First into Shanghai!

Trev has arrived in Shanghai, and has therefore completed the first of the three major legs of Zero Race. We’ve now driven about 16,000km on our journey since departing Geneva on August 16th.

Driving into Shanghai

Driving into Shanghai

If we wanted to be cheeky, we’d claim that Trev was first across the line into Shanghai and therefore the winner of the first leg of Zero Race, but it’s not that simple. ZeroTracer has consistently been the fastest and most reliable competitor so far, being a high performance, highly refined production vehicle. Trev, on the other hand, is a prototype built by keen amateurs, and is designed for urban commuting rather than circumnavigations, so we’re thrilled at how Trev is performing. Team Vectrix is also doing a fabulous job, overcoming electrical issues to remain in the race.

Zero Race participants in Shanghai

Zero Race participants in Shanghai

Motorcycles aren’t allowed on the Chinese motorways, so ZeroTracer and Team Vectrix have often been forced onto the secondary roads. Trev has been able to remain on the motorways though because it is a car instead of motorcycle, despite the rules banning three wheeled vehicles. Trev looks like a normal car from the front, so by the time tollbooth operators realise that Trev has only three wheels, we’ve already driven off.

Trev turns heads in China

Trev turns heads in China

Congratulations to all Zero Race participants and organisers in making it to Shanghai safely and on schedule. We look forward to the next leg of our journey, across North America to Cancun in Mexico, in time for the UN Climate Change Conference in late November.

Trev in Shanghai

Trev in Shanghai

Trev, ZeroTracer, Team Vectrix and the Zero Race support vehicle have been loaded into a shipping container, and will shortly be loaded onto a ship bound for Vancouver. Zero Race recommences in Vancouver on November the 5th.

Being loaded into the shipping container

Being loaded into the shipping container

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Cruising across China

Ours fears of being forced onto secondary roads across China proved unwarranted – Zero Race vehicles are allowed on major highways so we’re all proceeding a-pace along the 5,000km towards Shanghai.

Chinese highway (courtesy of Zero Race)

Chinese highway (courtesy of Zero Race)

We’ve been driving big distances through vast desert landscapes. Trev has just set its new record for the distance driven on one charge: 260km. This is about what we’d designed Trev to achieve, but we’ve previously only been able to manage about 200km.

Vast desert landscapes (courtesy of Zero Race)

Vast desert landscapes (courtesy of Zero Race)

At Jiayaguan we visited the Great Wall of China, at the westernmost section of the Ming Great Wall. It is also the only part of the Great Wall which crosses the ancient Silk Route, which has been our driving route since Almaty in Kazakhstan. Dickson even managed to try out a local renewable energy vehicle (a.k.a. a camel).

Dickson tries a local renewable energy vehicle (courtesy of Zero Race)

Dickson tries a local renewable energy vehicle (courtesy of Zero Race)

Dickson is spending long long hours in the cockpit, keeping the kilometres ticking over and staying on schedule to arrive in Shanghai this Thursday. With any luck he will meet up in Danyang with representatives from our sponsor Galaxy Resources for an opportunity to drive Trev into Shanghai.

Truck stop noodles (courtesy of Zero Race)

Truck stop noodles (courtesy of Zero Race)

Benefactor Keith Drake

Whilst Trev is largely out of contact, driving through  remote stretches of north western China, we’ll take the opportunity to introduce a valued member of Team Trev: Benefactor Keith Drake from Queensland.

Keith at the Zero Race start in Geneva

Keith at the Zero Race start in Geneva

Keith heard about Team Trev through an ABC TV news story in January 2010. Keith has a long interest in sustainability, and had invested in a cleantech venture many years ago. He made contact with us and he generously agreed to become the founding Benefactor of Team Trev.

Besides Keith’s financial contribution to Team Trev, he has also generously supported us with his time and energy. He spent a week in Adelaide shortly before Trev’s departure for Europe, and spent long hours in the workshop affixing lightweight lining to Trev’s interior to make it more comfortable and presentable. This was a job which we’d always intended to do but always had other pressing technical problems to solve, so it was a godsend for Keith to take charge of this task.

Keith also flew to Europe via Adelaide before the start of Zero Race, and he lugged a large, heavy suitcase full of spare parts to Trev in  Switzerland. Then, before he could recover from jetlag, he was thrust into the frenetic activities involved with preparating for Zero Race and then the first days of the race itself.

To make matters even more challenging, several days into the race, Keith’s seat in the support van became occupied by Zero Race photographers so he was left behind to fend for himself. At that stage Trev was experiencing great technical difficulties and needed to withdraw from the race to undertake repairs in Berlin, so Keith didn’t get a chance to drive Trev in Zero Race, as intended.

With Trev’s technical difficulties largely resolved, and with the next leg of Zero Race in North America on the horizon, we hope that Keith can finally get to experience the thrill of driving Trev in the first race around the world for electric vehicles powered by renewable energy.

Into China

On the weekend Trev crossed the border into north western China. So begins the final push of the first leg of Zero Race.

Zero Race participants at the Chinese border

Zero Race participants at the Chinese border (courtesy of Zero Race)

We need to drive 5,000km in 10 days to reach Shanghai on schedule, which means an average of 500km per day. This is a lot actually – Trev can drive about 200km between charges so realistically it means three stops per day to recharge. These stops are often in random, out of the way places and require negotiations with locals to plug into electrical outlets, generally without the benefit of speaking the same language. If the electrical outlets are poor, we can’t get enough current to charge the batteries in a reasonable timeframe, so generally we unplug and search for a better outlet. This can be a very time consuming process.

