California man believed first to drive electric car to the Arctic

George Teepe of Laguna Niguel, California, left for Tuktoyaktuk on May 16

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George Teepe celebrated his 84th birthday on June 2 by sleeping in his Tesla electric car in the Peel River region, waiting for the ferry services to open up to take him across the river from the Yukon to the Northwest Territories.

“I waited for nearly two days. Everybody was friendly, and everybody was nice,” said Teepe. “Some of the truck drivers invited me into their trucks for a drink and shared their food with me. It was really a nice experience.”

On May 16, Teepe, a resident of Laguna Niguel, California, set out to become the first person to drive an electric car to the coastline of the Arctic Ocean.

He arrived in Inuvik on June 3, where he charged his car at a community member’s house before reaching his final destination in Tuktoyaktuk the following day.

“Somebody once climbed Mount Everest. He said he did it because it was there, so I wanted to do this,” he said.

Teepe is originally from Germany, and he said that he’s always had an urge to go North.

“I’ve been to the North Cape in Norway. I’ve been in northern Siberia,” he said. “I’ve been up the ALCAN highway 25 years ago, up to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. I’ve been to northern Finland and northern Sweden on a bicycle. But that’s a long time ago, when I was young and strong.”

His path to the Arctic included pit stops in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and the Glacier National Park in Montana.

“I could’ve gone up the coast, but I wanted to see Glacier National Park,” he said.

After crossing the border, he drove through cities such as Calgary, Red Deer, Fort St. John and Dawson Creek before hopping onto the Alaska Highway.

“My favourite part was actually the drive from Dawson City to Inuvik. It took a few days,” he said. “First of all, I drove to Eagle Plains. There’s a man there who runs the maintenance department. He’s worked there for 28 years, and he said no electric car has ever been there.”

He added that he charged his car around 30 times since he left home, thanks to public charging stations and RV parks. But the further North he went, the more difficult it was to charge his car.

George Teepe, a resident of Laguna Niguel in California, poses with his Tesla as it charges outside of an Inuvik resident’s home on June 3. He headed North in his electric car to Tuktoyaktuk on May 16 before arriving in the hamlet on June 4. Aaron Hemens/NNSL photo
George Teepe, a resident of Laguna Niguel in California, poses with his Tesla as it charges outside of an Inuvik resident’s home on June 3. He headed North in his electric car to Tuktoyaktuk on May 16 before arriving in the hamlet on June 4. Aaron Hemens/NNSL photo

“You have to plan it a little bit. But my plans went awry when the northern RV parks didn’t have 50 amp power. Then I had to improvise,” he said.

He relied on welding and maintenance shops when RV parks lacked the power that he needed.

“I had things where one person couldn’t help me, but they would call someone else. If that person couldn’t help me, then that person gave me another name,” he said. “People were extremely helpful.”

In Inuvik, a resident allowed Teepe to charge his car from a chord that was connected to an outlet in their laundry room.

“If you’re not retired, don’t take this trip. You don’t know when you’ll get back,” said Teepe.

His trip to the Arctic, he continued, is one of the more satisfying journeys that he’s embarked on.

“I’ve always liked to travel. I’ve travelled on airplanes, cruise ships, trains, on tours,” he said. “You’re always taken somewhere. I wanted to take myself somewhere.”

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