Methven

At the end of the event as we were packing up, Lynda Topp and her partner Donna showed up in a Mahindra ute!  They run a Methven café, which we did not have time to visit. Lynda knew a fair amount about the collaboration between Mahindra and Italian Pininfarina!  She did express the view that a 600km range ute was the goal for any manufacturer!

[Continued by Rachelle Tilsley]

It's never easy to know how much time to allow, and how much interest there will be, in these smaller towns. We could easily have stayed in Methven considerably longer, but our tight timetable meant we needed to be into Christchurch for the screening of "Revenge of the Electric Car" where Chelsea was contracted to answer any questions at the fiilm's conclusion.


I did find time to discover "Rajah" the Wonder Dog around the corner from our event in Methven. Raja was a Methven policeman's dog who lived during the earlier part of the 20th century. This German Shepherd performed party tricks and also was able to "track and find" and was used in several serious police cases.  In many ways, he is likely to be NZ's first police dog - albeit an unofficial one.

We had all meant to go via Darfield, but again my i3's nav system sent me on a more direct route, a road that was so long and straight that I could have sat in the driver's seat reading a book, with the adaptive cruise control set. it was appropriately called Line Road, but when it turned onto Thompson's Track I did wonder where on earth I was again - certainly not a main highway, but a beautifully kept road nevertheless. 

Green fields while the rest of NZ is drought ridden, but at what cost? Effluent spraying predominates on the Canterbury Plains


And then, just like that, we left the beauty of the south and deep south behind and found ourselves back in the city, where beauty was still all around us, only in a different form. The street art is truly magnificient in places, and the stark war wounds are piercing reminders of this city's struggles during the past decade.

Christchurch's resilience is illustrated in the Cardboard Cathedral

It was my first visit to the unparalleled showroom of EV City. This truly is the holy grail of electric car addicts. From the early Lems electric, to their beloved x-ray cut away, and the charging wall, the EV meme t-shirt shop, and even an electric motor break-down, you could spend hours here examining everything, before you even consider purchasing a car and receiving the aftersales service that the EV City team are famous for.

Q&A Session with Chelsea Sexton who has 25 years' experience in the EV industry

The seats were full and the film began. The Road Trippers having watched it just two day's earlier took the chance to slip out for a quick curry around the corner, but were back in time for the Q&A, and meet-and-greet after.



Day Eighteen: 14 April Christchurch, Lyttelton, and Sumner

[by Rachelle]

At high noon on Sunday, a drive and display event kicked off at the EV City showroom in Sydenham.

A rare concession by me (Rachelle) to allow my photo to be taken. Here with David Boot of EV City.

The interior was full of LEAFs just waiting for someone to buy them (and a little bird tells me that several were sold the following day) and the forecourt was full of every other variety of electric vehicle, including a Range Rover PHEV!  Many of the Christchurch EV owners and volunteers had turned up to renew their acquaintance with the road trippers and we needed most of them on hand to answer questions from a large contingent of interested people!

The trippers were also joined here by Daniel Krivan and his wife Sara from GVI Wellington in a 40 kW Gold-LEAF and Lex McPhail and Fiona Forsythe in their metallic fiery orange wrapped Model X.

Many attendees took the opportunity to drive an EV for the first time – an EV City LEAF and a GVI LEAF were the cars used for drives.

Again the questions were deep and many were worried about the battery life, or the ethical dilemma posed by the use of rare ingredients – mainly cobalt.   We had to explain that cobalt is in fact not a rare metal nor a rare earth element, but is classified as a critical earth element or critical raw material. The difference being that the first is either low in quantity or commercial viability, and the latter is a resource that we humans have become dependent on and/or is dependent on the viability of other commercial activity, namely: nickel mining. Cobalt is only mined exclusively in Canada and Morocco, whereas it is a byproduct in the Congo where the vast majority is processed.

We were due to convoy across to Lyttleton at 2pm sharp, as we had Mark Tantrum photographing us for EECA and our advance party at Lyttelton waiting for us. But the pizzas hadn’t yet arrived and stomachs were grumbling! Finally, 10 large pizzas were delivered which were quickly dispatched by the horde of EV drivers while we had a final convoy briefing given by Richard Moylan of Orion.

Military precision was required - no not really, but it was a successful and well-planned convoy

With our cars lined up on the side street, we waited for 0FUMES to lead the charge towards the rendezvous point just prior to the Lyttelton tunnel. 

