Around the World in 80 Days, in a Tesla

By · June 29, 2012

Rafael de Mestre

Rafael de Mestre and his Tesla Roadster race around the world in 80 days, with a tip of the sombrero to Jules Verne and Elon Musk.

Rafael de Mestre started out with a simple idea: to become the first person to circumnavigate the earth in an electric vehicle. A Spanish-born German resident, Rafael would start and end his trip in Barcelona, Spain, sometime in 2013, passing through Europe, the United States, China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Romania, and then back through Europe to complete the journey. The idea was simple, but execution of the idea is not.

Things got even more complicated than expected when Rafael's lawyer approached him and shared the web site of a French team who had already started their round-the-world odyssey in February. Rafeael realized that when only one car is driving around the world, it's a drive. But when there's two cars, it's a race. And the race was on.

It began in April, when advisors told Rafael that it would take six months to plan for the trip, but he wanted to cut down the planning to only two weeks, meaning a May 1 departure. He'd be piloting his Tesla Roadster solo, while the French team has two drivers manning a Citroën C-Zero (its U.S. twin is the the Mitsubishi i, formerly the i-MiEV).

While in Spain, Rafael secured paperwork required for travel through Europe. When in Europe, he gathered all the paperwork needed to fly the car from Frankfurt to New York, and then to drive within the U.S. (passing through U.S. Customs, his Tesla was referred to as "luggage"). While in the U.S., plans were made to pass though China, Kazakhstan and back to Barcelona.

Around the World in 80 Days, in a Tesla

Around the World in 80 Days, in a Tesla

Rafael began the U.S. stage in New York, heading west on I-80 and passing through Omaha, Neb., Cheyenne, Wyo., Salt Lake City, Utah, then driving down the California coast to Los Angeles, where the Tesla boarded a commercial jet to Seoul, Korea. During the long drive across the country, he said he didn't listen to music or radio: "I preferred to listen to the car and to the road."

Charging stations were always easy to find in the U.S., at least in the form of an RV park. Some RV parks "got" the electric car and appreciated the technology, like the KOA Campground in Illinois who welcomed him like a family member, and offered a free charge. Rafael said others were not as interested in EV technology, telling him coldly, "That'll be $40 to charge."

When there's no EV charging station or RV park around, Rafael is prepared to improvise with a trunk full of charge adapters which fit between different plug styles. When one of his pre-assembled adapters doesn't work, he's prepared to make one that does.

“When only one car is driving around the world, it's a drive, but when there's two cars, it's a race.”

-- Rafael de Mestre

When Rafael landed in Asia on June 17, he was exactly 10 days behind the French team, but expects to quickly close the gap. He holds an advantage by driving the Tesla because it has a range of around 240 miles, while the C-Zero can only go about 75 miles before refilling its battery. But the C-Zero has an edge when it comes to charging its batteries. It can use Fast Charging technology, while the slightly-older Tesla can not.

If he expects to finish the round-the-world trip within the scheduled 80 days, he would have to average 400 kilometers a day for the duration of the trip. When asked if was going to visit the Great Wall of China, he said, "I don't have the time. This is a race, not a vacation."

Rafael's greatest challenge is likely to be Kazakhstan, where many of the villages and towns along his route have no electricity whatsoever. But that's all part of the EV game, locating the next charging station down the road. But he remains optimistic that he will become the first person to drive (or race) an electric vehicle around the world and into the record books.

Check out Rafael's progress or the French team's progress.


· · 6 years ago

"Rafael's greatest challenge is likely to be Kazakhstan, where many of the villages and towns along his route have no electricity whatsoever."

Assuming the French team follows the same route, this can also be his largest advantage, given the fact that his roadster has 3x the range of the i. That, plus the fact that in order to use a quick charger, one has to find one first, means my money is on the Tesla, even with the huge head start.

In the end, I don't care who wins, I just hope that they both successfully complete their journey.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Short memories all around. this was done in 2010.

· · 6 years ago

@Brian "... my money is on the Tesla, even with the huge head start."

A friendly wager on Rafael's site:

· · 6 years ago

Why don't he do it with a boeing 747 in one day? it cost way less.

· · 6 years ago

Even though, as Anon points out, this may have been done before, I think this is just what I needed to hear about today. Thanks for sharing this story, RecargoJames. Good luck to both Rafael and the French team.

I was hoping I wasn't going to be treated to yet another dry EV sales statistic report here on Plug In Cars today, predicting the demise of electric person transportation. That seems to be all many of our regular correspondents want to write about anymore. Time to put the sales projection spread sheets away for awhile, folks, and tell us about people having an adventure in an electric car.

