Episode 4: Electricity with Christian Buric alias “Dr. E”

In the series “Stromern mit…” we already spoke with celebrity chef Holger Stromberg, actor Peter Lohmeyer and organic entrepreneur Josef Zotter. For the current episode, I arranged to meet Christian Buric at an unusual location…

The underground car park of the ADAC headquarters has something of the fluidity of a film noir, especially when it is not heavily frequented, as is the case between holidays when we meet Dr Christian Buric here. I remember my first contact with him: in 2008, when only a few people were talking about electric mobility, the communicator, content creator and electric car aficionado started at ADAC. On his very second day at work, he contacted me to talk about ADAC car insurance. At the time, I was compiling an overview of the benefits of various insurance policies on the topic of alternative drives for my magazine at the time, “Ecomobil”. The car insurance of the club, quite progressive at that time, already had suitable rates for electric cars, but also for natural gas drive and for LPG cars.

Meeting place with depth

Spotlights, light-dark contrasts and e-bike test rides on the almost empty visitor deck set the scene for our underground meeting. Christian Buric had just returned from a test ride with the Polestar 2 64 KWH Standard Range Single Motor. At that moment, I jump back in my mind: in 2008, when he started as a press spokesman at ADAC, he also immediately took care of projects to set up charging infrastructure for e-cars nationwide, namely at ADAC offices and the club’s driving safety centres. This was a project management task that involved establishing a productive dialogue between property owners, energy companies and ADAC regional clubs. “Actually, though, I was hired as a technical editor” confesses Buric. He then took up the job of editor and press spokesperson for ADAC somewhat late due to project management. In the time that followed, as more and more media enquiries about electromobility came to ADAC, he was given the nickname “Dr. E”.

Electrifying key experience

His key electric experience, however, came in 2013, when he proposed a reportage on Croatia to the ADAC travel magazine. Content: “With the Tesla to Tesla”. More precisely: with the Model S to the birthplace of the physicist and inventor Nikola Tesla. Until today, only a few people know that Nikola Tesla is the discoverer of alternating current and that many other related innovations such as radio and radar are also closely related to the ingenious visionary. The hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls on the American-Canadian border would also have been inconceivable without Nikola Tesla. But let’s move on to the present: the touring vehicle for the tour had just arrived on the German market. And: The trip turned out to be a real challenge, as there were no charging stations in Croatia on the planned route to the inventor’s birthplace. Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in the Croatian region of Lika – at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – an area from which Christian’s father also comes. “What I am a little proud of,” says “Dr. E”, “is that I was the first to drive the Tesla to Tesla’s home. That is also officially documented in the local museum in Smiljan. I was a few months earlier than a journalist colleague from Austria. The latter called me later and said: ‘Congratulations, very good, you were faster’. In retrospect, it felt like a competition, a bit like going around the world in 80 days.”

Adventure ride in 2013: Christian Buric with his nephew Matej in front of the inventor’s birthplace with Model S

Lightning impulse for Croatian tourism

“Dr. Buric was the initial spark for electric car tourism in Croatia in 2013. To speak of initial spark here would not be technically correct,” smiles Romeo Draghicchio, Germany Head of the Croatian Tourist Board in Frankfurt am Main. The pioneering trip was extensively reported on Croatian state television and RTL as well as in the Croatian press. When Christian Buric crossed the border back towards Slovenia, the Croatian border officials cheered him on and simply waved him through. “It had something of a folk festival”. Perhaps the border guards sensed the arrival of a new electric age. As a result of the ride, the international Nikola Tesla E-Rally, which also has a clear tourist thrust, was inspired and motivated to some extent. The goal of the Croatian organisers of the rally was and is, among other things, to advance the “Green Magistrale” with charging stations along the coast. A lot has happened here. As a result, tourists who come to Croatia by e-car find much better conditions in terms of infrastructure today than they did a few years ago.

Dr. E is also available as an animation for explanatory content on electromobility

“Christian Buric has done a lot for Croatian tourism, the ADAC, with which we have had particularly intensive relations since 2021, and for the topic of electric mobility. This will be remembered when it will perhaps one day be quite normal to come to Croatia by e-car”, so Romeo Draghicchio, Geschäftsführer der kroatischen Tourismuszentrale.