There were easily 30 cars in the convoy and we managed to regroup before the tunnel with just one Corolla getting in amongst us. But we felt that was just an omen – soon each ICE driver will be surrounded by 30 EVs!

Many of us were taken by surprise when the tunnel spoke to us, issuing safety instructions - some claiming that the voice came through their speakers in their cars - yet to be determined if it actually did. Mark was stationed at the entry to the tunnel for his video of us all passing. And we will share that when we have it

In the meantime, we also managed to get the following videos of our rendezvous point for regrouping, and of turning through the onramp to SH74.

Youtube: Convoy Rendezvous Point and Youtube: Convoy Drive-by

As said above, an advance party of Christchurch EV Owner Group volunteers had prepared the event site in Lyttleton, which was on a corner with good visibility (Albion Square), and essentially, beside an excellent espresso shop. The surrounding streets were very steep though and parking was limited! I took the time to check out the earthquake damage - such a pity to lose much of this historical shipping town.

Buildings that are propped up with girders and/or shipping containers are still seen everywhere a decade on, while bare empty lots beginning to regenerate with plantlife are a constant reminder in parts of inner and greater Christchurch of their ordeal.


We had some coned off spaces, but the turnout was so phenomenal that we seemed to overtake the whole suburb of Lyttelton.


One interesting outcome is a proposed crowd-sourced housing. For just $100 you can buy part of Colletts Corner (with returns - if any.) It's a social housing project with combined spaces for retail, wellness centre and co-working areas, with the purpose seeming to be to house low-income purchasers in relative comfort and some shared amenities, right on the main street on a bare site.

And Lyttelton had its own dog statue. I did say that every good town has one. This big boy, sculptured by Mark Whyte, commemorates the sled dogs that contributed to the exploration in the Antartica of which Lyttelton contributed - the jump off point for ships going to the Southern Ocean.

Some test drives and plenty of EV education was accomplished in Lyttelton without much of my help I'm sorry to say - as I was too busy looking at the town and sourcing coffee, my i3 being parked "miles" away.

I set off early to be the advance party for Sumner, where we parked in the forecourt of the Rock Café. There was considerable interest here too, although I think we as a group had done our dash for the day.




Day Nineteen: 15 April Orion

Another day, another dog. Well three actually.




These three gorgeous little guys are corgis, sculptured by David Marshall to commemorate QEII's 50th Jubilee.  They trail their leads behind them as they appear to waddle up the street, and undoubtedly the cutest is the one in the rear who seems fascinated with whatever is sticking out of the street.

Back to EVs. Today the road trippers called into the Orion offices in Burnside, to lend their EVs in a display for local fleet managers. Orion are certainly leading the charge in EV fleets, with a definite PHEVolution going on, not to mention a healthy dose of Kona. My little i3 looks a bit like Where's Wally in amongst them, while the Jones' Outlander looks right at home, although perhaps a little less formally dressed.


We enjoyed coffee and muffins, and after the event, while some of us dashed off to spread the charging load, the others took the opportunity to have a walk-through the Orion control room. It was certainly another fascinating industry tour but into a lines company this time, as opposed to Meridian at Manapouri who are generators. And, a valuable furthering of our education of the electricity industry.

At this point, we are saying goodby to road trippers Oana and Paul and Henry who are heading back to Dunedin. However, are have two new cars on the road trip and our numbers are now at 17 people in 8 cars.

After a gruelling trip up the coast - my i3 rolled into both Kaikoura and Blenheim emitting polluting emissions from its scooter generator - highlighting that low-mid range EVs do need charger support on either side of Kaikoura.  Tomorrow (16th) will bring the last Mainland event and is being held from 10:00 – 12 midday in Blenheim.



Day Twenty: 16 April Blenheim

Perhaps Blenheim will be remembered for its roundabouts and regularly chiming clock. But time was against us as the start/finish times were changed to allow us to get to the ferry without rushing. The two hours allowed for the event could easily have been twice that, such was the interest and numbers of people come to look.

The square was packed with display cars while the ioniq from Nelson and the GVI Gen-2 Gold-Leaf were on the street giving drives. Interestingly kids were dragging their parents across the street to look at the “e-cars” and there were plenty of curious adults as well.  Liza must have either chosen the perfect spot to hold the event or done a lot of prior advertising.

Many giveaways were taken and our expertise stretched with a variety of questions. Chelsea and Fiona had their ear bent for half an hour by one over-curious punter.

