Blue Bandit blazes trail from the Netherlands to Oz
Meet 33 year old Wiebe Wakker, a Dutchman on a global quest to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility in a Volkswagen Golf EV he’s dubbed “Blue Bandit”.
The Dutchman ditched petrol cars three years ago to embark on electrifying global quest in his Golf EV from the Netherlands to Australia.
Wakker is on an electric road trip called “Plug Me In” and has crossed 33 countries and driven 92,000km without visiting a fuel station. He is also the first person who has crossed Turkey, Iran and India in a Golf EV he’s dubbed ‘Blue Bandit’.
He has certainly explored diverse cultures and their approach to sustainability, and he is now Down Under to see if Blue Bandit can withstand the vast Australian landscape.
Wakker has always been passionate about travel, but isn’t wired like some of us enthusiasts who love the roar of brutal, gas-guzzling vehicles. His interest in cars was first ignited when electric vehicles reached the market.
His home country has a large electric car penetration with its zero-emission taxation policy and fast-developing plug-in vehicle infrastructure. In fact, the Netherlands have a new target of banning fossil-fuelled power vehicles in favour of electric vehicles, by 2030.
Here the uptake of EVs is sluggish with energy consultancy Energia, reporting that high upfront costs are one of the main deterrents for Australians when it comes to purchasing EVs.
Wakker believes that interest in electric vehicles could surge with more government support and accessible price points.
“The initial cost of an EV in Australia is very high. This can be made more approachable by cutting the luxury vehicle tax and by giving a rebate on buying an EV”, he explains.
“The government can also put in place more incentives like free charging and parking in cities, making free use of ferries, toll roads and taxi lanes”.
A nice idea in theory. Still, Wakker thinks electric cars are worth supporting and everyone can contribute to global sustainability, especially if we are all on the same page.
So, how did Plug Me In begin?
“After graduating from the Utrecht University of Arts, I established the Plug Me In project, a purpose-driven adventure with an aim to accelerate the transition to a zero carbon future”, he explains. “On March 15 2016, I left the Netherlands in my Blue Bandit with Sydney as my end-destination”.
Wakker’s journey has relied on the kindness of people and has been financially supported by anyone who is willing to offer him a meal, place to sleep or electricity for the car.
Not an easy task but fortunately, he’s received generosity from around the globe.
“When I left the Netherlands, I had about 200 offers from surrounding countries as well as Mongolia, Thailand and Iraq. And in a few weeks this was enough to send me to Italy. A lot of Scandinavians invited me over as well, so I decided to take the scenic route to Australia. From Italy, I drove all the way to Europe’s most northern point; the North Cape!”, Wakker enthuses.
“From that point, I drove to Russia and eastern European countries and eventually entered Asia via Turkey. I crossed Iran and the Middle East, shipped my car to India after I worked there for two months, crossed to Myanmar, Thailand and reached Kuala Lumpur. I stayed in Bangkok for four months to find the funds to be able to afford the various ferries through Indonesia”.
Wakker was able to land a few side jobs and eventually a sponsorship. When he reached Timor Leste, he shipped the car on a container to Darwin.
Wakker lists The Kimberleys, Coober Pedy and The Nullarbor as his favourite destinations in Australia and is currently exploring Melbourne. He has even enjoyed taking Blue Bandit out on the Albert Park Grand Prix track, with many a curious onlooker pondering whether the car is some sort of Formula E mascot.
On the topic, Wakker believes the interest in Formula E has grown rapidly which has far exceeded his expectations.
“I believe Formula 1 will retain its popularity for the coming years due to its history. However, as young people become more and more eco-conscious, at some point, they will leave the Formula 1 and the race will shift”, he says.
While Blue Bandit is no race car, it certainly has driving chops. In fact, Wakker believes it has just as much prowess as its gas-powered counterpart, citing its excellent range and efficiency as key attributes.
So, while Blue Bandit is a top performing EV, Wakker lists the Tesla 3 as the best electric vehicle above all.
“The technology in this car is far more advanced than any other EV available at the moment and the price has come down significantly compared to the Model S and X. Other great cars are the Hyundai Ioniq or the Kona AV which both have good range and are quality cars”, he reveals.
Wakker’s next stop is Sydney via Canberra, which he hopes to reach by April. This will complete his 3 year long journey.
Keep up to date with the last leg of Wakker’s journey via his Instagram page @plugmeintravel.
Natasha Laging is a Digital Content Specialist with a passion for the automotive industry. She has previously worked for the carsales network contributing news and features, and overseeing the execution of strategic social media strategies. She has a special love of Aston Martins and 1960s Ford Mustangs.