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Wiebe Wakker is a Dutchman with a very straightforward goal: to educate, inspire and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. And, how does he do that? By travelling from one side of the world to the other in a first generation electric vehicle. 

On March 2016, Wakker set off from the Netherlands to Australia in his electric Volkswagen, covering 60,000 kilometres across 31 countries over 687 days. But before we find out about how he got on, let’s get an insight into the man himself.

Wakker describes himself as a passionate traveller who loves to explore new cultures, meet people and “discover life.” He was inspired by travel books from around the world and wanted to replicate the sense of adventure he had read about. He also wanted to make a real difference.

I really wanted to plan a road trip but, after becoming interested in sustainability, I thought that it wouldn’t make any sense to drive around the world polluting it whilst I’m having fun,” he tells Auto Futures. “I wanted to have a purpose instead of going from hostel to hostel with my backpack.”

Coming from the Netherlands, one of the leading countries in Europe for sustainability, Wakker started to hear about the emergence of electric cars. All of a sudden, he had a clean, sustainable answer to his problem. Say hello to the Blue Bandit. 

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Wakker started to look further into electrification. Quickly, he realised that the uptake of EVs was moving at a snail’s pace, mainly down to public perception.

“People think that EVs are not reliable and cannot cover long distances,” he says. “I want to beat those prejudices and inspire people to start driving electric. I thought of a goal which really speaks to the imagination and seems almost impossible. So my plan was to drive from Holland to the other side of the world in an electric car to show people that, if you can do this, you can definitely use an EV to go to the supermarket.”

Wakker wanted the road trip to be as sustainable as possible, asking people to get involved with the project on his site plugmeinproject.com, supporting him with meals, a place to sleep and electricity to charge the car. His theory was to highlight the importance of everyone contributing to a better world. Much like the automotive industry, we must all come together to secure a clean, sustainable future.

“I believe everyone can contribute to a more sustainable world,” states Wakker. “I try to do my part by showing the possibilities of sustainable mobility. Throughout the journey, I try to engage with sustainable initiatives, companies and organisations to highlight the environmental challenges in each respective country and promote key solutions.”

We hear a lot of companies in the automotive industry say the same thing about ‘going green’ without any immediate action. However, Wakker has identified the issues and acted on them.

Mission Impossible

Back to 2016, when Wakker set off in his electric ‘Blue Bandit’ with Sydney in his sights. For nearly two years, Wakker zigzagged around Europe, crossed Iran and the United Arab Emirates, tackled daring roads in the heart of India and even became the first person to cross Myanmar in an electric car. Imagine driving all that way without using a single petrol station…

In each country he stopped off at, Wakker met organisations and environmental experts to discuss sustainability methods. This allowed him to see and understand the different environmental challenges and solutions around the world.

“The most important part for me is that I can show how kind and generous people can be,” Wakker adds.

Although the journey was surprisingly straightforward for Wakker, he did encounter some problems towards the end of his journey, due to the lack of charging infrastructure. 

“I only encountered problems in Australia, as the distance I needed to cover was sometimes more than the range of my car,” he says. “I never ran out of power in Europe or Asia. So the lack of infrastructure was an issue for me, but only in Australia.”

Apart from low-voltage issues in India that increased charging time, Wakker’s journey was an overwhelming success for the celebration of EVs. And, when you realise that the car in question was a first generation EV, it is clear to see that alternatively-powered vehicles are not just for the future, but for consumers today. 

The End of the Road

Wakker’s solo journey has inspired many around the world, propelling EVs into the limelight by spreading awareness. He says that he has already been contacted by a few people who decided to buy an electric car after following his adventure, convinced by the 60,000km trip. His project also sparked conversations with politicians in Australia.

“The media exposure over the past few weeks has been insane,” continues Wakker. “I have been featured on TV channels in many different countries including Australia, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, UK, US, Norway, Myanmar, China, Indonesia, France, Italy, Russia, Romania and many more.”

From starting as a graduation project, Wakker is extremely proud of what he has achieved on his own; and rightly so.

With EVs set to cost the same as conventional cars by 2022, more people around the world will start to discover the many advantages of elect alternatives. By 2025, Wakker predicts a major shift.

Although Wakker’s around-the-world trip has come to an end, this is only the beginning for the Dutchman, who continues to raise the awareness of global sustainability by quickly developing into an industry thought leader. Auto Futures is looking forward to what comes next.

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