Frenchman To Take EV 3000 Miles Through Africa And Prove Rest of World Chicken

If a Frenchman can drive an electric vehicle 3,000 miles through Africa, you can certainly handle driving an EV the fifteen miles to work and back, plus around the city for shopping. Just driving through Africa is generally some sort of adventure; whether it’s the relatively tame massive potholes in the road or the slightly more exciting packed-to-capacity buses with live chickens tethered to the roof (this is personal experience here), even the most mundane of trips will have something unexpected. Of course, take an electric vehicle on a road trip and you have a whole new level of fun.

Frenchman Xavier Chevrin will be doing just that. Chevrin is already an EV enthusiast – an EV road trip enthusiast, if you will. His previous excursions include an electric scooter trip from Paris (the one in France) and Almaty (in Kazakhstan, if you’re curious) in 2008, a route which Google maps points out is 6800 km (4200 miles) long and passes through multiple countries. He also took an electric Citroen Berlingo van from Shanghai (yes, the one in China) back to Paris (and we’re back to France) in 2010, which trip was just over 8300 miles long.

The man knows what he’s doing – demonstrating the reliability and energy efficiency of electric vehicles under extreme conditions. The next potentially epic drive will be south from Nairobi to Johannesburg, roughly 3,000 miles, and it should take about six weeks

Global Challenges

Chevrin isn’t making the trip on his own – he’ll be driving the same Citroen Berlingo, powered by Venturi Automobiles, as Venturi’s fourth “Venturi Global Challenge.” The first of Venturi’s missions involved the Ohio State University Bullet Buckeye team and is still going strong three years later, and the third has something to do with a ZEV capable of driving through Antarctica.

Oh, and the second Venturi Global Challenge was Chevrin’s awesome drive from China to France. They’ve totally done this before. Did we mention that the last time Venturi and Chevrin teamed up, it cost less than $200 to drive those 8000+ miles?

Mission Africa

The fourth Global Challenge from Venturi and the second epic road trip in an electric van from Chevrin is called Mission Africa. It’ll be a little more difficult than the first trip, in large part because many Africans do not have access to electricity. Chevrin made his first trip by charging up his vehicle as he chatted up the locals, but the scarcity of an actual grid south of the Sahara (waaaaay south, and also east) might be a major stumbling block to keeping his electric van moving.

Venturi’s President Gildo Pallanca Pastor doesn’t seem too worried, though, according to his statement reported by Gizmag:

“This fourth opus is a new challenge for Venturi with a particular feature; that of combining the pioneering spirit with a human adventure, in contact with different populations who will discover an electric vehicle for the very first time, and all the magic that surrounds this silent means of propulsion. An adventure which also embodies our desire to demonstrate that the electric vehicle is an alternative to the combustion engine all over the world, from Shanghai to Paris, Nairobi to Johannesburg and, tomorrow, in the Antarctic.”

Part of Pastor’s enthusiasm is no doubt bolstered by the 20 or so scheduled stops for the bright orange electric van along the way (although it has no back-up generator, so when it runs out of juice, it’s stuck there), and the conferences arranged for discussing sustainable transportation. The distances between the stops are all well within the van’s 310 mile range, which in theory should lead to no problems. Then again, asking “What could go wrong?” always seems to lead to trouble, so we’ll just point out that everything seems fine so far and cross our fingers.

It’s What Kind of Van Again?

The van itself is similar to the ones the French Postal service uses, with extra battery power and a suspension upgrade (you were paying attention when we mentioned potholes, right? Yeah, there are also places without pavement, which are not traditionally kind to most normal cars). It’s got 3 23.5kWh nickel sodium chloride batteries, and takes about 7 hours to recharge fully (5 hours to 80% capacity). It also goes 68mph at top speed (fast enough to outrun some of the wildlife) and 180 Nm of torque (probably faster off the line than most of the local fauna).

The trip has been going on for the last couple of weeks, and it does seem to be going fairly well so far. Chevrin does report that the cops keep pulling him over – not because he’s breaking traffic laws, but because they want a better look at his weird little van. Hey, if I were a cop in Africa, I’d probably do the same thing.

Check out the video below for the first leg of the trip, and check out Venturi’s YouTube channel for the next six videos in the queue.

Questions or comments? Let us know below the gallery.

Source | Gallery: Gizmag.

Charis Michelsen

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.