And then all too soon, it was time to pack up and head off to Picton. We said goodbye to David and family who were heading home to Nelson and with our enlarged contingent of eight vehicles, we boarded the ferry for an ever-so-slightly washing machine style crossing.

There were a few moments of excitement as a couple of cars moved during the crossing way too close to one of the Teslas. But otherwise the crossing was uneventful and our "modest" accommodation in Lower Hutt easy to reach within 20 minutes, even in rush hour, and hopefully easy to exit Wellington for tomorrow's full day of events and sightseeing in the Wairarapa.




Day Twenty-One: 17 April Masterton

We all left Wellington at differing times according to our charging needs. So, we didn't take on the Remutaka Crossing in a convoy. For my part, with nobody behind me, I used this huge zigzag downhill to try to find the i3's regen sweet spot. And in case you're wondering, I'm still haven't found it.

We regrouped at the Paua World in Carterton. I thought we were just coming here to shop for kitschy bits and bobs.

In fact, it was a hugely enjoyable visit, tour, and quite a decent turnout of interested people arrived to see our electric cars.

The business of organising where to position each car for a photo-op, is quite a complex process involving much moving of cars and "discussion".

The paua business itself is both a shop and a manufacturer of paua shell. They are huge users of electricity, $40-50,000 per year, so it made sense for them to cover their roof with solar panels. These, they say, they will pay off within five years. And it has prompted them to also install a small type 2 EV charger. They are currently charging for the use of this to pay for the charger.


Then we carried on to Masterton for the day's main event. Here, in the town square, we felt we were a little too far from the action, but nevertheless had a steady stream of people, including the mayor, councillors and interested local journalists from the adjacent gorgeous art-deco Wairarapa Times-Age building. We also had a visit from Batman, while Eddie the coffee man (himself a LEAF owner) was on hand with vital refreshments.  Of particular interest was a Jaguar I-PACE which joined us from Wellington and took pride of place.  And we can now confirm that there will be an I-PACE at the Auckland event.



After a lunch break, we all headed out to Gladstone Vineyard to taste their wines while enjoying the fireplace. They have had an unseasonably early year, with picking largely done already.

Pigs, ducks and chooks at Gladstone Winery framed by Donald's and Will's matching LEAFs

We are now numbering eight cars and about 17 people, and we say goodbye to Will Hunter and Daniel & Sara Kirven. But joining us is Donald Love, and Sarah Bell (and family) – both in LEAFs.



Day Twenty-Two: 18 April Palmerston North

Every event the Better NZ Trust has ever held in The Square in Palmerston North has been terrific. But today's event surpassed all the previous ones!  We were given great weather, there were lots of cars on view and many people stopped by, eager to talk to EV drivers and study the car line-up in detail.

Wellington Regional EV-Champion, Donald Love, shares his knowledge & enthusiasm with the public.

Sue Pugmire, the PN-champion, had organised the event superbly as usual, and not only sang beautifully for us, but also lined up speakers to give the event some clout.

[from left] Kathryn Trounson, Sue Pugmire, Iain Lees-Galloway, Grant Smith, and Rachel Keedwell (far right)

Mayor Grant Smith, JP welcomed the Better NZ Trust road trippers to Palmerston North.

“Palmerston North has a special interest in electric vehicles,” his worship the mayor explained. “They not only tick all the boxes in our environmental strategies, but they are also very cool.”

The mayor’s speech was followed by the MP for Palmerston North, Hon Iain Lees-Galloway. The minister mentioned the Government’s investment in electric vehicles via the EECA Contestable Fund, where $11m has recently been put up to support people to purchase electric vehicles. The minister also spoke of the current Government’s promise to have an electric fleet by 2025, wherever practical.

“The Prime Minister is constantly on our case (members of parliament), as individuals, to purchase EVs when we upgrade our private vehicles. The progress of EV adoption in NZ is steady and sustainable. We’ve seen a lot of progress and I thank the Better NZ Trust for keeping EV on our radar.”

Next to speak was Rachel Keedwell, Councillor of Horizons Regional Council.

“Horizons has purchased its first fleet EV and looking at replacing the remainder of our fleet as and when needed. One of our initiatives that has come to fruition is the first electric bus in Palmerston North will be on the road by the end of the year, thanks to the EECA fund, and the submissions that locals have put it which has prompted the change. We have also requested all future public transport tenders to give us options on EV.”

