back to article 26,000km 'leccy joy ride crosses finish line

A team of electric-car enthusiasts — well, maniacs might be a more-accurate term — from Imperial College London have completed their 26,000-kilometer drive down the Pan-American Highway from northern Alaska to the world's most southerly city in the Tierra del Fuego district of Argentina. "This project was never just about …


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  1. Ian Coutts

    Whitehorse Has Moved?

    When last I checked Whitehorse was in the Yukon Territory, not in the Province of British Columbia. Regardless, this is a grand technological accomplishment, surpassed perhaps only by the recent flight of Vulture 1.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Mr Onions

    I must admit I had to verify that Mr Onions was a real person! Well, I guess he know his... errr

  3. Matt 21

    Can't help but feel

    that even a Sloda Fabia estate would have been better. It does 94 to the gallon on a long run, emits 89g/km of CO2. It would have done the journey quicker as there's no re-charge time and less stopping because of its long range. The drivers could also have carried all they needed in the boot rather than having a fleet of support cars.

    Given the R&D, supplies and parts etc the Skoda probably used less CO2 as well. While I use the Skoda in my example I'm sure there are others too and the Skoda and these others are cars we and our families can use now.

    I'm interested in electric cars but they've got a long way to go and stunts like this expedition do nothing but waist resources.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      I disagree

      The whole problem with electric cars is raw data. We have several decades of experience with combustible engines, we have little on electric cars, and a couple of the more nervous aspects are highlighted in this article (driving in the rain with 550V worth of power underneath the chassis).

      Sure, this has not brought any new discoveries to the fore, but it's delivered more information, I don't think that's bad. My personal feeling is that *batteries* should not become the main driving force of the car, they should only accumulate regenerated power from braking etc. I think fuel cells will be the main "energy container", simply because it's quicker to refuel than it is to recharge, and the amount of energy per weight is far higher.

      In general, I think we're only at the beginning of e-powered cars. We still don't have a standard for killing power when the car has been in an accident - shorting a battery when you're trying to cut someone out of a wreck is not going to be a healthy event..

      So, thumbs up for more data :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "My personal feeling is that *batteries* should not become the main driving force of the car, they should only accumulate regenerated power from braking etc."

        Batteries would be fine if they were exchanged at "filling stations" rather than charged - in the same way Calor gas bottles are refilled. As long as all leccy cars used compatible batteries (I would assume standard modules with differing numbers installed depending on the size and requirements of teh vehicle) then you could charge them from the mains if you have lots of time or simply swap them for fully charged ones at leccy stations.

        Obviously there are logistics that would need to be addressed, such as physically installing the batteries and making sure that consumers aren't ripped off too much but as long as battery swap out time is similar to petrol refuelling time then theer should be no real problem.

        It would be expensive to put the infrastructure in place and an absolute nightmare to standardise batteries accross car manufacturers and different countries but that is one of teh things we pay our governments to sort out.

        1. Alex King
          Thumb Up


          However, I don't agree that battery standard sizes/formats should be too hard to agree, particularly starting with the relatively clean sheet that we are. We have standardised batteries for smaller appliances after all...

          Having said that, I think that hydrogen, produced from a nuclear/renewables energy mix, is a much better idea, as it requires the least modification to infrastructure and behavioural habits. It's all proven technology too. Beats me why we aren't doing it already...

        2. Dave 15

          Replacing batteries at filling stations

          Is this really practical...

          a) Just how many batteries are going to be required in the world? On my current commute pattern and current electric car status would need 2 sets a day. And if I want to go on holiday...

          b) Just how many would an average motorway (freeway) services need - look at the quantity of fuel they dispense. The battery will be on charge for something around 8 hours, so they would need 8 hours supply of batteries at each motorway services.

      2. jonathanb Silver badge


        Electric cars have been around since before the internal combustion engine was invented.

        A previous article on El Reg pointed out that modern diesel cars emit less carbon dioxides than electric cars. Yes, you can charge them with windmills and solar panels, but it is better to use the green energy to displace other uses of electricity currently powered by fossil fuels than to move cars from diesel or petrol to electric.

