Published on February 2nd, 2019 | by Kyle Field
February 2nd, 2019 by Kyle Field
The Electric Vehicle Road Trip (EVRT) was created with the simple goal of raising awareness of electric vehicles by touring them around various parts of the world where EVs are not finding traction. The oil- rich Middle East is one such region — which should come as no surprise, since oil is providing the economic fuel for much of the region.
Running an electric vehicle road trip across a few Middle Eastern countries is one of those goals that sounds great over a cup of coffee, but the complexities associated with putting on a 2,000 kilometer (1,250 mile) road trip quickly become apparent when the planning starts. An army of supporters is needed to plan and execute the trip, not to mention sourcing cars that can actually travel the full 2,000 kilometers on the region’s spare charging infrastructure.
This year, the EVRT Middle East tour took attendees, who they lovingly call “Road Trippers,” on an intense multi-country adventure that kicked off in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), swooped down to the beach town of Muscat in Oman, and then headed north to wrap things up at the Grand Finale in Dubai, back in the UAE. CleanTechnica joined in on the fun again this year from start to finish to see what all the excitement was about and to get an inside look at the local issues and opportunities in the region.
To accomplish this, the trip was broken up into stretching road trip segments that really put the range of the vehicles and the speed of charging infrastructure in the region to the test. Along the way, the organizers used the event as a means to rally local businesses, government agencies, electric vehicle (EV) enthusiasts, influencers, and media around the transition to EVs by hosting EV Forums in Abu Dhabi, Muscat, and Dubai.
Much needed rest days were planned into the schedule to allow the cars and drivers to fully recharge after some of the longer 500-kilometer driving days that occasionally stretched late into the night. The Road Trippers, yours truly included, didn’t need any more prodding than that to indulge in the luxurious Jumeirah properties we stayed at along the way.
After a long night at the Yas Marina circuit getting pumped up watching a Tesla Model S put a McLaren in its place and Renault Zoes going head to head (not as exciting, but still interesting), it was amazing to have such a nice property to return to. Watching the waves gently lap on the shore from the comfort of a room at the Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort proved to be the siren’s song that lulled many a Road Tripper to sleep.
The resort itself is underpinned by the same ethos of sustainable living that we strive for here on CleanTechnica, with all guests receiving a reusable water bottle that they encourage guests to refill at one of the many water stations around the property, among a lengthy list of sustainable efforts at the resort.
The 2,000 kilometer adventure provided numerous opportunities to chat with and learn about some of the dozens of participants in the event that came from all reaches of life. The EVRT was organized in such a way that the vehicles and riders are constantly being mixed up to give just about everyone on the trip some time to mingle with the others on the trip.
Local social media influencers chatting with CEOs about current trends over bananas before hiking up the beautiful gorges and waterfalls sprinkled along the Wadi Shab in Oman felt normal, as relationships developed and common interests were identified.
It wasn’t a utopian experience, and as with any social situation, not everyone is going to click with everyone else, but the sheer variety of events gave participants plenty of options to engage (or not) with the other Road Trippers.
Early in the trip, the EVs headed to the drag strip at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi to put some of the vehicles in the trip head to head against each other on the drag strip — with the Road Trippers behind the wheel! My quarter mile run of a Renault Zoe against another Zoe wasn’t the most exciting in the bunch, but we did get to see a Tesla Model S put a McLaren supercar to shame on the track — that definitely had a few heads turning.
The drag race was organized by fellow road tripper Rafael de Mestre, who has been driving his Tesla Model S for 6 years and advocating for EVs every step of the way. Rafael is the quintessential EV enthusiast, coordinating a host of EV trips, including a few that traveled around the world (a few times). He continues to raise the bar for himself each year. This year, Rafael and his team of misfits at 80 eDays plan to take on the round-the-world journey using only renewable energy to recharge. And we thought the EVRT was challenging…
The EVRT took participants on a series of insightful electric vehicle adventures, including electric vehicle drag racing and a Regeneration Challenge. The Regen Challenge put a Chevy Bolt, Renault Zoe, and Tesla Model S head to head at the top of the Jebel Jais, the highest peak in the UAE, to see which could regenerate the most electricity on the way down.
It was impressive to see just how many kilometers the cars were able to travel downhill without using any electricity and even adding a few kilowatt-hours of electricity back into the batteries. Our Renault Zoe travelled the ~16 kilometer route without batting an eye or using any electricity and the car said it gobbled up an additional 2.4 kWh to replenish the battery on the way down.
Your mileage may vary, but more than anything, the Challenge served to highlight one of the key strengths of EVs. Gas and diesel vehicles burn fuel to get up the hill, then turn around and burn up the brakes coming back down (or the engine, with engine braking). EVs do slurp down the power when heading up hill, but then turn around and breeze down the hill for free, storing back the energy gained from coming back down the hill.
It’s a beautiful thing and the drivers of all the cars in the Challenge were impressed at how their electric vehicles performed in the challenge.
3 EV Mobility Forums were planned along the route, with the first taking place at the kickoff of the EVRT at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. Down at the southernmost destination on the route in Muscat, Oman, the second forum saw a packed house of locals show up to learn about what’s happening in their region to build up the required infrastructure and a pipeline of EVs to support early adopters.
A few kilometers outside of Dubai, The Sustainable City (TSC) hosted the final forum of the trip, where Renault and General Motors pulled back the curtain on their plans for ramping up electric and electrified vehicle production around the world. Charts are still going up and to the right when it comes to forecasted sales numbers and available models, but most of the actual nuts and bolts underpinning the EV revolution from mainstream brands have not been defined.
The Dubai EV Forum culminated in a procession of Road Trippers motoring into The Sustainable City in participating electric vehicles for the Grand Finale of the trip. Music by local music streaming company Anghami kept the energy high as forum attendees and the general public had a chance to see and test drive some of the vehicles from the EVRT.
The Middle East is likely not the first place in the world where you might expect electric vehicle adoption to surge and that plays out in reality. Oman’s economy is almost solely dependent on oil, which presents a very real barrier to EV adoption. Many other countries in the region are similarly chained to the barrels of oil that flow out of the country each day.
But hope is not lost. Charging stations are being installed and locals are purchasing EVs. It’s a virtuous cycle that provides the foundational infrastructure and community that becomes fertile ground for electric vehicles to sprout out of.
To learn more about the Electric Vehicle Road Trip or to learn more about the next trip in the Middle East, head over to EVRT’s website or seek them out on one of the many popular social media platforms for more information.
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