Professor Robert McLachlan of Massey University reported that more needs to be done to combat NZ’s currently losing battle against transport emissions.

"2017 saw an increase of 800,000 tonnes of GHG pollution in transport (compared to 1990) and yet internationally 2018 was the year that electric vehicles truly began taking off. The University has a carbon management plan in place which includes looking at not only the staff fleet but also student transport and University air transport requirements.”

Finally Chair of Better NZ Trust, Kathryn Trounson, officially opened the event at The Square.

“This is one of our favourite destinations because here there is so much space to show the vehicles to their best advantage and to show what is possible and what is now available in NZ. The Better NZ Trust is part-funded by the EECA Education Fund,” she says. “The main purpose of this event is to encourage people to include an EV in their personal fleet. An example of how much we’ve grown is the fact that this year we have give-away bags full of information available. These have been sponsored by Repco, and while this may not immediately seem like a perfect fit, in fact you may notice that all Electric Vehicles have wheels. They all have windscreen wipers. Yes, they even all need cleaning.”

We were privileged again to have Brian come along with his new pride and joy, his Jaguar I-PACE, which garnered lots of interest and was by far the most popular vehicle that people wanted to look at and ride in! Brian did 61 rides and really enjoyed showing his new car off – he acquired instant champion status for this amazing endeavour! 

The Photon Red I-PACE

The Tesla Model X’s on view were the next most studied vehicles – Martin’s because he did the ‘dance’ every hour to everyone’s delight, and Lex’s bright orange X because he was doing rides in it!  Lex clocked up 27 rides, with several of the most informed riders being children!  Doing events in school holidays has many up sides!

A crowd gathers to watch the Model X "dance"

The Hyundai Kona was a new car that many had not seen, and Grant Smith spent quite some time grilling Greg as to its credentials.

We even had an electric rubbish truck, as well as 24kW and 40kW Leafs, 2 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs, a BMW i3, 2 Tesla Model S and a Prius PHEV.  There was something for everybody.  One lady arrived in her Leaf which she had had for exactly a week! Despite there being several cars that the public could drive there were only 6 people who actually sat behind the steering wheel and felt the torque of an electric motor.

The goody bags were a great hit and we must have given away over 200.  That means that well over 400 people attended the event!

Sue Pugmire told the trippers over dinner tonight that she was contacted by three people following last Year’s RoadTrip event who had gone and bought an EV as a result of talking to owners!



Day Twenty-Three: 19 April Napier

The trip from Palmerston North to Napier over the Saddle Road took us way above the fog and a stop-off at the Te Apiti Wind Farm seemed almost compulsory in these idyllic conditions. 

From Te Apiti Wind Farm looking out over the morning fog


Giving a sense of scale of the size of these giants.

It was definitely a two-dog day in the twin city region of Napier and Hastings.  First, whilst charging in Hastings, I walked over to this fab little guy "Tiddles" hanging with his dad: William Nelson. W Nelson is commonly known as the "Father of Hawke's Bay" for the contribution he made to the economics of the area, particularly with the AFFCO freezing works.

And then in Napier - the slightly more well-known statue "A Wave in Time." In fact, the dog "Raven" was added as an artistic measure and is modelled on the sculptor's own dog. There is a second statue of a little boy clinging to a light pole waving back to her.

Tiddles was commonly seen out walking with William Nelson in his latter years.


“A Wave in Time” bronze sculpture by Mark Whyte (2010). The woman is modelled on Sheila Williams, the daughter of a prominent Napier architect. Sheila organised and led the 1933 Earthquake Recovery Parade. 


Our event in Napier, organised by Nigel and Ela from Unison, was situated in the suburb of Greenmeadows at Andersons Park, where we hoped to attract passing traffic visiting the Easter Extravaganza "Gypsy" Fair.

The EVs were lined up at the entrance to the event and so were highly conspicuous – with flags and gazebos offering great visibility too!  As the sun beat down we were all glad of the shade afforded by the two gazebos.

There were at least 12 cars on display and 2 cars (a 40kWh LEAF and a Renault Zoe) brought by Steve from Drive EV for the public to drive.


Ravensdown brought a branded Kona and Environment Centre, Hawkes Bay brought their Nissan e-NV200.  The trippers were now up to seven cars and two locals brought their Model X’s to add to the mix, as well as Unison’s cars – an Outlander and a Leaf! So a great spectacle to behold.

