Gavin Shoebridge – an electric vehicle nut, a keen environmentalist

                Electric Car Conversion Blog By Gavin Shoebridge

July 9th, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Radio Slovakia International

Radio Slovakia International has been broadcasting to the world since 1993, and I’m proud to be a member of its English language team. To show you a behind the scenes look at this remarkable instution, and that of Slovenský Rozhlas / Slovak Radio, here are a few interesting photos.

The Slovak Radio building, home of Radio Slovakia International. Part of RTVS. Budova slovenského rozhlasu.

Inside the Slovak Radio building, home of Radio Slovakia International

The building is an inverted pyramid, which as you can see has another pyramid on the inside. In fact, it’s the largest inverted pyramid building in the world.

Radio Slovakia International -

Radio Slovakia International –

The building is truly remarkable and if you’re in Slovakia I recommend checking it out.

The multi-layered, upside-down pyramid building from Slovak Radio in Bratislava.

The multi-layered, upside-down pyramid building from Slovak Radio in Bratislava.

If you look closely, you can see that there’s actually another inverted pyramid on the inside of the building which houses internal offices, and more offices running around the external pyramid. Both pyramids are joined by numerous horizontal walkways like the one pictured above.

Katarina Richterova and Gavin Shoebridge from Radio Slovakia International.

Katarina Richterova and Gavin Shoebridge from Radio Slovakia International.

A fun photo of me (Gavin Shoebridge) and my colleague (Katarina Richterova) in front of one of our many studios. I know I’m biased, but I recommend tuning in to Radio Slovakia International either via the internet (click here to listen right now!) or via shortwave radio, satellite radio, or WRN.

Or, follow Radio Slovakia International on Facebook by clicking here:

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July 3rd, 2015 at 12:11 pm

How to buy a car from a private seller in Slovakia

Gavin Shoebridge - electric car

I bought this electric car from a private seller, subsequently learning how the system works.

Buying a car privately in my home country of New Zealand is really easy: you hand over some money and change the ownership online via the Transport Ministry’s website. It takes about 10 minutes and you can do it from the comfort of your living room.

In Slovakia however it’s a little bit more bureaucratic (though things are getting better) and this bureaucracy can be enough to scare foreigners (and Slovaks) away from a buying a car from a private individual. This is a shame because there are some great bargains to be found outside the car dealers’ lots.

Don’t let this put you off, because it’s not as frightening as it might sound. Once you’ve found a car you like, there are actually only two things you need to do in order to own a car in Slovakia: buy PZP insurance, then change the ownership at the Transport Office. Let’s start with the easy one first.

1: Buy PZP insurance.

Third party vehicle insurance known as PZP (Povinné zmluvné poistenie) is mandatory in Slovakia, and you’ll need to prove the car is covered with this insurance to the Transport Office or you won’t be able to change the ownership. Don’t worry though, because you can buy this insurance right now via the internet. All major insurers offer it and here are a couple of links to get you going: Allianz or Generali (though their websites are only in Slovak).

PZP Povinné zmluvné poistenie

Certificate of PZP (Povinné zmluvné poistenie).

After buying PZP, you’ll be emailed a document similar to this one above which you must print out. I recommend printing out a copy of your payment confirmation if you paid for this insurance with internet banking to prove that it’s paid for and valid just in case the Transport Office staff ask. With the PZP insurance taken care of, let’s move onto the second part.

2: Change the ownership at the Transport Office.

This part involves filling out a change of ownership form and going to the Transport Office (Dopravný inšpektorát) with the seller. The change of ownership forms are available on the Interior Ministry website by clicking here.

Forms to changing ownership of a vehicle within the same locality (zmena držiteľa vozidla v okrese)

Example of the form needed to change ownership of a vehicle within the same locality (zmena držiteľa vozidla v okrese)

You can use the example I made above which includes all the details you need to fill in, in order to change the ownership. The blue text is things that don’t change, the red text is the previous owner’s details, and the green text is the new owner’s details. When you have that filled out, you can pop into the Transport Office.

Keep in mind that the above form is for buying a car within the same locality. If you buy or sell a car from a different locality (i.e. outside of Bratislava), you will need to re-register the car in your locality with new, local licence plates. That means more forms, more hassles, and more fees.

If you live in Bratislava then your only Transport Office is the wonderful Dopravný inšpektorát on Kopčianska street in Petržalka. Let me break down the procedure so that it doesn’t freak you out:

Go into the inspection area first and get your VIN number checked.

