Students Finish Epic Electric Car Drive

They made it. From Alaska’s Chena Hot Springs to Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s most southerly city, a group from Imperial College London drove the electric vehicle (EV) they built more than 16,000 miles. The epic journey called Racing Green Endurance took 140 days, and, yes, there were some nervous moments along the way.

“Driving the open-top car at night with tropical rainstorms pounding away at an already disintegrating road was certainly a challenge,” Andy Hadland, a team member and recent Imperial graduate, said in a university press release. “It was slightly nerve racking knowing that you were sitting on 550 Volts. But the waterproofing measures worked and the car survived.”

Racing Green Endurance, Imperial College London, electric vehicle

image via Racing Green Endurance

The team members began their work in August 2009. A chief goal was “pushing the boundaries of EV technology,” but they also wanted to create some excitement around EVs. And that they did.

“At every stop we were surrounded by people from all different backgrounds – from curious businessmen in San Francisco to a 200 strong crowd of onlookers including local farmers at the Guatemalan border,” said project manager Alexander Schey. “It is a great way to begin a conversation and to tell everybody more about electric vehicles. They were all surprised when we told them that it could run for over 500 kilometres on around $5 of electricity.”

Obstacles along the trip were many, said the team, including “being stranded for several hours near the dangerous Mexican border region after a shock absorber had snapped. In South America, the team had to drive the SR8 on some of the most dangerous parts of the Pan-American Highway, traversing the Andes twice, at heights of over 3000 metres, while avoiding potholes. They also had to travel across the parched high Atacama Desert and negotiate dangerous gravel roads along the Tierra del Fuego on the coast of Argentina.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.