Beunbazen to drive to northern lights

Putting twenty people into nine gasoline cars and driving up to the Arctic Circle – in February – to see the northern lights, is that a good idea? Eindhoven Student Automobile Association De Beunbazen certainly thinks so. It’s one of their anniversary activities and on February 9, after due preparation, eighteen men and two women will embark on the journey with snow chains, blankets, jerry cans and tow ropes. The trip is not without risk. Koen and Tinus’s Porsche, for instance, has ‘limited ground clearance’.

photo Benke Verhoef

“An insanely cool trip,” they say. Koen Mies, fifth-year bachelor’s student of Mechanical Engineering and Marthijn Vink, third-year student of Built Environment and known as Tinus within the association, are organizing the journey of a lifetime together with two fellow students. Their mothers are less excited about it, but that’s another matter. Cursor wanted to know three things about this Skandinavisk Vinterekspedision. Can the cars handle it? Can the participants handle it? Can nature handle it?


Can the cars handle it? “In theory, yes,” both say while bursting into laughter. For the ‘Major Koen and Tinus test’ in November, all cars underwent a rigid check. “They had to meet all standard vehicle regulations in any case, but that’s not always a given at a hobby association where people tinker with old cars. And we were even stricter. We paid extra attention to the tires, engine starter, batteries and – most of all – suspension. Snowy roads have a tendency to be bumpy. And it’s really cold in the area as well, minus 43 degrees Celsius at the moment. Rubber and cold isn’t a good combination.” At first, five cars failed the test, which meant their owners were presented with a slip of paper detailing the improvements to be made. All five cars have since passed their respective retests.

Four German, one Japanese and four Swedish cars are going, all built between 1973 and 2005. “Those include some oldies that are bound to struggle.” Koen is a bit worried about the ‘limited ground clearance’ of his own Porsche Boxster and, frankly, of some of the other cars as well. “That’s a concern for this trip. I’m happy that our travel party will include a Subaru with four-wheel drive.”

Scandinavian law dictates you can keep a car running stationary to heat up the engine for no more than two minutes. “I’m curious to see if we’ll manage,” Koen says, entirely understanding of the fact that the Norwegians will be less than thrilled if he leaves his six cylinder running all night. “We’ll bring battery chargers and can take the batteries inside.”

All participating cars are gasoline-powered. In Scandinavia, distances are so big that gas cars are the standard and you don’t see any electric cars at all outside of the major cities, says Tinus who’s visited the area. The organizers already took stock of places to get gas. “That’s most important for the Beatle, which has the shortest range.” But jerry cans are on the packing list, so no problems are expected in this respect either.

Seat heating

Can the participants handle it? “It will be mentally taxing and we shouldn’t underestimate that aspect.” Tinus thinks it will be tougher on the people than on the cars. “Long days, early nightfall, cold, tiring drives. But that’s also the challenge and the fun. That’s why Koen and I are doing it in the first place.” Risks are part of the deal.

“We expect everyone to bring snow chains, ice scrapers, jumper cables and tow ropes, as well as enough food, blankets and warm clothes. Seat heating is recommended.” Also on the packing list: an ABBA CD.

It wasn’t easy to organize enough beds, which is why the number of participants in this Scandinavia trip has been capped at twenty. “In the north of Norway, we’ve rented out an entire village,” says Tinus, referring to the fact that all six available holiday cabins at the local arctic campsite have been reserved by the association.

For safety reasons, they’ll split up into driving groups consisting of three cars each. Each group includes a car with towing capacity, one of the organizers and two or three empty seats. Should a car suffer irreparable damage, the trip can be continued with the remaining two.

All participants returned safe and sound from all of the association’s previous trips (around seven in the first five years of its existence). But this only goes for one trip as far as vehicles are concerned. The only time those all came back unscathed was from the camping trip to Germany.

Empty country

Can nature handle it? “That’s the trickiest question, which I knew would be asked,” says Tinus. But he has a decent answer, although he gets to it the long way round. “There are quite a few people in Scandinavia and they drive to work every day. Biking is a no-go because of the huge distances. Nine Dutch cars added to the mix won’t make a difference.”

The real answer is that for car lovers, their passion outweighs their guilt. But they live as sustainably as possible from day to day (“In Eindhoven I go everywhere by bike,” says Koen. “I work in electric mobility,” says Tinus) and believe they are entitled to the occasional exception for their hobby. “I think working on sustainability every day makes more of an impact than skipping this trip.”

They get why association members don’t have electric cars. “They’re very expensive and to be frank, we have gasoline running through our veins. Which is kind of surprising, seeing how many of our members study or work in the field of energy transition.”


To cut a long story short: the Beunbazen will be driving six thousand kilometers to see aurora borealis. And there’s a great chance they will this year, but you never know. And there’s also the question of whether the cars will make it all the way there. “But when we start everything will be in order.”

If you want to follow the Beunbazen online, you can do so on Insta: @ESAVlustrum

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