Go into the inspection area first and get your VIN number checked.

Get there there soon after the doors have opened early in the morning. This means you’ll only lose about 2 or 3 hours. Start by going straight into the inspection zone where a police officer will check your car’s VIN compared to your technical document.

He will then stamp the car’s technical document to say that everything matches up. Go and park the car, then go inside and get a number from the ticket machine near the door.

dopravny inspektorat kopcianska bratislava

It’s actually getting better (it used to be much worse).

Don’t panic because if you have PZP insurance and all the forms filled out the hardest part is just waiting.  It’s not scary; it’s just a bit bureaucratic.

You now have a little time on your hands as you wait for your number to be called.


A “Kolkomat” or electronic payment machine, inside the Transport Office.

While you are waiting you should buy “kolky” from one of the machines pictured above.

Kolky are a form of payment which allow you to pay for government services without state staff dealing directly with cash in order to reduce the risk of corruption. The cost to change the ownership of a car is €33. Some machines accept cash and others accept bank cards. The machine will print out some electronic kolky and you can sit down and wait.

dopravny inspektorat kopcianska bratislava

Playing the waiting game…

And wait and wait and wait. Oh yeah, make sure to bring a book with you or make sure your phone is charged up and full of good stuff to watch. This part can take a couple of hours on a busy day, like Friday.

If you’ve signed up for one of the new ID cards with an electronic signature then you can use the card to book a more precise time at the Transport Office, however I don’t, so I had to wait like everyone else.

Dopravny inspektorat v Bratislave

It’s not the most romantic building in Bratislava…

Before you know it, your number will be called and you’ll go and hand all the paperwork to a police officer. The next part is him just entering details into the computer and printing out a new technical document with the new owner’s details.

Then, before you know it, he’ll give you the new technical document and you’re done!

technický preukaz vozidla

The technical document (technický preukaz vozidla)

Your new technical document (shown above) must be with you when driving for up to 30 days, according to the police officer we spoke to.

In that time you will receive your plastic “techničák” via the post, which will replace the paper version and which can fit into your wallet. Store the paper version somewhere safe and use the plastic one from here on.

Gone are the bad old days of having to go back and wait in line at the Transport Office to pick it up.

New car; new techničák.

New car; new techničák.

The postman delivered my new techničák straight to my hands, and it’s all over. We’re done. Not so scary after all, huh?

I hope these instructions prove to be useful to you, and that it removes the cloud of doubt and confusion surrounding buying a car from a private seller in Slovakia.

If your Slovak isn’t too great I strongly recommend taking a native Slovak speaker with you to the Transport Office. Of course, if you’d rather save yourself the hassle althogether, buy from a dealer.


Šťastnú cestu / happy travels, and remember, please drive courteously. 


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June 22nd, 2015 at 12:41 pm

I bought an electric car!!!

Gavin Shoebridge Kiwi EV

The Kiwi EV lives again!

After six years of driving on gas, it finally happened!

I own an electric car at last and I couldn’t be happier. Click here to watch the video of me test-driving then buying this Peugeot iOn electric car:

I bought it here in Bratislava for €7000 from an amazing seller – and get this – it’s the first electric car that was registered to a private buyer in the history of Slovakia! I own a piece of Slovak electric vehicle history!

Click here to read the article at the renovated website!

Peugeot iOn

The Peugeot iOn: what a neat little car! I love it!

I’ve already been driving quite a lot, putting about 600 kilometres on the clock since picking it up 12 days ago, even driving (on one charge) over to Austria and back!

Here’s an easy to understand video which explains the car, and just how excited I am about it. Enjoy!

It has a heated driver’s seat, electric windows, air conditioning, electric power steering, 4 airbags, ABS brakes, traction control, active stability control, and it’s utterly, completely, unashamedly, 100% ELECTRIC!!!

Peugeot iOn

Fully optioned and fully electric!

Click here for all the info, plus photos and videos!

Here’s to many, many, many more electric car adventures!

Stay tuned!

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June 5th, 2015 at 9:23 am

Sugar-free, low calorie, soft chocolate & vanilla squares

low calorie, sugar free, fat free, chocolate rice squares

Fat free, sugar free, very low calorie, yet very tasty!

I created an unusual cake recipe today, with the goal being to create a tasty, chocolatey snack that’s low on calories and sugar free.

