Road Trip 2017

The Better NZ Trust Toe to Tip Road Trip 2017

By Kathryn Trounson – a personal blog

The 2017 Road Trip started in Invercargill on Wednesday 19th April, with a full complement of cars and drivers, plus Natalie and Mikkel, the film crew Dee met in Norway and invited down to NZ for this trip.


The cars and personnel were :-

Steve Withers and daughter Summer in a UK imported 30Kw battery Leaf

Donald Love in a 22Kwh battery Leaf

Margaret Baker driving Dee’s BMW i3 – with the 30 Kwh battery

A BMW supplied i3 with full LTC livery – also 30 Kwh battery

2 Hyundai Ioniqs – supplied by Hyundai and driven by various staff – starting with James Williams

Audi E-Tron – PHEV driven mostly by Tiffany Chittenden, although Stuart did a couple of legs

5 privately owned Tesla Model S – driven by Greg and Kathryn, Sean Dick and Billie, Steve West, Carl Barlev and family and Darryl Naidoo

Mitsubishi PHEV Outlander – this vehicle didn’t make Invercargill and was picked up in Christchurch, which meant that Martin Kane and his daughter Sophie travelled in other cars until the car was finally corralled into the fleet

Renault Zoe of Mark Nixon and Megan Reynolds

All cars, except the Outlander, arrived in Invercargill late afternoon of the 18th April, and all the crews checked into the first Quest apartments that we used during our trip. That evening we were all introduced to Nathalie and Mikkel, the film crew who wanted footage of the Road trip as part of one of their documentary on Resilient transport.

The grand opening event at Bluff at 8am was dampish, although the rain did stop for our photographs. The film crew had a drone in the air to capture all attendees and cars, and I was interviewed for the local radio station!


A very damp Bluff on 19th April 2017


Once the photographs were finished, the group then hightailed it to the Powernet's offices in Invercargill, where the rain tried to dampen enthusiasm yet again, but failed, as the morning tea offerings were undercover and so chatting could continue!  Some brave souls ventured into the carpark to study the cars close up, and also to be taken for rides.


PowerNet's offices in Invercargill - still damp!


At the completion of this event the EV fleet split into two arms, to cover both coasts of the South Island. The smaller range cars were tasked with the east coast, where there are more opportunities to charge, whilst a smaller number chose the ruggedness of the west coast, driving the longer range Teslas. Donald in his Leaf had plotted his own track using camping grounds for charging and so joined the western fleet!

From Invercargill it was a wet trip north to Queenstown. Our booked accommodation turned out to be more than dodgy, so alternatives were finally sourced as the sun dropped below the horizon. A boutique pizza parlor was our evening feeding station!


Loading bay event on lakefront in Queenstown


The local champion Michael Sly had arranged to get the 4 Tesla and the Leaf parked in the loading zone of Beach St, right on the lakeside, where there was good foot traffic of both locals and visitors!  However some delivery men were less than enthusiastic at their loading area being reduced!  Nevertheless there was good engagement with the local population, despite us being unable to give rides, as the traffic in Queenstown is now way beyond a joke!

Michael then took us to see his solar passive house he has built out on Speargrass Rd, which is halfway between Queenstown and Arrowtown. Triple glazed and built of imported panels that came pre-cut in a container shipped from Scandinavia, the house uses about $100 of electricity per month, including charging an electric vehicle. We were all very impressed with both the house and its complete IKEA fit-out!

The drive over the Crown Range to Wanaka is fabulous and the autumnal colours were coming through in the sunshine. Our accommodation in Wanaka was courtesy of Brian and Julie Cadzow who generously let us use their house there. Confusion reigned initially as 2 different champions had organised events for us in Wanaka – one at the old Fire Station – which was adjacent to where a fast charger is to be located -  and one down on the waterfront where Morgan had organised a drone to document the EV sign spelt out in cars! However the team covered both locations with people and cars and engaged random passers-by to fill out the spelling of WANAKA in bodies!

Leaving Wanaka mid morning the next day, the drive through to Haast was stunning. Blue skies all the way, with autumnal colours shining at every turn. As a leg stretch the drivers and passengers walked down to the Blue Pools over a swing bridge. The pool, which is in the river was unbelievably clear, and very blue, as the name suggests!


