The Mongol Rally is a bit mad. The 10,000 miles between the start point in London and the finish in Ulan-Ude in eastern Russia take in some of the planet’s most inhospitable and barren terrain. You pick your own route for the two and a half month trip – but you can’t enter the Rally in a car powered by more than a 1.2 litre engine.
Brit Chris Ramsey and his wife have decided that all sounded far too easy, so they sent in an application to do this year’s Mongol in an all-electric 30kWh Nissan Leaf – and they’ve been accepted by the organisers for showing a commitment to sustainability.
Based on your expectation of the availability of charging points across the Russian steppes, you would be well within your rights to expect Chris’s Leaf to be an ultra-modified Mad Max-style machine with some sort of miniature nuclear reactor to keep it charged up.
Wrong. It’s just a Leaf. Admittedly, the suspension has been slightly raised to boost ground clearance and underbody guards have been fitted to protect the few conventional automotive bits that hang out underneath EVs. The brake lines are braided metal and the wheels have been changed to narrower ones to simplify tyre replacement (they’re only taking one spare). For extra storage, there’s a roof rack and a hole where the rear seats used to be. For easier night driving there’s a 16,400 lumen LED light bar.
On Sunday 16 July the Ramseys set off from Goodwood on their well-researched route, going via Brussels, Vienna and Istanbul to Baku where they will hopefully catch the ferry to Aktau in Kazakhstan, then on to Siberia and Mongolia. If they make it across Kazakhstan, they will be setting a record for the first electric car to cross the country from west to east.
Their charging requirements should be covered by a selection of connections including a two-pin adaptor which is used throughout Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia, a three-phase 6.6kWh cable and a caravan commando connection.
Chris’s research indicates there are many towns on the route falling within the Leaf’s official range. Kazakhstan is surprisingly well set up for EVs, with chargers every 60-80 miles. He believes the sign language for ‘plug me in’ is easier than that for ‘got any fuel?’, and that the simplicity and reliability of an EV makes perfect sense for this sort of journey. If something breaks, he’s hoping that locals or passing trucks will come to the rescue.
As preparation, the Leaf has been driven from Edinburgh to Monaco. Probably not exactly comparable in terms of roughness, but you’ve got to admire the Ramseys’ pioneering spirit. We thoroughly recommend you take a look at the Mongol Rally website on http://www.theadventurists.com/