The first being I have never driven an EV on an extended run and I was curious to see how it performed.
The second bird – a larger one – was that I have been wanting to do a story about what I consider the premium tourist route in New Zealand, for people who have a limited time and want to see the best that New Zealand has to offer.
That route is from Queenstown to Dunedin, on to Oamaru, up the Waitaki Valley to Omarama, side trip to Tekapo and Mount Cook, back to Omarama, through the Lindis to Wanaka, Arrowtown, through Queenstown again, to Glenorchy and back to Queenstown.
I would have added a side trip to Milford Sound but was advised there are no ‘fast chargers’ there. So scrub that option.
Still, it was a plan.
The Britz eVolve is based on the Chinese-built LDV V80 and is an new addition to the conventionally powered Britz fleet available in New Zealand.
LDV was originally a brand built by Leyland in the UK with input from DAF in Holland. However, with the breakup of the parent Rover Group, Leyland DAF was sold to the Russian Gaz Group that itself ceased trading in 2008. After that, it was sold to the Chinese SAIC Group.
So, the LDV vehicle technology is well proven.
Britz is part of the Thl group, and I was given a pretty solid rundown on my forthcoming adventure at the Queenstown depot (by the airport) by Lucia, a charming young lady from Uruguay.
As ready as I would ever be, off I drove into Queenstown airport traffic that is about as congested as it’s possible to get in New Zealand.
But, let’s make this clear at the start. This did not start out being a happy experience – and it was largely my fault. I had planned the route to coincide with the ChargeNet fast charging network and/or overnight charging facilities using a powered site in camping grounds – and, unusually for me, I booked these ahead.
Two things conspired against me from the beginning: first the weather, and second, I had not engaged EV mode in my brain.
A bitterly cold southerly storm with strong winds blasted through Central Otago that day as I made my way to Dunedin. My stop in Clyde, just to have a look around, was thwarted by driving rain. I arrived in Alexandra in need of my first charge, well-enough pleased with the driving experience despite the winds that had me a bit white knuckled, as the slab sides of the motorhome acted like the sails of a sailing ship. But that’s something that comes with driving a motorhome in an Antarctic gale. However it drove well, quiet of course, and was happy enough through the Kawarau and Cromwell Gorges at 85kph.
The technical details on the LDV V8 say the range should be 180km, but that’s in van form; the extra weight of the motorhome ‘house’ pulls the range back to 120km – and Britz have added a sticker to the dash advising that.
I found the Alexandra charging station easily enough and the plugging in and getting the power flowing was simple even for a novice. I was expecting a 90-minute charge period. The weather was simply awful and it was a couple of hundred metres in the rain to the safety of shops. So I dashed out, had a pie and a coffee at a café, bought a book from a second-hand shop and dashed back through the rain to sit in the comfortable rear seating, reading the book.