My parents in law are on a diet and I’m doing my best to make sure they don’t lose their minds, by providing low calorie snacks that allow them to think they’re still munching on chocolates and sugary treats, while actually surviving a low calorie diet. All the sugar-free cake recipes I found still had very high calorie counts, so I sat down in front of the computer and went hunting for ingredients that are not only filling, but which also look rather “filling” on a plate.

And these soft, moist chocolate rice squares are my proud creation. What’s even better is that they’ve passed the taste test: My wife likes them, I like them, and my father in law likes them. So, to help you make them too, I’ve noted down the recipe and the calorie count of each ingredient.

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Chocolate & vanilla rice bubble snacks

Makes 24 soft, chocolatey squares with only 27 calories each – the same as a single plum.


4 cups of puffed rice (440 calories)
1/4 cup of cocoa powder (50 calories)
1 tablespoon of vanilla essence (38 calories)
1 small pot of plain, unsweetened yoghurt (89 calories)
1 teaspoon of gelatin (23 calories)
24 tablets of stevia artificial sweetener (equivalent to 1/2 cup of sugar) (2 calories)


Mix the yoghurt, vanilla essence, stevia tablets (diluted in a little water), gelatin (diluted in a little hot water), and cocoa powder together in a bowl. Use a whisk to mix it all thoroughly, then add the puffed rice, mixing it gently so the rice doesn’t disintegrate. 

Flatten the wet ingredients into a tray and put it in the fridge for an hour to set. Cut it up and enjoy!

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Interesting info: the entire batch has 642 calories in total. When divided into 24 pieces, each piece has only 27 calories! Considering the average adult burns 112 calories per hour just sitting, these make for pretty guilt-free rewards!


Let me know what you think of this recipe if you try it yourself!



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December 19th, 2014 at 10:02 am

My electric car progress report

If you know me, you’ll know I’m crazy about electric cars.

Me in front of my old 1972 MG B GT. One of the 23 (and counting) cars I used to own.

Actually, I’m crazy about cars in general, having owned 23 cars in my 19 years of driving. Some had three cylinder engines, some had four, some had six, and one even had an eight cylinder engine. I guess I love what cars represent, such as freedom, aspiration, and enjoyment.

What I don’t like about cars however is their crippling cost to operate and maintain. This drew me to convert a car to electricity to see how hard it could be. Turns out it was a piece of cake, which sowed my first seeds of doubt in the car industry. I mean, if non-mechanics like myself (and thousands of others) could make roadworthy electric cars in our little garages that never needed fuel or oil, why weren’t the big car makers creating and selling them?

This feeling grew into an obsession to rid myself of oil changes, spark plug changes, filter replacements, timing belt replacements, tune-ups, exhaust repairs, blah blah blah, the list goes on. So, when my wife and I moved to Slovakia I had plans to make another electric car conversion. However, as many of you know, my plans were dashed by a breathtaking display of awesome bureaucracy in its full splendour.

This meant my only option has been to save up and buy a factory-made electric car, such as a Nissan LEAF, or a Mitsubishi iMiEV. But as you probably know, factory electric cars are ultra expensive for people (like me) on Slovak wages.

My options: the Mitsubishi iMiEV (top) or the Nissan LEAF (bottom)

So I decided early in 2014 that I must save. That’s the only way out of this problem. I’m not going to get a car loan, and you should never get a car loan, because car loans just plain suck. So I started a savings account called “Electric car” (creative, huh?) with the goal of €10,000 and I began a very long journey.

I set myself three years to save €10,000 ($12,280 USD / £7,850), a mighty sum considering how low the wages are here in Slovakia. I decided to do this properly. I really dedicated myself to it. I stopped going out. I stopped buying things I wanted. I even took on extra work to make more money – all so that I could get an electric car as soon as possible.

And today, after just ten months of saving like my life depended on it, something magical happened.

I’m not going to pretend this has been easy.

I have reached the half way point!

Saving €5,000 in 10 months on a typical Slovak wage is the equivalent of the average American saving around $23,160 USD in the same time period [1]. Yeah, when I put it that way it’s a pretty big deal!

Now I need to keep going, however we’re about to take on a mortgage in a matter of weeks, which will cut the saving drastically down. But God knows I’m determined to get behind the wheel and cruise the streets of Slovakia in an all-electric car.

Wish me luck!

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October 10th, 2014 at 9:39 am

The new Tesla Model S “D”

Holy moly, have you seen how quick the Tesla Model S “D” (dual motor, four-wheel-drive) is from 0-100 km/h?

That’s one fast machine.