A sparkling orange wrap on another beautiful Tesla Model X owned by local EV Owners

The event ran from noon to 4 pm and we were busy the whole time, as people wandered around the Fair, gigantic playground, and walked past our display! At least 500 people were engaged by the trippers and other volunteers.  We even had a policeman test drive the 40 kWh blue-LEAF!


The day was rounded off by an amazing BBQ meal provided by Unison and hosted by Nigel and Sue Purdy at their beautiful home.  This was wonderful R&R for everyone, and some of us even got to stay over at the Purdys and sample breakfast as well!

Another owner graciously allowed people to climb in and out of their Tesla Model X  



Day Twenty-Four: 20 April Gisborne   

Today was not a good day for cruise control. But most of us were in cruise "mode" so we took it easy on the twisty road from Napier to Gisborne. While perhaps not having quite the grandeur of the scenic south, it was certainly beautiful all the same.

Except for this.

Whirinaki 155 MW Diesel Power Station

The Whirinaki plant is a 155MW, diesel fired peaker plant located at Whirinaki in Hawkes Bay. Approximately four million litres of diesel can be stored on site at Whirinaki, enabling the plant to operate at full capacity for 92 hours. The plant consists of three fast-start units and can reach generating capacity from a cold start in between 20-30 minutes. Thank goodness it only runs during high demand.  Ughh!

Ah! This is better.

Lake Tutira
Charging Queue at Wairoa (the long-rangers were just there for the photo)

Picnic lunch with BBQ leftovers at Wharerata Lookout

We all arrived in Gisborne well ahead of our 2 pm pop-up EVent start time. My slightly odd dog-theme is beginning to get followers, so I now have people giving me heads-up about dogs in their towns. Therefore, having heard there was a very special dog in this town, I dashed off to find him.


Then right outside Electric Village we set up our pop-up event and waited to see if anybody would arrive. And fortunately, we had a steady stream of folk wanting rides and information.

Including this guy.

The personalised plate was I AM I8.  I was stoked to be offered a drive and didn't hesitate to take it for a spin - in sport mode.

BMW i8 with Blue seat belts - note the doggy in the back



Day Twenty-Five: Easter Sunday Tauranga 

Easter Sunday started early with the Easter Bunny visiting each of our EVs in the night and depositing a little chocolate surprise.  I think I know who you are Easter Bunny, but your identity shall remain secret.

The Waioeka Gorge road was a visual symphony. Photos cannot do it justice. But I took some snapshots all the same. I also stopped to walk down to the Tauranga Bridge, as did some of the other road trippers, when they passed through. This road trip is not all about getting from charger to charger and holding EVents - there's plenty of opportunities to check out our beautiful country and our history as well.

Leaving Wairoa through the Waioeka Gorge, the regen in my i3 was so good that after 45km I’d only used 5km of battery. I believe I've finally worked out the best regen plan for my particular car, and it's a matter of experimenting with your own vehicle to find what works best for you.


Opotiki Beach

Our event in Bayfair Mall turned out to be very fortunately undercover, as the weather turned to rain after a gorgeous morning.

The road trippers shared stories and pizza in one of the motel rooms in Tauranga on the last evening together before the Auckland stopover.

There's also a cacophony of very famous dogs in an art installation on the Strand in Tauranga, but they'll have to wait until tomorrow. There was a jazz festival on the Strand tonight, and heavy rain, and I just couldn't get near it.



Day Twenty-Six: Easter Monday Raglan

In my i3, I left Tauranga with only 89% battery, partly because my AC charge at Bayfair must have been stopped early. Possibly with so many people interested in charging at the Tauranga event, someone pressed the stop button. And I wasn’t able to charge at my motel that evening as hoped. So there was much debate over whether the Kaimai Ranges were harder on the battery going east or west, and whether my i3 could go the distance to Cambridge in one go.

And then before leaving Tauranga I used more power because I simply had to find the Hairy Maclary dog statues. Afterall, they were touted to be the best in NZ.


And I wasn’t disappointed when I finally found them this morning. As previously mentioned, the Jazz Festival on the Strand in Tauranga meant I couldn’t get near them the previous night.


Lynley Dobb's Hairy Maclary books were my all time favourite stories for reading aloud to my children. And as I walked amongst them I was surprised after all these years to remember all the names. Every character was depicted, with poor old Schnitzel von Krumm with the very low tum unable to climb up to join the party. While Hercules Morse who is as big as a horse, wasn’t interested in chasing the hissing Scarface Claw. Slinky Malinky, criminal cat, and even Zachery Quack was there whispering something into an ear. These intricate characters were recreated in bronze by Brigitte Wuest.