    2. Marvin the Martian

      @Matt 21: "While I use the Skoda."

      There, you lost the argument!

  4. Anonymous Coward

    What I ask

    Is that guy in the background doing? Looks like he's phoning 118 118 for the location of the nearest "Gentlemans Rest Area".

  5. Matt Bryant Silver badge


    Sorry, but I'm guessing the "supergreen car" was supported by a host of normal, ungreen, dino-juice-drinking vehicles. How does that demonstrate anything "to the locals"? That an electric car can carry a driver and a passenger alone but can't do diddlysquat without a host of supporting vehicles that have to be petrol/diesel-powered? This venture would have been a lot more impressive if it had been one or a group of electric vehicles that were self-sufficient, just needing access to the local grid to complete the journey. After all, a petrol/diesel-powered vehicle such as an SUV could have done it alone, carrying all the spares and crew (it could even have dragged a trailer if required), and probably in a lot less time.

  6. james the l

    Now that's a name!

    Sir Keith O'Nions? Joined by his colleague John C'Arrots... sorry.

    Good effort though. Bonkers but good. In a car with no roof?

    Good to see the spirit of adventure is still with us - "had to stay in Columbia because of the coup ..."

    Reminds me of when I was in San Sebastian (having arrived by boat, but that's another story) when a full-on Basque Separatist riot erupted outside the bar. Next thing my mate's at the bar entrance yelling at the rioters "Good God people, that's not how to throw a stone. Arm right back, point with the other, have you never played cricket??? Give it to me, I'll show you how to..." Swift retreat to back of bar with shutters down, to continue imbibing with the teargas leaking in. But I digress.

  7. Tim Greenwood

    Darian Gap?

    Perhaps I am behind the times, but I didn't think the road connected all the way. I seem to think there is a bit of a gap in the middle through Central America.

    I am not bothered enough to sit through hours of BBC footage to see how they get through however.

  8. Rudisaurus

    not BC

    Whitehorse is in the Yukon Territory of Canada, not in British Columbia. Thanks for playing, though.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Charge time

    One of the most interesting things is the charge time of only 7 hours, that actually makes the project seem realistic for a go in the real world. AFAIK most vehicle are substantially underpowered by comparison and yet have a lot longer charge times.(G-whiz 8 hours charge virtually no horsepower and can't get up a 20% incline). This design appears to be more durable, appears to require no specialist recharging sockets, (Tesla, higher performance in theory but requires specialist equipment to get any more tha 5 miles per hour of charge). This design seem compact enough to fit under a bonnet of a "normal" car, could have the horsepower or engines reduced to proved better range, and provide practility, rechargeability, range and power, so it doesn't seem entirely pointless, seems like a better option than hybrids (which with the Jaguar concept car would seem to best employing a gas turbine for the power and running off any fuel from alcohol to to recycled vegetable oil seems like a better option that an inefficient non combination super-turbo charged engine, like the toyota prius).

    And no I'm not a fan of electric vehicles, I think battery packs are more of an envrinomental hazard than anything other mooted technology.

  10. Peter Revell

    Columbia or Colombia?

    Which do you mean?

  11. Old Tom


    Maybe it is in BC, but not in Colombia.

  12. Gannon (J.) Dick

    On to Whitehorse!

    If trains stop at train stations, what happens at a workstation ?

    Is it true the first two years of Journalism School are called <CTRL> C and <CTRL> V ?

  13. Irne Barnard

    Epic FAIL!

    I wish they'd have published more than just the leccy's consumption levels. As any pro-leccy-tron would jump to explain when someone shows a diesel using less: but there's other considerations such as refining, etc. But then when the coin turns to the other side, they don't want to hear about any such thing: "No you don't have to worry about where the charge comes from" ... "No there's no pollution when mining and refining Lithium" ...