We arrived at the township of Franz Joseph in the light and met up with Donald who had booked himself into the same accommodation, where we happily hung charging cords out of our windows. We were lucky to see the glacier in the morning in great conditions, as we walked the gentle path to get a great view with stony river terraces in the foreground. Greg had brought the image of the glacier taken from the same spot in 1991, and the retreat of the glacier was all too obvious.

The glorious weather continued as we drove up the coast to Greymouth and booked into the Coleraine Motel where Greg and I had stayed in January when on holiday with my nephew and family!  Here we were re-united with the east coast crew who had travelled from Invercargill via Gore, Balclutha, Timaru and Christchurch! A fairly rowdy evening meal was taken at the Buccleugh restaurant, again just across the road from our Motel!

I had an early morning interview on Radio Hits West Coast with Izzy, as a prelude to the two events we had booked for that day. Izzy was kind enough to do several more event reminders during the rest of his show.

The Greymouth event was held at the Recreation Centre, just across the road from our Motel, at noon. Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn was taken for a ride by Greg in the Tesla and arrived back at the venue grinning from ear to ear!. He was both charmed with the car and charming, and knew something of Tesla as his son in the US evidently holds some Tesla shares.

Greg also took Rob Caldwell, the CEO of Westpower Ltd for a spin.

After one of his test rides Darryl got a stone in one of his Tesla wheels and the noise it made was horrific. However an attendee at the event, who lived across the road offered his driveway and tools in order to rectify the situation.  Now a 2200kg car needs a very careful jack position to free the wheel and find the offending stone. Luckily it was a 20 minute operation, as we all needed to relocate up the coast to Westport for a 5pm event. 

We only just made Westport for the next event – a sausage sizzle at EPIC – which is a technology hub! An old Postie Plus shop has been transformed into a co-operative commercial space for technology start-up companies. It was fascinating to see all the companies in the space, and was run by Emma, the daughter of our motel host. Exterior lighting was provided by Emma's policeman husband!  Rides were given, despite the fading light, but no speed limits were broken! This event had only happened because our motel host mentioned hosting a number of EVs to her daughter and Emma had determined that a Westport event was required.


Line-up at EPIC in Westport

With a little time up our sleeve Donald had suggested that we should visit the Denniston Plateau on Anzac morning.  Driving up the coast from Westport we passed through a small settlement called Waimangaroa just as the Anzac service had finished and the attendees were walking to the volunteer fire station for tea and Anzac biscuits. We noticed Donald’s Leaf parked and stopped to investigate! We were warmly invited to join the throng for refreshment, as the firefighters loaded excited kids into the fire engine for a quick circuit!  Not to be outdone Greg did rides for 5 people and many others took photos of the Leaf and two Teslas.


We did finally get to the Denniston Plateau where coal mining was undertaken in the most treacherous of conditions. The mechanism whereby coal wagons were sent down the ‘Incline’ to the coast was both amazing and terrifying.  We were in the mist for some time, but mainly clear skies gave us breath-taking views of the plain and the coastline.

Then the cars set off to Nelson and another Quest apartment complex.  Local champion Ben Brownie (an EV car dealer) had organised a static display of cars on the 1903 Square, which is just at the bottom of the cathedral steps. A coffee cart is always on that corner for locals, and Ben kindly picked up the coffee tab for us.  Three Tesla, an Ioniq and a Leaf parked out on the street, so as to be able to give rides for interested parties.


The small cars then left for Blenheim leaving the longer range cars to have a second night in Nelson - all apartments had washers and dryers so everyone took the opportunity to wash some clothes! Next morning, we left Nelson for Blenheim, which is a very twisty road full of heavy lorries, and just managed to get there for the start!  Lisa Herkt’s brother was our local champion on this occasion as Lisa was away on holiday!  Lots of genuine interest in Blenheim, and we were sad to drive away promptly to get to the ferry queue in time for our 2:15 sailing.

The crossing was smooth and uneventful and in glorious conditions. Some cars went up to the Porirua night market but Mark Nixon and us went to support Sigurd at a Lower Hutt open meeting hosted by MP Chris Bishop on transport issues. As it was dark, only a few people stopped to look at the EV line up, so although we stopped a while, we finally decided to drive to hotel for a late supper!!

