OK, this post is about 3 weeks late due to it’s size which took some time to write up, along with the fact that most of my spare time has been playing with the van! Get yourself a drink before you sit down if you can be bothered reading this one…
If you have not read the Auckland to Wellington in an Electric Van post it’s probably worth reading first as it explains the planned route and where the charging points are.
On the Monday 7th November I finally got to collect my new electric van. The collection date had been delayed about 5 times due to a faulty airbag ECU which prevented it going through compliance! As a result I’d had 4 weeks of re-booking flights and juggling jobs around which would not have been an issue if I’d chosen to have the van delivered to Wellington, but who wants to be boring?
So there was a little frustration whilst it got sorted out, mainly because I liked the idea of giving my finger a rest, but also because I’d become super excited about getting the van along with the challenge of driving it back. I’d done a fair amount of planning whilst tracking its progress from the UK via the ships GPS courtesy of a link I’d been sent from the importer.
Speaking of which I have to give a massive shout out to Sally and Lincoln from European Car Imports. They have been a pleasure to deal with and the customer service has been second to none. Knowing the efforts that they went to get the airbag fault sorted out gives me even more confidence to recommend them to anyone thinking of importing their own vehicle. I was kept in the loop at every step and doubt that I’d have appreciated just how good they are if things went smoothly.
Auckland collection at last…
The plane arrived in Auckland at 2pm after a delayed take off. Lincoln was there to meet me outside the terminal to hand the keys and the van over to me. I then met up with a friend near the airport to give his alarm the once over and program a remote. It was 3 pm when I finally started on my ambitious first drive home to Wellington and the plan was to do it in the shortest possible time!
Auckland to Hamilton
First stop Cafe Rema in Dury for a quick charge back up to 100% to make Hamilton an easier prospect. I’d been told Hamilton was probably out of range, or a tall order to get to in a van on the EV facebook page!
I was organised and had the combination number to unlock the charger, sadly the charger was not working! I was simply going to have to go easy with my driving and learn super quickly… Welcome to anticipated range anxiety!
I grabbed a quick coffee before hitting the road again. Normally I hate Auckland traffic jams, but making slow progress in an electric vehicle is not such a bad thing as keeping the speed down is good for range.
The van was in Eco mode, the radio was turned off and along with the air-con and cabin fan despite the fact it was a hot day! Once the traffic eased off I found a big truck to follow so tucked in behind it so I could keep my speed down climbing up the Bombay hills. I was starting to sweat, although this was mainly due to the heat and lack of air-con, but watching the range dropping as I climbed the hill was not helping!
I ended up slip steaming the truck for most of the journey to Hamilton and was typically doing 90-100 kmph. A horrid amount of road works were going on too but this helped to keep the speed down without me being a nuisance to anyone.
As I got close to Hamilton the Guess-O-Meter (Nissan’s predicted range meter) was far to close for comfort so I decided to slow up and let the truck disappear into the distance and head for the CHAdeMO in Te Rapa which was 5 KM closer then Bret’s place.
My First Fast Charge in Te Rapa, Hamilton
I arrived to find a Tesla Model S parked up at the charger. The owner very kindly let me jump the queue for a quick top up. He gave me a run through about how the charger worked and I got to have a good look at his machine whilst we talked cars.
I was soon up to 50%. With only 5 KM to go before I parked up for the night I decided to turn Eco mode off, put the air-con on and my foot to the floor. Bloody hell does it take off fast. Yes I’m talking about the van here not the Tesla which must be an absolute weapon!
Hamilton to Rotorua
I left early with 100% and tried to keep the speed down knowing that it’s mainly uphill to Rotorua, I stopped for breakfast at The Oxford Cafe in Tirau where they very kindly let me plug the van in for a charge whilst I had a feed.
It was then back on the road where I did my best to keep the speed down. I started to think of the Tortoise and the Hare story which was a constant reminder that if I rushed I would not get to my destination as quickly as I’d have to stop and wait for a tow truck!