So going east to west, my final analysis was that was easier than going the other way. When I reached the detour to Matamata I still had 29 km left. If I’d babied the car more I reckon I could have easily made it to Cambridge – perhaps I do need to do something to reduce the weight in my right foot.  But I simply had to pass all the trucks and buses that were splashing road pollution over my beautiful baby in the rain.


The view coming into Raglan was gorgeous, but I missed stopping and instead took this on the way out. Still beautiful but less misty.

The trip into Cambridge involved torrential rain pour with surface water creating near whiteout conditions, and I was dismayed to note that perhaps one in ten cars were driving without headlights on.  I also had pause for thought about the often quoted advantage of electric vehicles not using their friction brakes much. There is some merit in using the brakes more often, if for no other reason than to keep the brake discs corrosion free. When the brake pads are exerted fully, they clean the discs. And because EVs don't use the brakes much, driving in surface water can be hazardous if drivers do not remember to pump the brakes often to keep water out of the brake lines.

Wairēinga/Bridal Veil Falls

Arriving at Raglan ahead of the convoy from Hamilton, I found it bucketing down and thought we had a miserable afternoon ahead of us. But the rain cleared and the hardy folk at Raglan didn't seem to care, coming out in droves to look at the vehicles. There were several people who had come specifically to look at EV without sales pressure, on the verge of purchasing. We also had a strong contingent of locals bringing their vehicles.

And then it was time to pack up and head for Auckland. Some of us getting caught in terrible traffic along the Waikato Expressway - others having the foresight to take the back roads through to Ngaruawahia. And we are saying goodbye to Nikita who has been a passenger in the Outlander.

The 23rd April will be a rest day for the Road Trippers in Auckland. A day to catch up on laundry, and to reconnect with friends and family. The next diary entry will be for the Auckland event on the 24th April.



Day Twenty-Seven: 23 April Rest Day

We all had a day off.


Day Twenty-Eight: 24 April Auckland Smales Farm   

The Auckland Event at Smales Farm was busy from beginning to end. Event Sponsor Ecotricity brought along their Kona for the day, and the Britz eVolve Camper joined the road trippers.

As well as the half dozen road trippers cars, we had five-plus drive cars and these were kept on the road the whole time.

The clear favourite was the Jaguar I-PACE with sign-ups coming in fast and furious. Archibald and Shorter were happy to have people drive their beautiful car. The EV Grins as drivers emerged from that vehicle said it all!

In the affordable range, the new 40 kWh LEAF from Drive EV was out on non-stop drives, and Auckland City Electric Vehicles (ACEV) brought along three cars including a Gen 1 LEAF - also in hot demand. As usual, our generous volunteers offered rides in their vehicles for those that wanted to try an electric vehicle but weren't keen to drive.

Two of our road trippers had “loaner” Tesla’s with them taking the opportunity to use their time in Auckland to have their personal vehicles serviced at the K-Rd Service Centre. 

Mr and Mrs T also dropped by to say ‘hello’ as they also had a stop in Auckland before the Tesla Supercharger rally begins tomorrow.

We ran out of giveaway bags (but had squirreled away some for Whangarei), but still had plenty of brochures and Repco vouchers to hand out, and we also debuted EECA’s new Buyers Guide written in "Simple Chinese" dialect.

There were some seriously interested people who had lots of questions for the volunteers. We had expected a lot of workers from the surrounding office towers, but in fact, there seemed to be many families who had come along, having already decided their next car would be an EV – but wanting to view which would suit them best.

The pace of people looking and talking to us never waned and who enjoyed their chats with us, while soothing music was provided by Mal McCallum in the background!

It was after this event, that we are saying goodbye to Martin and Hannah in the big red Tesla Model X, who have been on the road trip since Geraldine on day 17, and who have contributed so enormously to the success of the trip!  But we are welcoming Mark in his beautiful grey Hyundai Kona, and Tabitha in the red 24kWh LEAF, and Tom driving the eVolve Camper. And so, our numbers are starting to grow again.



Day Twenty-Nine:  ANZAC Day Dargaville and Whangarei   

Dargaville was like a ghost town for those of us that arrived early. The Britz eVolve Camper and its occupants had stayed in the area overnight. The BP and a bakehouse were open, and there was no ANZAC Day parade.

