Hello and welcome to the Nissan Leaf Mongol Rally Diary! This is the one-stop shop for all the latest news on Chris Ramsey, Electric Vehicle Adventurer, presenter and founder of Plug in Adventures. He will be driving the only electric vehicle in the rally, a New Nissan LEAF, from Goodwood in the UK all the way to Siberia in the 2017 Mongol Rally – setting off this Sunday, 16 July with his wife, Julie.
The Mongol Rally races 10,000 miles across the mountains and desert of Europe and Asia each summer. There’s no backup, no support and no set route. The rules are simple – cars must be small, with a 1-litre engine or less and entrants must raise at least £1,000 for charity, at least £500 of which must go to Cool Earth.
The infamous Mongol Rally is gruelling enough at the best of times – but imagine having to stop every 100 miles to recharge your car? Not only that, but adapting your route to find a suitable charging point? Sounds crazy, right? Not to Chris!
We caught up with Chris on the phone just before he set off and he told us that having to stop regularly to charge the vehicle gives him an excuse to get involved with the local communities and soak up the culture of the places he might otherwise simply pass through:
“I’ll be letting people know where we’ll be the day before and reaching out to the general public on Facebook, asking people for a charge. Already the response from the public has been incredible, with people from Kazakhstan saying ‘hey, charge in my garage!’.”
Chris is using the hashtag #ChatAndCharge and documenting the kind strangers he meets en route on Twitter.
Chris has set off from his home in Scotland – but has already suffered a massive setback – watch on YouTube
As well as supporting Cool Earth, Chris is raising money for WWF Scotland.
DAY 1 – THEY’RE OFF!
Chris and Panda made good progress last week driving the Nissan Leaf from Aberdeen to Goodwood, stopping to spread the word about their adventure on the way.
Chris even achieved the official NEDC range figure – what a great way to start the trip!
We asked Chris how he gets more miles out of each charge. He said:
“I’m very careful with acceleration and use a trick called hyper-mile which conventional cars also use. When you go down a hill engage neutral, coast, gain speed and don’t use the battery. If you’re going above the speed limit or want to go back you change into a gear and it gives a boost into the battery and you get a bit of mileage back.”
Great advice, Chris!
We asked him why he didn’t choose the EV with the highest range for the Mongol Rally. He said: “It adds to the challenge of doing this adventure – I could quite easily use another manufacturer’s product and get 200 miles of range but there’s no challenge in that. It’s not going to prove any point to the general public about how possible it is to travel long distance in EVs.”
He does like a challenge does our Chris!
On the road to Goodwood Chris’s new companion Panda proves to be a mischievous car buddy…
Suddenly – it was showtime! The Mongol Rally cars all lined up at the starting line at Goodwood Racing Circuit – and look who was right at the front!
So far Chris and Panda have already come across two charging points that did not work. Ecotricity helped them out big time as did a new friend made along the way called Dave:
The first stop for Chris and Panda is Ghent in Belgium – fingers crossed they get there in good time – more updates soon!
DAY 2 – THE FIRST WOBBLE…
Welcome back! We have some good news, bad news and then some more good news for you.
Good news: ThePlugInAdventure.com website is now live – you can check out the live tracking map of where Chris and Panda are and have been charging their Nissan LEAF on the Mongol Rally.
Bad news: The EV duo encountered their first wobble in Germany where one charging station didn’t work and another didn’t have the right sized plug for a UK vehicle. This meant that they had 13 miles to go to the next charging point, with very little battery left – hairy times!
Good news: It was alright in the end – they made it to a working charging station just as their battery hit empty! Luckily there was quite a few downhill roads that Chris took full advantage of.
The Nissan Leaf’s adventure is certainly proving that EVs can go the distance (even if it is by a hair’s breadth). We asked Chris what’s next for electric cars:
“The reliability of charging stations could be improved! There’s several apps showing where they are, but not one that makes it simple, with live updates of which stations are working. This is what we need.”
We also asked Chris about the speed at which the EV industry seems to be taking off:
“If you look at the comments that were made three or four years ago from a number of manufacturers saying ‘we don’t plan to make electric vehicles’, now all of those manufacturers have either released an electric vehicle or have announced, like Volvo, that their cars will be going electric.
“Most EV models and especially the new Nissan Leaf coming out are going into 200-mile range by next year. That is more than adequate for a daily commute or even a weekly commute. So I think we’re really probably looking at three or four years and then the market is really going to take off.“
So, it’s an exciting time to be driving an EV, especially in the most gruelling 10,000mile rally in the world Here’s hoping that Chris and Panda make it through Germany with no more wobbles….stay tuned here…
DAY 1O – NEW HEIGHTS FOR THE NISSAN LEAF
Blog post 4 –
BREAKING NEWS: We have heard from a trusted source that Panda is not actually a real panda – but is in fact Chris’ wife Julie, IN A PANDA COSTUME! Our minds are blown.
So Chris, Panda – sorry, Julie, and the Nissan Leaf are making good progress and are now in Bulgaria. They have been caught up with some non-EV Mongol Rally comrades and are enjoying the 32-degree sunshine.
Not only is the Nissan Leaf keeping pace with fossil-fuelled cars, it is also handling some serious slopes, climbing 2,000 metres up the Transfargarasan mountains with ease and is running just fine. Chris is taking full advantage of the downhill ride to regenerate the battery:
We caught up with Chris, who has been a bit electric vehicle (EV) evangelist for several years and asked him why he chose a Nissan Leaf to get him through the Mongol Rally when there are a range of EVs to choose from. He said:
“I’ve been driving the Nissan Leaf since 2011 and I know just how reliable it is. I know what kind of ranges I can expect and how it performs in different climates and in different terrain so it’s an ideal choice for me.
The range adds to the challenge of doing this adventure – I could quite easily use another manufacturer’s product and get 200 miles of range but there’s no challenge in that. It’s not going to prove any point to the general public about how possible it is to travel long distance in EVs.”
Good point, Chris!
Chris shared a top tip for EV drivers in Romania – get a free Renovatio RFID card and get access to the charging network which is free across the country at the moment.
Chris and Julie found a fast charger in Tirnovo, Bulgaria just as they had completely run out of charge. Chris said the charge infrastructure is starting to thin out and Bulgaria is “breaking us in gently for what lies ahead in Turkey and Kazakhstan”.
Back in Budapest, Chris and Julie charged from a normal plug socket with an EVconnector. Not as quick as the rapid chargers, but perfect for charging overnight.
10 days down the road and the Nissan Leaf is still looking good – we’ll be back soon with more updates – keep living the electric dream Chris and Julie!