On an island out in the middle of Bass Strait, life is lived at a slower pace.  But Rowena Nicholls is one local business woman who is really switched on when it comes to modern technology and moving with the times.

Rowena - Flinders Island Car Rentals
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Rowena Nicholls of Flinders Island Car Rentals with Jeanette Findlay

Rowena Nicholls and Her Electric Car

by Roger Findlay

I met Rowena Nicholls on my first visit to Flinders Island a few years ago and remembered her exceptional customer service skills and efficiency. Along with Justin, her husband, Rowena runs a successful business called Flinders Island Car Rentals. But that’s not all.

Rowena - Walker's Lookout, Flinders Island
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Flinders Island Car Rentals: driving to Walker’s Lookout

Birding on Flinders Island

As well as being a young mother, Rowena is actively involved in most things that happen on the island and is instrumental in producing an informative blog on their website.  Recreational activities are high on her list. As a child she would hike to the top of Mt.Strzelecki on a regular basis from her Grandad’s farm at the base. In recent years, her favourite family activity has been “birding” and she was proud to tell me that her young son, Mitchell, had been out with them during every season since birth!

Rowena - Birding with Mitchell
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Rowena Nicholls with son Mitchell, on one of their mutton-birding expeditions

For those that don’t know, “birding” entails putting your arm into a burrow that is the nest of a Mutton Bird (short-tailed shearwater) and retrieving a young bird for the dinner plate or for the oil. (Beware of Tiger Snakes!)

Flinders Island Car Rentals: First Electric Car

In the early part of 2011, Justin and Rowena sought the opportunity of applying for a Renewable Energy Grant to fulfil their vision of running an electric car as an airport shuttle and for educational purposes. The application was successful and by October, 2011 they had taken delivery of their new vehicle as well as the solar panels for the charging station. (Total value approx. $70,000).

Rowena - Electric Car
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A first in Tasmania: an electric car used by Flinders Island Car Rentals as an airport shuttle

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car became the first of this type or make of vehicle to enter service in Tasmania making it a feather in the cap for Rowena, Justin and Flinders Island.  As a 100% electric car the batteries have to be charged quite frequently but the car is intended for short trips to and from the airport making the average 120km range quite sufficient. The charging station is conveniently located at the Flinders Island Car Rentals depot not far from the airport.

Electric Car: Features & Benefits

Rowena gave us a full run-down on all of the features as well as a short drive around the car park. The vehicle is a small 4-seater with limited boot space. It’s just like riding in a normal small car except that it’s incredibly quiet. People standing close by were unaware of it moving and extra vigilance is required by the driver.

Rowena - Electric Car, Flinders Island
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Rowena Nicholls shows the features of the electric car owned by Flinders Island Car Rentals

This car is no record breaker when it comes to speed, range or power but it does serve the intended purpose of transporting people to and from the airport. People on business, day visitors and the elderly don’t always want to hire a car. Whitemark is less than 5kms from the airport and, at minimal cost, a ride in the electric car is good value.

Rowena Nicholls: Educating Flinders Island

On a remote island it is essential to have renewable and sustainable energy. Flinders Island is becoming a leader in this respect boasting three wind generators and solar panels on many buildings. One of the conditions of the Renewable Energy Grant stipulated ongoing education programs. Rowena and the car are due to visit the school, clubs and organisations promoting the benefits of solar power. It seems logical to educate the future generation at a young age so that solar energy becomes a permanent fixture of everyday life.

Rowena - Electric Car Motor
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Taking a look under the bonnet of the electric car, owned by Rowena (Flinders Island)

Well done Rowena and Justin. And well done Flinders Island.

Roger Findlay spends all his holidays in Tasmania, then writes about the
experience
for Think Tasmania. If you’d like Roger to visit you in the name of
research (so we can publish information about your business), please contact us.

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Map: Flinders Island Car Rentals, Tasmania…