But by midday, a few more people could be seen out and about, a few more cars.

At twenty to one, we all assembled beside the mighty Wairoa River and drove in a solemn convoy in a loop around to and through the main street. We were 10 vehicles (having left one behind to "guard the gazebo and carparks"), and as people were beginning to emerge into town, we did not go unnoticed.

Lined up in The Warehouse car park, people began to make a beeline for us, and despite, organiser Margaret not knowing whether we'd get any interest at all on an ANZAC Day, we did get enough to make it worthwhile. We were joined by locals in Konas and ioniqs, and it was certainly refreshing to have an ioniq join us again (last time was in Blenheim). Meanwhile the orange Tesla Model X has been serviced and is back on the road.

We were beginning to get a crowd when all too soon it was time to pack up and head to the day's main event in Whangarei on the Canopy Bridge.

Road Trippers Helen and Margaret testing out the 40 kWh blue LEAF courtesy of Drive EV

It's quite a lovely road to drive between Dargaville and Whangarei and only takes an hour if you're driving sedately. Meanwhile most of us arrived within 45 minutes, with a few stopping to wash cars, etc.

Again, organiser Olli and his Northpower colleagues weren't sure what to expect on an ANZAC Day afternoon. Much of Whangarei remained closed for the day.  But effective advertising in the town's what's-on pamphlet brought out a steady stream of people, many of them seriously waivering on a purchase or armed with intelligent questions. Rachelle feeling like the sole drive she offered would definitely end in an i3 purchase for that person fairly soon.

We ended with another curry dinner, in the town centre where options were few. And said goodbye to the ioniq and one of the grey KONAs.



Day Thirty: Kerikeri

There is a sense amongst us that we are nearly done, and the past month's travelling has worn us out. Fortunately, it's an easy drive from Whangarei to Kerikeri with charging options aplenty. So we each did side tours according to our own schedules. Some of us visited their marae for the first time ever, others went on a heritage trail of a different kind, looking for ancestors.

local signatories Treaty of Waitangi


Tauwhara Marae

A few visited Paihia or called in to see friends. 

We all agreed that driver-ability in Kawakawa (famous for its mosaics) and Kerikeri was poor, and impatient compared to other parts of the country. But it doesn't help when the train suddenly appears beside you, and the car in front refuses to move over until the train driver stops beside him and talks him through moving his vehicle enough for me to get off the tracks.

Train tracks run down the centre of the main street in Kawakawa

In 1904 Kawakawa’s main street had three of these lamps and was the originator of them in the north. The acetylene gas was housed in the base and lit by the gas lighter.  This is a replica.

We all joined together again in Kerikeri for a small event at the Retirement Home. Here, we mostly attracted other EV owners who had come to say hello or to get advice about their EVs.  We said goodbye to one of the grey KONAs.

Afterwards, we met up for pre-dinner drinks and then, thanks to our sober drivers Lex and Greg, headed into town for an excellent meal with live music at Diablos Mexican Hut.



Day Thirty-One: Kerikeri and Cape Reinga

After the very low-key event at the Kerikeri Retirement Home, we decided to pull a last minute final gig at the Kerikeri Packhouse Markets. We were unadvertised, but thought it was worth a go.

And the moment the market opened, the crowds poured in. We were kept constantly busy with the eVolve camper particularly so. With the big drive to the tip in the back of our minds, we had planned to only stay an hour and a half. But the enormous popularity of the cars kept us there well past that time. We managed to give away our remaining #LeadingTheCharge resuseable bags, filled to the brim with goodies, such as EV Talk magazines, Repco vouchers, EECA brochures or USB, and stickers.


The bubble man entertained us before the market opened. Here we said goodbye to Chelsea Sexton who has a flight back, and to Sean Dick in the Tesla Model S. We are also saying goodbye to the Britz eVolve camper and to our 24kWh LEAF.

The rest of us are heading to the tip of the country - just because, why not?  With trips to Milford Sound and across the charging desert, we've certainly proven that modern EVs can go virtually anywhere; but they can’t drive beyond Cape Reinga.


So once we reach the tip, we’ll all be heading back to Waitiki Landing campground for a final celebratory dinner before heading for home the following day. Some of us driving all the way to Southland and Christchurch. Others, just too Auckland.

The fiery red model X, with it's gull wings always fluttering on high, was certainly a crowd pleaser wherever she went.




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