A marriage proposal, a tycoon and nightly loading guards

But the key experience was not only the actual journey. The experiences Christian Buric had during the tour are also lasting. He charged the Stromer in Croatia in unusual places. Because, as I said, charging infrastructure in 2013? No such thing! But: electricity was available at supermarket delivery ramps, at the campsite or, for example, in a marina in the Kvarner Bay. “You meet unusual people in the process.” A Russian mega yacht owner wanted to chase Dr. E away from the power source at the mooring. The tycoon did not want to see why a car was tapping electricity at “his” ship’s mooring. His playmate and he tried to force Christian Buric off the mooring. However, through an intervention by the marina management, he was able to stay and continue charging the car. Another time, the loading assistance was much more cordial. “I got help from many inhabitants of a village at a disused ski lift in the hinterland, in the direction of Plitvice Lakes. Children and adults of the village guarded the Stromer all night and hooked the car up to the tow lift’s high-voltage connection.” And: In Opatija, Dr. E even received a marriage proposal from an attractive lady in a red summer dress while having an espresso in the street café. When he then confessed that the vehicle was not his property, the unknown beauty “disappeared as quickly as she appeared”. Important during the entire journey: the promise of breakdown assistance. Back in 2013, the ADAC international emergency call centre in Zagreb assured him of help at any time if anything should happen to the car. Even then, ADAC members with the e-car would have been covered. This type of car tourist just didn’t exist eight years ago. That is changing now.

What is the situation with charging stations in Croatia today?

Croatia is popular as a tourist destination. So the idea of the Green Magistrale remains relevant. Electric Circle, a Croatian association of electric car drivers, has initiated a project to install 100,000 e-car charging stations at the end of 2020. Currently, there are around 600 charging stations in Croatia (query by Euractive).

On a diplomatic mission

Christian Buric has always been interested in South Eastern Europe, new mobility and renewable energies. He studied political science and specialised early on in the topics of technology assessment, associations and interest groups, the struggle for raw materials and energy, geopolitics and the states of South-Eastern Europe. With diplomatic status, he travelled for the German Foreign Office and the OSCE as an election observer in former war and crisis zones. After completing his doctorate, he was a political analyst for Radio Free Europe and Jane’s Information Group.

Electrified island world

Then he took the path towards PR and corporate communications. Along the way, he continued to write publications that played a role in policy advice and science, for example on the possibilities of electrification of the Croatian islands. In 2003, he wrote about “Tourism and Ecology in Dalmatia. Also a challenge for marketing”. If one now sees how strongly renewable energies, especially wind and solar power, are being invested in Croatia in the meantime, many considerations from back then may not have been in vain. Also, topics such as sustainable tourism can no longer be ignored by tour operators and hoteliers. “Personally, I also believe that electric ferries will find their way into the Adriatic. Scandinavia, among other countries, is a good example.

Culinary preferences

So what are “Dr. E.’s” favourite dishes? His special preference is called “saur”, a special kind of marinating practised on the island of Pag. Saur is mainly created from smaller fish such as snout bream, mullet, red bream, pike cod or sardines. Saur with octopus with potatoes, fish soup or Novaljski brudit, a kind of fish goulash, is also recommended. And: You can also eat saur with freshwater fish, for example with a delicious trout from the Gacka River in the Lika region. The river is not far from the area where Nikola Tesla was born.

River Lika, which flows through the region of the same name.

Speciality of the island of Pag: Saur

How do you prepare the pager saur? First fry the sea fish you have on both sides, then remove the fish from the pan. Add onions, garlic, parsley, pepper and water to the frying oil. Then pour vinegar on top, stir everything and let it cook for 10 minutes. Then take the mixture of oil, onions, garlic, parsley, pepper and water off the heat and wait until everything has cooled down completely. Then, in an extra deep pot, put the fish that you have fried before, arranging the fish in different layers, always with rosemary in between and on top. Finally, the Saur mixture is placed on top. And that’s it. This dish was once ideal for fishermen, today for party people and campers. But actually: for all those who get hungry quickly at the seaside but don’t want to cook something new every day. Because: You can also leave the Pager Saur for several days.

