As every year ticks by I have begun to think about my environmental impact more and more. As someone who travels for a living, my horizons have greatly expanded over the past decade as I went from a small town girl from Virginia to someone obsessed with traveling and learning more and more about our incredible world.
Every year the list of places I want to visit grows longer, my curiosity deepened, and if I’ve learned only one thing from traveling all over the world, it’s that our earth is beautiful, special, unique and incredibly threatened from human impact.
How do I reconcile that with my own lifestyle? Especially that up until this point was hundreds of thousands of miles of air travel?
Sustainable tourism has been on my mind for a while now, and I’m stoked to see one of New Zealand’s biggest tourism operators, THL, take up the mantle and begin implementing sustainable practices by releasing the first electric campervan New Zealand.
While I would love to flip my entire lifestyle on its head and have a zero or negative carbon footprint, I also understand that that’s an incredibly hard decision to make and execute. But even without drastic changes I know that there are a lot of small things and choices I can make that are the benefit of this planet.
Imagine if we all started somewhere what a difference a billion people could make?
Can you see where I’m going with this?
Just recently Britz, one of the leading campervan hire companies in New Zealand (owned by THL), released the very first fully electric campervan, the eVolve. Exciting times!
And your girl had the chance to take one out for a roadie of her choice a few weeks ago, and I was really excited to try out my first electric car here.
I had an amazing time taking the eVolve around my own backyard of Central Otago in the autumn and have so much to share with you all from the adventure, but wanted to begin with the basics: everything you need to know about roadtripping in an electric campervan in New Zealand with Britz.
1. You’ve got a 120 kilometer range
Question number one: how far can you go on one charge?
The answer is more or less 120 kilometers or 75 miles. That means you’ll have to recharge more frequently than perhaps you would with fuel, so you have to plan your trips accordingly.
New Zealand is dotted with public electric vehicle charging points which you can find using the PlugShare app or website – have the Britz team show you which kind of power outlet you need (they’re not all the same) and it will filter out results of where you can charge up on your roadtrip.
You can also leave feedback in the app and check in and see if the plug is being used or not. These fast charges take between 1 – 2 hours to charge. You chose to charge up to 80% or 100% – the last 20% takes the longest to charge (don’t ask me why).
Overnight I usually charged the holiday parks where I was staying. Some of them have special fast chargers installed for electric cars (which you can see on Britz’s helpful itineraries) or you can use the same slow charge plug that you would normally use at a holiday park to have electricity in your campervan (those charges take all night).
2. Slow and mindful travel
Having a driving range of 120 kilometers with a stop of an hour or so before carrying on means you have to travel differently, usually slowly and more mindfully.
I LOVE slow travel, and I truly detest feeling rushed or in a hurry when I’m exploring and traveling, so this is one of my favorite parts about driving the eVolve – slow travel.
If you’re looking to clock in 500 kilometers in a day, this is NOT the campervan for you. to give you an idea, it took me a whole day to get from Dunedin to Queenstown, normally a 3.5 hour drive.
I know Central Otago really well but on this trip I often stopped in places I would pass through otherwise giving me an opportunity to see new places and get off the beaten track more. I would leave the eVolve to charge and go walk around, have a coffee, and explore a new town whenever I stopped to charge up.
There’s always something new to discover!
The charger locks into place when you’re charging and only can unlock when you swipe your special key fob on the machine so there’s no issue leaving the camper to charge alone.
3. The eVolve is brand new and cozy as can be
The new Britz eVolve has just been released with their own customs builds, and they have all the amenities you’d look for in a similar size campervan – and it sleeps two – or one if you’re me.
It has power, shower, a toilet, kitchen and fridge and you’re fully self-contained. Because electric campers are new, when you rent it the Britz crew will give you a full rundown of how they work and everything you need to know before heading out so you don’t feel left in the lurch!
Since I live in New Zealand, I brought all of the cozy things with me too, including my own sheepskins, pillows and books. I’m such a nester!
4. It’s super quiet
I think what surprised me the most about driving an electric car was the complete lack of noise. I mean, it’s dead silent.
There is no sound of an engine turning over when you start up, rather a beep and alert on the dash letting you know you’re ready to go. It takes some getting used to.
I also found that I would give the horn a toot when I was backing up to make sure that people near me could hear me reversing. Just in case.
5. You’ll be part of the eco club
Another surprise for me was connecting with other electric car owners while on the road and chatting at charging stations and sharing tips and tricks for getting around without fuel.
I also really loved the curiosity people had when they saw me charging up the camper! I got lots of questions and curious dads wanting to peep under the hood, something that didn’t even occur to me to do.
You know, because there is no engine! Just a crazy looking battery!
6. You can hire the eVolve from Queenstown or Auckland
Right now the eVolve is only available for hire from Queenstown and Auckland.
I’ve never been one to follow directions so I created my own itinerary around Central Otago which I planned out using the PlugShare app on my phone and made it work.
7. Inspires you to think about your impact and waste
There’s something about driving an electric vehicle that inspires you really think about your environmental impact and your waste, well at least for me. Throughout the trip I couldn’t help but think what other little things I could change to minimize my impact.
I’m hooked, I want an electric car now.
8. You’ll drive a bit differently
Depending on how you’re driving you’ll use more or less of the eVolve battery. There is a gauge on the dashboard that will show you how much charge you’re using at a time and it gives you an estimate of how much battery you have left – though it’s just an estimate because you’ll use more if you’re going uphill.
And the battery recharges itself as you go downhill and don’t use the accelerator.
You’ll eventually start driving the eVolve differently than a normal car (at least I do) rarely pushing hard on the accelerator and trying to maintain and even use of the battery.
9. The eVolve still functions like a normal camper
If you haven’t hired a campervan in New Zealand before, I’ll let you in on a big tip. Most bigger campervans are able to be plugged into a special outlet so that you have electricity in the van when you’re parked up for the night at a holiday park so you can have lights, use the stove and cook, shower, have hot water, plug in things like your laptop or a little space heater. All holiday parks in New Zealand will have them, when you ask to book a spot for the night they’ll always ask you “powered or unpowered site.”
With the eVolve it’s the same thing. You have a cord which plugs in the power supply in the camper for your cooking and stuff AND you’ll have a special cord to charge the battery to be able to drive. Two cords, two different outlets in the campervan to charge.
Some holiday parks in New Zealand have electric car charging ports on site (like Leith Valley Holiday Park in Dunedin) while most don’t. So you will need two power outlets to charge simultaneously, one for the battery one for electricity – makes sense?
Everything else is the same inside the van as a normal camper.
10. It feels really great not to buy fuel
No surprises there! Fuel ain’t cheap in New Zealand, and it’s pretty awesome to A. not be paying a lot for fuel and B. having zero exhaust emissions and not polluting the beautiful land you’re exploring which harmful fumes.
I really enjoyed exploring New Zealand in the Britz eVolve and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to get off the beaten path a bit and explore more slowly like a local.
I’m hooked; I loved the thoughtfulness and planning that goes into a roadtrip in an electric campervan in New Zealand, where can I go next?
Have you ever driven an electric car before? Is this something you’re interested in? Share!