It does 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds. That’s the quickest time of any four-door car ever made, ever. Not only that, as you can see in the video, the car can also self-drive in standard driving situations.

Here’s the full video with sound:

I wanted one before but now I really want one! It makes it really difficult for people like me who try desperately not to be “fanboys” of any particular company or product, because when you make the best product of its kind in the world… Well, it’s kinda hard to be unimpressed.

This is the future and it’s here already.

Way to go, Tesla!

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October 1st, 2014 at 8:28 am

Making a fancy box for my tobacco pipe

I wanted to create a storage box befitting of my tobacco pipe’s grandeur.

Wood? Absolutely.
Velvet lining? But of course.
On a budget? Well, let’s give it a go.

I started with an empty box which we had in the cellar for a wine bottle, playing a game of “Pipe Tetris” until I could get everything to fit in neatly.

Next comes the wood cutting stuff. I had loads of this thin board at my disposal and it was easy to cut up, even with my terrible handyman skills.

The jar section on the right hand side of the box will be raised slightly for aesthetics. This is where my jar of tobacco and my jar of guilt-free tobacco alternative (a American blend of smokable herbs) will go.

Next comes the creative part: marking out the sections for all the assorted pipe paraphernalia.

Cutting many strips of board. It was time consuming but not very hard.

Gluing in the strips with lots and lots of glue. I used what glue I had lying around which happened to be black engine sealant. It’s very strong but still slightly flexible which is handy.

That engine sealant gets absolutely everywhere however…

While the glue was drying I decided to solder in a switch to activate a discreet LED light system. The switch and wiring would be hidden under fabric to ensure it won’t look like an ill-fitting combination of gaudy technology and snazzy style.

Let there be light! You can just see the switch which is hidden near the middle of the tray, encased in a puddle of engine sealant.

With everything dry, it’s time to work on the foam-padded lid. I bought a cheap slice of foam from the hardware store and coated it with velvet. This time I used clear silicone sealant. I figured using black glue on red velvet would be a disaster…

Using whatever I could find lying around, I kept the pressure on while the glue dried.

Many, many clamps make for light work.

I wanted to add a real hands-on touch to labeling the jars, so I got out the old typewriter. It’s now on a fuzzy border between hipster and retro cool but it’s the detail that matters.

Typewritten labels, lovingly punched out on an old manual keyboard just seem a little bit nicer than something spat out the back of a laser printer.

Wow! It’s dry and it looks great!

Best of all, everything fits perfectly. I have my pipe & it’s associated finery on the top shelf and the tobacco & herbal alternative on the right hand side. In the lower compartment sits extra pipe cleaners, a spare lighter, and a couple of cheap Chinese pipes for when friends want to try a pipe too (my Italian-made Lorenzo Spitfire on is for me only!).

And we’re done!

I’ve gotta say it turned out much better than expected, and very cheaply too. The box was free, the fabric was leftover from my fancy dress party earlier in the year (which I won by the way), and the little LED lights, switch, and wiring I already had. In fact I only had to pay for the foam inside the lid, the clear silicone glue for the fabric, and a 9-volt battery for the lights. Altogether that works out to less than €5!

After a weekend of cutting, gluing, and velvet-lining, I sat down in the back yard and enjoyed a pipe.

Like a cigar, pipes are not things to be rushed: you set aside time for lighting a pipe, relaxing to enjoy the nutty and chocolaty flavours of quality, aged Virginia or Burley tobaccos as they captivate your taste buds.

With a pipe, the flavours and  intensities are completely under your control. This means, unlike a cigar, your tongue doesn’t need to be overwhelmed by heavy, dank cigar plumes. Instead, a pipe is to be sampled slowly.
You don’t inhale pipe smoke and you certainly don’t puff intensely. In fact it’s perfectly fine for your pipe to extinguish itself. Pipe etiquette allows for putting it down, leaving a while and relighting it when and if you’re ready.

I believe that a pipe is an experience for special occasions. And if, like me, you don’t smoke cigarettes, then the enjoyment of smoking one pipe will easily last you for many, many days.

Oh, and those LED lights? I think in this case the old world and the new age have blended superbly. The lights are gentle and spread evenly; perfect for those after-hours pipes.


Health & Safety disclaimer: Smoking a pipe is not good for you. Even though you don’t inhale the smoke (you taste it, like with a cigar) it’s still not good for you. Even if you only smoke it on special occasions (a couple of times a month) it’s still not good for you. Even though occasional pipe smoking is comparatively “low risk” it’s still not good for you. There. Now you know!

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