A Far North man attempting to make motoring history by driving his electric car from Cape Reinga to Bluff and back is on his return journey and should be home by Christmas.
Craig Salmon started his journey on November 21 in his 2012 Nissan Leaf electric car and made it to Bluff last Friday - possibly making him the first person to drive a production-model, 100 per cent electric car the length of the country. He now hopes to be back home in Paihia in time for Christmas after finishing his journey at the Cape.
One of the barriers to wider use of electric cars has been the lack of public charging facilities but Mr Salmon hopes to show nationwide travel is already possible, even in some of New Zealand's more out-of-the-way places. When the Northern Advocate caught up with him over the weekend Mr Salmon was in Wellington, waiting to charge his car up ahead of heading north after completing 4000km at a total cost of $200 of power.
The beekeeper and IT worker said he did not work for a car company but wanted to prove a few points, including that fully electric cars are available, reliable and cheap to run - about $5 per 100km, depending on the power company and what time you charge up.
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While he was always confident his trip was possible, he said New Zealand needed more public charging facilities. Supermarkets, councils, libraries, movie theatres and car parks, for example, should be installing charge stations to attract people to stop and shop.
Mr Salmon said he had found no problems recharging his car along the way - it can be charged on a standard three-point household plug over several hours or on a 20 minute 'fast charge' at special electric vehicle charging stations - and he had seen potential opportunities for tourist operators.
"I've been staying at a lot of holiday parks and it's a real conversation topic when I pull up and plug her in, people come up and want to have a test drive. many don't realise she's an electric car and it blows them away when they realise just how well she goes," he said.
"I was staying in the Catlins and while I was waiting for the car to charge at the local camp ground I went to see the yellow-eyed penguins. I think there's an opportunity for tourism operators to run special trips for people to see the sights or do the activities in their area while they are charging their cars."
Mr Salmon said he was motivated to go electric one day when he was sitting on a hill overlooking Whangarei Harbour watching oil tankers.
"I thought, 'This is ridiculous, we should be using our own electricity to get around not imported oil'. An accident with any of those tankers could ruin one of my favourite beaches. That drove me to find a way to buy an electric car and do something positive about getting off oil."
His trip was no Goodbye Pork Pie. "It's a holiday trip through some of the more remote parts of the country, showing how electric transport is possible now but that we still need to gear up our infrastructure."