Keeping the speed down was a good decision, I arrived in Rotorua with very little battery life left and the Guess-O-Meter had given up and was blank when I arrived.
Rotorua to Taupo
In theory this should have been an easy stint with just 81.8 KM to go. I was getting confident after managing the first two difficult legs so headed off at a reasonable pace, however I did not appreciate just how windy it was. As I got closer to Taupo I was starting to doubt if I’d make it so eased down to about 70 KMPH and even with 15 KM to go things were looking tight and I was expecting to hit the dreaded turtle mode!
I finally arrived at the Central Motor Group dealership with a feeling of relief and made good use of their Juicepoint EVSE.
The guys there where really friendly and very accommodating. It was refreshing to see a dealership embracing electric vehicles, they had a number of Leafs on display as well as an e-NV200 on the way from the UK so they were keen to give my van the once over. I was slightly gutted that I missed out on meeting Steve Green (In Auckland for the day) who was really helpful when I approached him about charging there on the way through. I dare say we’ll catch up next time I head up that way.
The photo below gives a good indication of the head wind I had to deal with on the way into Taupo!
Taupo to Hastings
I made a phone call to Tarawera Cafe to ask if I could use their blue commando plug to charge up on the way to Hastings. They were really helpful and said that despite the fact that the cafe would be closed by the time I arrived that could still drive in and someone would be there to meet me.
I decided to take it super slowly, the theory being that the less slow charging I had to do the quicker the overall journey would be. I arrived at 5:30pm with about 48% range left.
I then plugged in an went on a little exploration to find the thermal pools. There was a gate with a DOC sign on it but I could not quite make out what it said so continued on my way!
I don’t think there have been may visitors to the pools recently. The path was horribly over grown and there were a couple of big slips making it difficult to pass. There is also quite a big drop down to the river!
I headed back and got some sleep whilst the van was still charging. The good thing with a van is that there is enough space to lay down 🙂 By 11:40pm it was up to 98% so I decided to head off and make the most of the lack of traffic.
I climbed up to Titiokura Saddle which is the high point a 708 meters super slowly. Once there I kept going at a gentle pace all the way down to Hastings and arrived with 35% battery remaining which really does prove that driving slowly makes a massive difference to the range even with the headlights and heated steering wheel on.
Hastings to Palmerston North
From Hastings it was an easy run to Wiapukaru and another fast charger.
My goal was to get to Palmerston North for about 7am when the car park with the Meridian charger would be open. Heaps of time to get there and very little traffic given it was the middle of the night.
Come 2:30am I was near Dannevike and feeling tired so had to pull up for some sleep. I woke up at 5:50 and decided to head off once more. The problem was that the windscreen had misted up so I needed to use the heater which killed the range big time. I crept along and had a number of Utes go flying past me, one of which I saw in a ditch about 10 km down the road. Back to the Tortoise and the Hare story I chuckled to myself 🙂
I really did not fancy the idea of stopping in Woodville (plugshare suggests its a pain) so headed on to Palmy through the Manawatu Gorge keeping the speed down to about 60. It’s about the only part of the journey where I felt I was holding others up, even though I could still see the car in front of me and I pulled up a couple of times to let the traffic though (take note camper van drivers as it is easy to be polite).
Made it and the place was not ICED 🙂 On a previous trip before I had the van I checked out the charging bays as part of my planning only to discover 4 “Internal Combustion Engine” cars parked in the charging bays.
Palmerston North to Featherston
By the time I was charged up the rush hour was over so it was a steady pace over Makomako road, then gentle driving through the Wiararapa. I was reasonable confident of making it to Featherston in one hit, if things got tight I could always stop for a slow charge in Greytown but I didn’t have to.
Featherston to Home
Time to have some fun over the Rimutakas. After all this slow driving it was time to let rip and overtake some of the pollution mobiles that were struggling to climb up the hill at a good pace. It’s certainly much more fun to drive when range is not an issue and I was back in Wellington by 2pm.
So that’s Auckland to Wellington in under 48 hours, then 3 weeks to get around to writing about it!