When the Zero Race vehicles get out of Chinese customs this morning, they all need to be recharged from virtually empty, and they’ll learn whether they can drive on the main highways across China or whether they have to stay on secondary roads. This will make a big difference to the speed and quality of travel and the amount of time behind the wheel. It could be a very long and demanding 10 days.

Across Kazakhstan

Last week Trev completed its crossing of Russia. Dickson successfully adopted a ‘laid back Aussie approach’ towards negotiations with Russian policemen.

Dickson's laid back approach to Russian policemen

Dickson's laid back approach to Russian policemen (courtesy of Zero Race)

After a border crossing which involved great confusion at the lack of numbers on Trev’s registration plate, the Zero Race participants crossed into Kazakhstan, ahead of a very demanding week’s driving.

Entry into Kazakhstan

Entry into Kazakhstan (courtesy of Zero Race)

The conditions of Kazakh roads have been all extremes. Brand new, virtually empty motorways were followed by some incredibly bad roads which gave Trev a brutal physical workover and damaged the rear shock absorber. Trev’s three wheeled design makes it difficult to avoid pot holes – Trev was designed for urban commuting rather than circumnavigation, after all, but the car is holding up very well so far.

Rough roads

Rough roads

Damaged shock absorber

Damaged shock absorber (courtesy of Zero Race)

Kazakhstan’s wide open steppes saw it being used as the location for much of the former Soviet Union’s nuclear testing program, leaving Kazakhstan with the legacy of having some of the most radioactive and polluted places on earth. Zero Race drove very close to some of these areas, and stayed overnight in a building once used as a sanatorium for children affected by radiation. Dickson has been on alert for any signs of Trev glowing green in the dark, and wishes he packed his lead undergarments.

Despite all the many challenges of driving through this part of the world, the welcome from local towns and communities has been very warm and hospitable. Dickson even managed to score the attention of some of some local Kazakh beauties.

Dickson meets the locals

Dickson meets the locals (courtesy of Zero Race)

This weekend Zero Race enters China.

Guest post – Benefactor Michael Vawser drives Trev

Well I have to say that was one of my best adventures for ages, and definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Driving TREV was a thrill in itself, but driving from Vienna, into Hungary through Budapest to Debrecen was a thrill and a half!

Michael driving Trev in Hungary

Michael driving Trev in Hungary

Even though not everything went perfectly for the car and we needed a few more recharges than desired, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. I think the reaction of the Hungarian folks in the street was the biggest buzz – not only were they looking at a rocket shaped electric car, but it was being driven by a couple of Aussies! We were offered tea, coffee, cakes (force fed), and even Red Bull, to keep us going and to nourish us. The generosity of the people was very touching, but also the delight and awe they displayed at the journey we were on and the vehicle we were in was great. We recharged in petrol stations, museums, and even people’s front yards (through their windows)!

Recharging through a window

Recharging through a window

I never realised there would be electric car enthusiasts in Budapest! It was actually very inspiring to know that some Austrians/Hungarians had hobbies and even businesses based on electric cars. I even went for a spin in a Tesla Roadster Sport, in the hills above Vienna! Woohoo!

The Team were great – Mic, Nick, and Jason – really held it together after already two weeks of gruelling schedule – and many repairs to boot – so the guys are a credit to Adelaide. And they were in fact brilliant tutors and hosts for my trip!

Team TREV is in fact the only vehicle built from the ground up, still in the race! What an amazing achievement! Thanks to Andrew Dickson for egging me on, and for the entire team on the road and back in Adelaide for making this all possible.

I highly recommend anyone interested in a way-out experience to take up the challenge and drive TREV for a day – you will not regret it, in fact you will be delighted! I am tempted to do it again myself……!

By Michael Vawser

Good times!

Good times!

Austria, Hungary, the Ukraine and Russia

It has been some time since our last post, due mainly to difficulties communicating with our drivers and due to our drivers having such limited time for anything other than driving, exhibiting, maintenance and (limited) sleep.

We intend to “in-fill” with blog posts soon about specific anecdotes from recent weeks, just as soon as Mic and Nick return from Europe with heads full of stories and cameras full of photos. In the meantime, here’s a quick summary.

After sustaining damage to our suspension in transit from Australia, we pulled Trev out of Zero Race for several days to work intensively in a workshop in Berlin. This work successfully repaired the suspension and some Battery Management System issues, meaning that Trev could re-join Zero Race when the cars arrived in Berlin. Time very well spent.

Trev drove from Germany to Austria, where Team Trev benefactor Michael Vawser joined us for a day and drove Trev from Vienna to Budapest to Debrecen. He had a fabulous time and will post a blog entry here soon.

From Debrecen we crossed into the Ukraine, notably drove through Kiev, then north east into Moscow. The day’s drive into Moscow was a massive one, 600 km in total, and we arrived exhausted at 6am. Dickson Beattie joined us in Tula, and will be our main driver all the way through to Shanghai. Great to have a fresh driver in the cockpit after the exhausting first few weeks of Zero Race. We’ve even heard that the race has informally been renamed “Zero Sleep”!

Trev is now driving very well. At 220 km the range between recharges is slightly less than we expected and calculated, and there are a number of technical tweaks we’re working on to increase the range, but with top-up charges we’re managing well. The roads are deteriorating as we head deeper into Russia, but the Zero Race participants generally have a police escort now, which is reassuring, and the welcome from the towns and cities we’re visiting is extremely warm and hospitable. The three teams are getting on really well with each other, too, and are helping each other to resolve technical problems with all three vehicles and the Zero Race support vehicle.

Trev and ZeroTracer at a World War II memorial in Russia (courtesy of Zero Race)

Trev and ZeroTracer at a World War II memorial in Russia (courtesy of Zero Race)

Tomorrow we will cross from Russia into Kazakhstan, then a week later we’ll enter north western China and drive across China to Shanghai.