Fried trout, one of “Dr. E’s” favourite dishes. Saur” would also go well with this.

16 lakes connected by waterfalls up to 78 metres high

Part of the island of Pag still belongs to Lika, while another part of the island is already Dalmatian. Lika as a whole is not maritime in character, but rather characterised by forested, rocky and rugged hinterland. The Velebit mountains with their national parks are known worldwide among nature lovers. Tourists are often reminded of the USA, probably one of the reasons why the Winnetou films of the 1960s were made here. Friends of Christian Buric’s father had impersonated Indians in these films with Lex Barker and Pierre Brice during their lifetime. A highlight of the region: the 16 Plitvice Lakes, connected by waterfalls up to 78 metres high. About a thousand plant species grow in the park, including 55 orchids. Even brown bears, lynxes and wolves live in this labyrinth of caves and canyons. Christian likes to roam the forests with his cousin, who is the region’s forestry chief. In the backcountry, we are more and more often on our mountain bikes, and soon we will be riding electric bikes.

Impressive natural spectacle Plitvice Lakes

Between the Glass Shard Quarter and the Artists’ Colony

Back to the culinary: Dr E’s father was a chef and travelled internationally. He was good at plain cooking, but also at haute cuisine. Among other things, he cooked in the famous Hotel Esplanade in Zagreb. Later, he had his own restaurant in Munich for 12 years, in what is now the posh district of Lehel. When Christian Buric grew up here, it was “something between a glass shard district and an artists’ colony”; it only became posh and almost unaffordable in terms of rents much later. His parents’ restaurant was a family business. The childhood in the restaurant, which was mainly frequented by families, opera visitors and celebrities, “was unbeatable for me”. In the short description of his childhood and youth, Christian Buric says: “born in Munich, socialised in Lehel and culinary privileged”. Why privileged? Well, quite simple: eating à la carte every day.

Elektromobilitätsknotenpunkt

Christian Buric also brought Thomas Biersack, his colleague in the media office of ADAC SE, to the appointment in the ADAC garage. Among other things, he also communicates about the e-bikes that ADAC SE offers on subscription and for sale, has test experience and is a proven camping and motorhome expert. Thomas Biersack, who also acts as “Mr. Ride”, has been driving an electric car privately for many years and has also extensively tried out the Polestar 2, which the ADAC Fahrzeugwelt platform offers on lease. At our garage meeting, he also rode the KTM e-bike from the ADAC offer as well as the compact cargo bike that the Touremo editorial team had just tested and brought along. Mr. Ride” made a clear statement about this:

“Freight bikes relieve cities, contribute to the mobility turnaround and are currently maturing into a lucrative business model”, says Thomas Biersack ADAC SE.

Christian Buric, Thomas Biersack with Polestar 2, KTM e-bike and compact cargo bike from Metz.

A network that grows

Since electric cars are not a product like conventional cars – there are so many things to think about, from charging infrastructure and payment systems to second life and battery recycling – a kind of e-ecosystem has developed since 2018 in terms of products and services. This includes e-cars on lease, e-bikes, a special interest rate for consumers who want to finance an e-car, discounted wallboxes with green and smart electricity tariffs for ADAC members or even extended services of the ADAC car insurance for e-mobilists. A lot of development potential. The pioneering days are over. Nevertheless: “We are still at the beginning of a journey that is now gaining momentum,” says Christian Buric.

Book recommendation on the person of Nikola Tesla: Michael Krause: “Wie Nikola Tesla das 20. Jahrhundert erfand”. Berlin. 2010

Polestar 2 for ADAC members: https://www.adac.de/fahrzeugwelt/fahrzeuge/polestar-2-580/

E-bikes from the ADAC: https://www.adac.de/services/e-angebote/zweirad/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIxNmCk76s9QIVF8PVCh1_SQl8EAAYASAAEgL9Q_D_BwE

Images:

Lead story: ADAC SE/ Theo Klein
Image 1: Christian Buric
Image 2: Source: Croatian National Tourist Board
Image 3: Croatian National Tourist Board
Image 4: Croatian National Tourist Board
Image 5: Croatian National Tourist Board
Image 6: ADAC SE/ Theo Klein
Graphic: ADAC

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