    If this was deemed a testing scenario to accumulate data as Mr. Flintsone's mentioned, I'd give it a thumbs up. But no-where in the article does it even refer to it being something to try and make inroads to making leccy's more efficient / less pollutant. To the contrary: "It was also about demonstrating to communities along the way the effectiveness of low-carbon vehicle technologies, which the team has done in spades. Well done!"

    Gives me tears in my eyes Mr. O'Nion!

    It certainly did show how "low-carbon" vehicles are extremely effective. I'm betting one or more of the support vehicles (which were probably diesel) had better figures in the first instance (never mind when taking manufacture, mining, refining, etc. in account as well) ... and still my biggest gripe: there's no data about how much raw materials went into the SRZero's manufacture, how much lithium was used (and if that battery can still be used), etc. It's always like someone only showing the positive side, but never allowing anything negative to leak out. The epic fail? Well, as exampled by Matt 21, even the "positive" portion fall flat on its face.

    Only thing out of this which seems positive is as Mr. Clarke's noted: charge time seems better and charging seems easier. I'm all for further experimentation, but I don't think leccies are the sole answer - we need something much more comprehensive than sticking a washing machine on a wheelbase and a lithium-ion poison box under your rear. We need other SOURCES of energy much more than we need other CONSUMPTIONS of energy.

    1. Dave 15

      Other energy store

      Obvious one is steam or compressed air

      The French have a compressed air car (guess google will find it) and steam 'fireless' locos were in use over 100 years ago - able to do a days hard work on a tank full.

      Either of these is easy to top up.

      Either can contain a lot of energy.

      Neither requires unpleasant or very rare, Chinese owned rare earth metals.

  14. Danny 14


    supergreen my arse. I assume they only used electricity garnered from 100% renewable means? Would have been better on a hydrogen powered car (with icelandic hydrogen) transported on a hydrogen powered tanker of course. Did the batteries survive 26000km? Cant be arsed reading. Might wiki it.


    I'll stick with my 224gmCO2 (and its unholy 25mpg) car thanks.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "effectiveness of low-carbon vehicle technologies"

    Yeah? Where did the leccy they used to charge the car come from?

  16. scub

    get it back in the landfill


    When the north sea runs out of oil, turn those platforms into nuclear power stations. Use existing pipework to land produced energy, and all the nasty stuff nobody wants, just stick it back in the hole where the oil came from.

    Booyah! Leccy car city!

    Was watching an interesting program about the hydroboard last week on the telly. Turns out they just sit tight and only help out with peak demand, whilst my nearest power station runs on coal? Seems kinda daft!, specially since its been raining non-stop for last 4 days.

    anyhows, ppl get upset about cars, what about central heating systems in all the houses, that must be a nuts amount of gas burned every day. Thought nuclear was going to be free? ( just about, I wasn't around in the fifty's btw). sooner we get back to leccy the better I think :)

    Stresses me out, all that co2 from past times, before we existed making its way back out into the air, spells trouble if you ask me, sooner we get all those plastic bags into landfill (at faultlines!)the better!

  17. Rogerborg

    Oh, right, exchangeable batteries, that'll work

    The Average Briton can barely cope with fuel pumps. How are they going to deal with swapping batteries? I include service station mongs as Average Britons there.

    Automated swapping? Right, have you seen how often automated car washes are closed for maintenance>

    How are you going to charge (money) based on usage? Or are you going to bill fixed price for every battery swap, even if it's still half full?

    Once you get above the size of a clown car, you'll need multiple batteries. How does that work?

    And what happens when you inevitably get a duff battery put in and whine to a halt in the arse end of nowhere?

    Electric cars are just a huge set of problems, none of which solve anything.

  18. Dave 15

    What would interest me...

    What was the mileage they covered.

    What was the average speed of the actual driving

    How much time was spent recharging

    That way we could see if this was a useless waste of time stunt (as I expect) or something that might be useful.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: What would interest me...

      Considering electric milkfloats here in the UK have probably racked up more mileage than this in a week, and have been doing so for decades, I'm very unimpressed by the whole affair.

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