The CQ hotel is the go-to place to stay in Wellington if you have an EV, as their carpark is well supplied with charger ports, and we were welcomed generously as we had stayed here last year on the trip. On Friday lunch time we were stationed on campus at the Kelburn Rd site of Victoria University.  Although it was not term time, there were still many people on site and much interest. Carl and his Tesla stayed parked outside and did drives for those that wanted a Tesla thrill.

Then the entire fleet had a very important appointment at Parliament.  Motor Trade VIPs were gathered at Parliament as a prelude to the MTA 100 event that kicked off Friday evening.  The Trust fleet was tasked with driving the VIPs in convoy from the steps of Parliament to the TSB arena where the MTA event was held.  Local EV owners were also brought in, so a fleet of 21 EVs was escorted from Parliament with roads temporarily closed and traffic lights ignored!


Once the passengers were disembarked all the EVs were displayed under the canopy in front of the TSB Arena. We were all then treated to champagne and canapes as the formal opening of the MTA event took place.  We were then all able to preview the exhibition before it opened to the public on Saturday.

We knew we were in for a couple of intensive days in Wellington and we were not disappointed.  8 cars were stationed outside the Arena so that short test rides could be achieved – along Aotea Quay to the Toll trucking area, just beyond the Westpac Stadium, and back. A booking pavilion staffed by Meridian employees and Sigurd Magnusson and Megan Reynolds from LTC organised the orderly queue into the cars efficiently on both days.  The final total was 860 people given a ride in an EV, and by the grins on their faces most were blown away with their experience.  We hope the EV tally rises significantly after this effort!  Inside the Better NZ Trust had the red Tesla LOLGAS on a static display, and those of us working that stand were engaged all the time answering questions from the general public.  It was fantastic to hear how many people were contemplating taking the EV plunge.


The line-up of cars giving rides at MTA100

After 4 nights at the CQ hotel we all checked out and headed for Palmerston North.  On this leg we had some journalists with us, and Greg and I had John McCrystal from AA in our back seat.  He organised a stop at the beachfront road in Paekakariki for a photographer to take shots of us and our Tesla.  The weather was not great, but the rain did finally stop long enough for Kapiti Island to be spotted in the background of the shots.  That kind of photography is never quick, and we only just slid into Palmerston North for the noon commencement of the event.

Our local champion Sue Pugmire is a tireless advocate for EVs in public life and she had assembled several dignitaries at the event, many of whom welcomed the Road Trip in their brief speeches.  The mayor, Grant Smith, made time in his busy schedule to drop by, and remembered his Tesla ride of last year!  Many locals had brought their EV cars along as well to make the display even better.  Although the event is based in the square in the middle of town, there were many rides given by all the fleet.


For the second time, the fleet split into two to cover both the east and west coasts of the North Island.  Greg and I were in the east coast cohort, and so left Palmerston North on Tuesday 2nd May heading for Waipukerau.  As a result of the Manawatu Gorge road being closed yet again with a large slip, we chose the Paihiatua Track road, south of the river.  All the events in the Hawkes Bay were hosted by Unison and it was a pleasure to have time to get to know Nigel Purdy and his staff we met.  It was only a brief stop in Waipukerau before pushing onto Hastings.  We had pride of place in a pedestrianised area between the rail line and the shopping precinct, so lots of passing traffic to engage. The furniture designer David Trubridge joined us in his i3, and explained how he transported his long surf board on the roof of the car with the aid of bungy cords!


Kiwirail gets in on the act at the Hasting EV event

And so to Napier, and the day’s final event was held adjacent to the Unison charger in a small carpark.  This position did make giving rides easy and several locals took up the offer.  The whole team plus the Unison staff then had a very delicious meal together in a local hostelry, walking distance from our motel.  Natalie and Mikkel were wanting drone footage of cars in front of a Napier sunrise so some hardy souls were out of bed very early to sit on the foreshore in our cars whilst 20 minutes of time lapse photography was captured!

Then we set out on the Napier Taupo highway, which has some fantastic scenery when the weather is good, but at 140 kms or so in length, and rising steeply all the way from sea level in Napier to 350m in Taupo it presents a challenge to the smaller range cars.  Unison are presently looking at charger sites along State Highway 5 to remedy that situation, but getting power to remote areas like this road is not an easy, or cheap job.

