Travelling The Wild Atlantic Way the eco-friendly way

Ella-Bleu Kiely talks to Conrad Opperman about his 1500km journey

In 2019, Conrad Oppermann went camping with his father and friends and a conversation arose surrounding the capabilities of electric cars. The others said that electric cars were too expensive, had no range, and there was nowhere to charge them, to which Oppermann disagreed and questioned, what are you all waiting for? I sat down with Oppermann himself, a final year Management Science and Information Systems Studies (MSISS) student. We discussed his most recent film in collaboration with Tesla Motors, which took him on a route  shaped by the Irish sea: The Wild Atlantic Way.

On their travels in the lended Tesla Model X (christened Layla), Oppermann and companions traveled 1500km from Donegal to Dingle. He detailed the project’s instigation: “I really just chanced my arm and emailed loads of companies, and as it happened the very first people I emailed were Tesla. I asked as a bit of a joke and fully expected them never to reply to me, but a week later I got an email saying ‘That sounds like a great idea! When do you want to do it?’, and I was simply like, ‘This is unbelievable.’”

Oppermann continued: “We weren’t given any budget, just the car, so we thought where are we going to stay? We looked at where we could charge the car along The Atlantic Way and noticed that a lot of really fancy hotels had installed chargers… Which we found interesting,” he laughs. When he first emailed Ashford Castle, one of Ireland’s five star hotels along the Mayo-Galway border, he asked if there was a chance they’d act as a sponsor if featured in the video. “They were a bit hesitant and said they’d think about it. After explaining what we were doing over the phone, they were really up for it. And I think because Ashford is such a prestigious place to stay, all the others amazingly fell into place.” Throughout their week of exploration and filming Ireland’s raw and wild beauty, luxurious overnight stays extended to Dromoland Castle (Co. Clare), Harvey’s Point Hotel (Co. Kerry), Ballynahinch Castle (Co. Galway) and The Europe Hotel and Resort (Co. Kerry).

“The people were the best part. Not only did we get to stay in such sensational places, but everywhere we went everyone was so kind and interested in our project.”

“The people were the best part. Not only did we get to stay in such sensational places, but everywhere we went everyone was so kind and interested in our project.” From a bellman in Ashford called Paddy the Porter, to a Bohemian and free spirited woman in Spideál, their journey was enriched by the people they met. “We could not have done it without the kindness and hospitality of Irish people, it was risky on their part to give us so much. I suppose that just speaks for the Irish; they like to support the craic and are so welcoming and hospitable,” said Oppermann. Their project was also kindly sponsored by Dingle Gin and Údarás na Gaeltachta. 

Oppermann revealed he had longed to travel The Wild Atlantic Way, as there was so much of Ireland he had not seen. His inspiration for the film was the work of Irish filmmaker and photographer Brendan Canty who had created the Keep Discovering ad campaign for Fáilte Ireland. “I’m a huge fan of his… The video is incredible and it portrays such a romantic idea of Ireland. There are a few shots in our video that took a lot of inspiration from him.”

He believes this video challenged his skills, and when asked if it had changed his perspective as a filmmaker, Oppermann replied: “Yes. I think this piece was a culmination of a lot of things. It definitely made us really focus. It was a whistle stop tour of everywhere.”

Despite the stunning final result of the video, there were some challenges in capturing the Irish landscape. “As we were doing this for Tesla, it was very important to us to have the car on the landscape, with us enjoying it,” Oppermann said. “There’s a real challenge in capturing the car and the landscape equally in a shot, it’s quite difficult”. They took two drones, two Sony mirrorless cameras (shooting in 4k slow motion), two GoPros and a 360 camera to capture the rugged and unspoiled beauty of Ireland’s West Coast.

“What I learned most is that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. There’s a lot of power in asking and taking risks. What’s the worst possible outcome?”

Oppermann shared that Tesla were nothing short of amazing to work with, and there “were no problems as they were so lovely and calm about everything. They even said if we ever want to embark on another adventure with them, whether in Ireland or abroad, we’re more than welcome”. Oppermann said he will be seizing that offer. “For as long as I can remember I’ve always been absolutely obsessed with Elon Musk [CEO of Tesla Motors] and his SpaceX”. When asked what he has gained most from this experience he proclaimed: “It all just shows how much is possible when you just ask. Tesla had no idea who I was, they were never going to email me and ask if I wanted their latest car for two weeks! What I learned most is that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. There’s a lot of power in asking and taking risks. What’s the worst possible outcome? They say no.”

The video ends with a smug but sweet phone call between father and son, as Conrad Oppermann and his friends stand gazing out at the sunset of their final destination. He proved those who sat around the campfire wrong. A college student can indeed travel right across the country, using Europe’s most westernly charging points, in an electric car.

Ella-Bleu Kiely

Ella-Bleu Kiely is the current Societies Editor of Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister Classics and English Literature student.