Jon Azrielant, Project EViE executive director
A perceived lack of sex appeal may prevent some buyers from considering the electric cars that will soon go on sale, but it's range anxiety--the fear of what happens when you run out of juice--that really give people pause.
What's needed is a stunt, something that could convince buyers that electric cars are far more capable than they imagined. Which is where Project EViE comes in.
It's an audacious plan to drive an electric vehicle completely around the world in 18 months, starting this June, covering 66,000 miles and traversing 70 countries on six continents, starting in New Zealand and ending in New York City.
We sat down over burritos with Project EViE executive director Jon Azrielant. His background encompasses youth in New York City, stints overseas training for judo competitions, a job spinning as DJ Adorno, and a philosophy degree from the University of Chicago.
Project EViE route map for trip around the world in an electric vehicle
Project EViE's expedition leader Jeff Bladt
Project EViE's Matt Vance at electric-vehicle charging station in Paris
Why on earth would you try to drive an electric vehicle around the world?
Jon Azrielant: We want to reframe the conversation around EVs, to change the way the world thinks about them. They're still seen largely as glorified golf carts for San Franciscans and pious tree-huggers.
We'd like to change the collective consciousness, and separate the capabilities of electric vehicles from the political ideology, to drive demand for EVs. Maybe we can frame them as the vehicle of the American dream, representing freedom and independence.
Our call to action is this: If you like what we're doing, seriously consider getting an electric vehicle when they become available.
Who makes up Project EViE, exactly?
A: We're all friends from Chicago. Our expedition leader and CFO, Jeff Bladt, works in sustainable development; he's lived in Kazakhstan. Andrea Fjeld does all our social media; she hitchhiked through the Balkans. Matt Vance, who runs our blog, is in book publishing. We all love adventure.
But there are way more than four people involved. We have two interns. We have a grant writer. We have an intellectual property lawyer. There are tons of people who are contributing, which is one of the great things.
How are you managing the logistics?
A: We have a huge list of all the Level-Three charging locations in every country we're visiting. Turns out there's Level Three power at pretty much every farm, factory, or marina. We're reaching out to a lot of those locations now.
We'll carry some spare parts, though it's an EV, so it doesn't need many.
We're in the middle of getting visas and transit permissions for a number of the countries. We're hoping to spread the message that securing a sustainable future, one that's not dependent on oil, isn't an issue restricted to the West. It's a human issue that transcends political affiliations.
What are the big hurdles between now and June 1, when you start?
A: The big one is money! We're still figuring out our balance of donations, sponsorships, and loans. We've got a lot of in-kind sponsors, for things like GPS navigation, electric-vehicle equipment, telecom, and web hosting.
But with a half-million dollar budget, we always need more funding. Then there's personnel: Will we really have enough people to cover everything that needs to get done?
What electric car are you going to use?
A: I can't tell you that yet. We've got one identified, and the papers are signed. But we can't say what it is just yet. Soon, soon ....