The final Unison event was near the new charger in Taupo, and in exactly the same place as last year!  Megan outdid herself in her Zoe, getting as many people as possible to drive it, with her sitting in the back seat advising!  She really missed her calling as a car salesperson!  In keeping with the same old, same old strategy we stayed at the same motel where the owners are happy for us to slow charge on their exterior 10 amp plugs.

Taupo to Rotorua on Thursday was an easy drive, and Greg and I were given the opportunity of taking one of the Hyundai Ioniqs to Rotorua, where the next Hyundai staff member was waiting. We found the car to be very comfortable, and it certainly performed well in the sports mode, where the acceleration is instant.  Around town it is more likely to be driven in the Eco mode to get greater range. 

The Rotorua event was a display in the Unison sponsored night market, which started at 5pm.  Greg and I took our Tesla, and Steve Withers his Leaf down to the coast at Whatakane to show them off to members of the Golf Club there.  Only a couple of golfers took the opportunity of a ride, but one businessman who owned rental car businesses could see value in adding Leafs to his fleet! Steve Withers also got the opportunity of cutting his grass at his property in Opotiki!


Friday saw the east coast fleet at Bayfair Shopping centre in Tauranga, again centred on the chargers that have been there now for over a year!  This shopping complex takes sustainability very seriously indeed and have many initiatives operating in this space.  Many rides were given and management thoughtfully provided all the team members with vouchers to buy lunch in the foodcourt.  We appreciated the gesture immensely!

Saturday morning found the east coast crew driving north to Thames, where John Leenman and his wife had organised the event in the Goldfields Shopping centre.  There was an adjacent event happening to celebrate the opening of a skate park so our event got free music, and some spill over of attendees!  Many rides were given here, but the drawcard was definitely Dee West appearing in their new Model X.  The falcon wing back doors were much admired!  Greg gave his last ride to a gentleman who looked pretty unprepossessing, but who told Greg after the ride that he would be buying a Model S instead of the Ferrari he had thought he wanted! Appearances can be deceiving!

From Thames all the Auckland based people ran for home, their own bed and washing facilities! We hosted Sigurd in the Kia Soul.

The Auckland events were at Ardmore and at the AUT Akoranga Drive campus.

A late call had gone out asking all EV owners to bring their cars to Ardmore to try and outdo Christchurch’s 100 cars in a single location.  They came from far and wide, but in the end only 93 were counted.  However that was just the warm up to the main events of the Ardmore day.  Three Tesla Model S did continuous rides outside the airfield, whilst a driving track was set up on the airfield itself and the public were encouraged to drive the EVs on offer, around this loop. Many did, and were blown away by the handling of all the EVs. 

The pinnacle of the day was a drag race between a Tesla Model S P110D and a McLaren sports car, and this race was timed to coincide with Minister Judith Collins arrival.  It turns out that Minister Collins loves fast cars, and had only recently returned from a visit to the Tesla factory in Freemont, Ca.  She had actually seen the robotic production line!  She happily performed the flag drop for the drag race, which was repeated  4 times to see if the McLaren could finally get the better of the Tesla but that was not to be! Minister Collins actually sat in the passenger seat of the Tesla for the final run, and described it as ‘fantastic’!!

I had to depart the convoy when they left Auckland. Our Tesla carried on with Greg going solo to finished the trip at the cape. Sean finishes the story from here.


After a few days washing cars and clothes in our Auckland homes we travelled North and regrouped at the Canopy bridge in Whangarei. Northland likely has the most EV’s per capita in the entire country and as usual there was a great turn out. Many rides were given and Carl even sold a car on the spot. Literally someone he gave a ride to wanted help signing on to the Tesla site and completing the order.

We toddled up to Paihia for an evening meet up on the Green. Again, there was a large local turn out including two Tesla that arrived from the UK within the previous week. Their owner had already installed Tesla wall chargers outside his business and allows the public to use them. A couple of the Tesla owners took advantage to get a boost before the overnight charge at the motel.

The last leg was a long drive up to the Waikiki holiday park where we spent the last night. They have a dozen caravan parks which enables everyone to get a good overnight charge for the return trip.

Once everyone had arrived we drove the last 20km to the cape for sunset photographs and some whoops of joy.


All that remained then was to celebrate, which we did with a massive meal catered by the staff at the camp ground. Technically they were closed but with our huge convoy in town they arranged a special meal. There may have been a bit of drinking that night as well.

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