Many people would tell you electric cars can't drive long distances, but some people don't listen. They do drive long distances with electric cars. Their leader is Louis Palmer, a Swiss who famously drove a custom made electric car dubbed the "Solar Taxi " all around the world powered by solar power. That took him about 18 months, but he has now moved to things others could do by his side. His latest project was a rally for electric vehicles in Europe. It started in Paris two weeks ago with 20 cars, which arrived in Prague, Czech Republic, on Sunday.
They didn't use any shortcuts. Driving through Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria and finally the Czech Republic, they've covered close to 2,000 miles, in sometimes difficult conditions. The chosen road was through the mighty Grimsel, a Swiss high mountain pass (elevation 7,100 ft) where it was snowing. That's quite a challenge considering that all cars had summer tires, and that some vehicles were very light ones, with skinny low-resistance tires. But everybody went through, even bikers.
Participants ranged from normal electric cars like a Tesla Roadster and a Nissan LEAF. There were gas cars converted to electric propulsion, like a Skoda Superb (Camry-sized sedan) and an Audi A2 (aris-sized car), as well as a a couple of Mitsubishi i-MiEV cars. Add these to the list: a very rare factory-built 15-year old Renault Clio, a Think, a Reva and most notably a Horlacher Sport from 20 years ago. Only a handful of these fantastic micro cars were built—barely longer than a Smart, but significantly lower and narrower—with this one probably worthy of entering world record books: it's already logged 150,000 miles (240,000 km). Besides the cars, some guys did it on e-bikes, and yes, they went through the same roads as the cars, covering 130/150 miles each day.
This rally wasn't a typical rally. Its name is WAVE, which stands for World Advanced Vehicle Expedition. It's all about sustainable mobility. They're doing it because they can, and that it's important to show others it's possible. All vehicles drove on electric power, coming from 100% renewable sources. Events, happenings, had been planned everyday so that at every stop, locals could have a good look at the cars, and understand what's at stake, how cars can run on electricity, and how it's possible to make green electricity. In Sulz-Röthis, Austria, school children had a fun day judging which was the best car. They also learned a few things. One hope is that they will talk to their parents about it. In Stuttgart, a small seminar about EVs had been organized at the Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines Stuttgart (FKFS). It was a good opportunity to inform the students about what EVs can do, and that was important because the students there are expecting to work in the automotive industry.
Charging was done everywhere possible, sometimes in closed garages but most often on public places so that passersby could see how undramatic electric cars are. You just plug, that's it. While on the street, drivers were happy to answer all questions about their cars. This is what made the WAVE a success. There wasn't a single winner—though everybody agreed the Nissan LEAF was the best car to ride in. It wasn't a race, but it was a successful demonstration that electric cars can drive cross-country. This is precisely what the world needs: to prove to bystanders that EVs are not a distant dream but a reality for today.