Around the World in 80 Amps Days

With plans to converge on this year’s UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, 3 teams set out from Switzerland, Phileas Fogg-style, on an 80-day electric vehicle adventure aboard a trio of advanced EVs… all of which are available right now.

More on the teams and vehicles, after the jump.

According to event organizers, the purpose of the stunt is to raise public awareness and help inspire people and their governments to take action toward a sustainable future.

Organizers are quick to point out that major automakers like Nissan, Toyota, GM, and others have “taken up the cause” as well in recent years. The vehicles featured in this event—a Vectrix electric Maxi, Peraves Zerotracer, and Trev microcar—represent something more extreme, however, than what Nissan, GM and Toyota offer. Indeed, the Vectrix, Peraves, and Trev don’t pretend to be “mainstream market” vehicles, but they do represent (what their makers believe to be) a practical alternative to the conventional “practical” car. Think Corolla or Civic, and you get the idea.

So, how do these “alt” cars fare (at least, on paper)?

The enthusiastic gesture from the Peraves pilot (Oerlikon Racing) at the start of the race certainly conveys a high degree of enthusiasm for spending 80 days in a Zerotracer – and maybe that will turn out to be the real test.  To put it another way:  everyone, I think, readily accepts that an EV is a livable “cross-town” solution, but – could you live with an EV for 10 straight weeks and thousands of miles of driving?

The answer to that questions will come when (if?) all three teams make it to Cancun – until then, let’s take a look at the three vehicles involved.

VECTRIX VX1 – the Vectrix has appeared on Gas 2.0 before, but the short version is that this is a seriously quick Maxi-style scooter that is quick enough to win most stoplight grands prix.  It’s a big, comfy motorcycle, essentially, and there have been enough “Iron Butt” rallies to confirm that some whacko dedicated riders can ride these 2-wheeled sofas for days on end with enthusiasm to spare.

If the Vectrix team has some experienced long-distance riders on board (instead of, say, a pair of PR guys) they have a real chance of reaching Cancun in good shape and good spirits.

TREV – the TREV is a student built three-wheeler with tandem seating and an advanced lithium polymer battery pack that stores enough energy (supposedly) to go 100 miles before recharging.  At first glance, the Trev is the most car-like of the three EVs – but that may be its undoing.

See, motorcycles are involving – on long highway rides, cars are not.  That’s why many people will go on 200 mile bike rides in large groups “just for fun”, and very few people go on 200 mile car trips “just for fun”.  The tandem seating will be cramped and the rear passenger may try to gnaw his own legs off if the TREV’s back seat is only half as cramped as it looks.  Sure, it’s more isolated from the elements than the Vectrix, but it looks pretty joyless.

Expect the drivers of the TREV to show up in Cancun physically well, but generally cranky.

Peraves Zerotracer – I should admit here that I am biased heavily towards the Peraves.  I have been a huge fan of the Ecomobil concept for over a decade, and squeal like an over-caffeinated schoolgirl whenever I see one (which is not often enough for me to worry about it too much).

The Peraves is the best of all motoring worlds:  it is fast, safe, shields you from the environment, lets you play “Goose and Maverick” on your morning commute, and – most importantly – gets more attention than a string-bikini carwash.  What I’m saying here, then, is that I’m sure these guys will make it to Cancun in good spirits, without killing each other out of boredom (like the TREV guys will) or dying from exposure (like the Vectrix guys might).

Time will tell, of course – check back again in about 75 days (give or take).

PHOTO CREDITS:  Salvatore Di Nolfe / Associated Press.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.