Speaking of unique road trips, I just did a radio feature on the Mind Drive kids from Kansas City, Missouri, who just finished driving cross country with their mentor/instructor crew in a EV they converted from a 1970s Lotus Esprit . . .

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Gorr, carrying the car to the places in the world that's what they did in the anonymous quoted Tag Heuer 2010 tour.
The Nissan did it in a self made car, the Wave did calculate only the driven time and also not in a standard car.
The message is that if EVERYONE not only electricians can DRIVE a STANDARD 100% electric car around the world, why not use yourself an electric car?
So it's the first time, or did someone hear about an 100% driven around the world by Misubishi, Tesla Roadster or other standard not modified electric car before? But like Benjamin said, is it so important to be the first? Isn't it more important to keep the flag high in times, where gas industry driven politicians reported a reduction of interest in electric cars? One of the biggest goals to me was that in the meantime all this voices got quiet, Mercedes changed its strategy of range extender, asked me to join to a marketing session and said to the press, that they will build the B Class 100% electric because the people want the 100% and not Hybrid!

Next year I will organise the first 100% electric standard car race and you are all invited to participate.
All this actions are done to push the automotive industry to produce better EV's with more range and faster charging. My dream is 5 minutes charge for 1000km range and I will tickle the industry to make them.
Everyone can do something to get the world better, if you don't help organising races you can simply like the Carrera Electrica Facebook site: ;)
All the best to you and your children

· · 6 years ago

Great reports!

· · 6 years ago

Well, whad'ya know . . . here's a link to a page describing that Mercedes B Class EV . . .

A quote from that web page . . .

"Apparently, engineers first considered incorporating a range extender into the system, but it was ditched in favor of a much simpler and lighter all-electric setup, similar to that of the [Tesla] Model S, but with its electric motors driving the front wheels instead of the rears."

Hmmm . . . maybe someone at Audi will read this and reconsider the recently scrapped range extender A2 as a pure EV?

Elsewhere, I've read that this new Mercedes is supposed to be good for 125 miles between charges. Less range anxiety and no gasoline required: it's all good.

gorr will remind us that Mercedes is going to give us a hydrogen fuel cell car at around the same time this little EV is introduced. Well, nothing wrong with that. Bring that one on, too. If they can get the hydrogen thing to work cleanly for a longer range cruiser and also give us a mid range pure EV like the B Class, who can complain?

And . . . with Tesla manufacturing the electronics in the B, perhaps this little Mercedes is the preamble to Tesla's "budget" 3rd generation vehicle we'll be seeing a few years off?

Getting back the EV grass roots activism, mark Sunday, September 23rd on your calendar for Plug In America's 2nd annual National Plug In Day. With cities participating in other countries, it could turn into International Plug In Day this year. Details forthcoming.

· · 6 years ago

Mercedes did it before with 3 B-class F-Cell, they drove more than 18000 miles in about 4 months. I wonder what distance here is done with the car, and how much inside a plane. Flying from Frankfurt to New York is highly surprising to me. Why didn't he fly from a coastal city? My guess is that he chose Frankfurt because it is one of Europe's largest airports, so that it's easier and faster to book a flight for a car there. It's very different driving from coast to coast or from big airport to big airport. Then the French team has been driving in Japan, Malaysia, Thailand before China, when that Spaniard is flying one way from the US to China. Of course, if you bypass countries, you go faster...

· Mark Gemmell (not verified) · 6 years ago

I know one of the Tesla guys who did that round the World Tag Heuer 2010 tour. It wasn't a complete tour but more of a publicity tour with photo shoots. They did do some sections driving large distances, but it wasn't the same scale of effort. They also had support teams etc.

I also know Rafael personally, and while one can criticise flying Frankfurt to NY, or LA to Seoul, that is just nit-picking (would a boat really be better?). He and the French team will end up driving a good part of the 30k or so that is the round-the-world drive, and they will do this by finding charge points themselves.

The challenge is, as many rightly point out, getting through the Far East and Middle East. For those who support EV technology the important thing is to get them all the publicity we can and get this into the public eye.

Both teams help prove EVs as real transport alternatives and both should be applauded.

· · 6 years ago

I heard from Rafael over the weekend, and he's optimistic that his car will be released to him by Chinese Customs next week. He says the customs people want to make everything perfect and have a "... fear of doing something wrong." Since they've never had an EV fly into the country (much less drive across their country), "... they have to invent the whole procedure from scratch." Given the rather slow progression, Rafael said, "the tension of the race keeps being high."

· · 6 years ago

"Both teams help prove EVs as real transport alternatives and both should be applauded."

I second that. In fact, the presence of an "i", proves that it not just the ultra-expensive $100k+ cars that are viable

· · 5 years ago

oth teams help prove EVs as real transport alternatives and both should be applauded.

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