Back in 2009 we were approached by a press representative for Racing Green Endurance, a team of 20-something post-graduate engineers from Imperial College London. We didn't hear from them again until June this year, when we met up with them in London.
Their goal? To drive the 16,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina in an electric car.
We had to be honest: we doubted their ability to complete the trip. But as a new eight-part documentary due to air on BBC World News from January 1 2011 shows, the team’s adventure had a very happy ending.
Long-distance trips by car are hardly new. World-renowned cameraman Claudio von Planta, who gained fame for his role in the highly successful TV series Long-Way-Round, has made multiple long distance trips in his career. Mostly on gasoline-powered motorbikes.
Racing Green Endurance - A rainy Start
For him, filming the Racing Green story was a completely new story and one which would see him gain enormous respect for electric vehicles. But it wasn’t his first experience of electric vehicles
“The year before, I had a chance to drive on a Zero Motorbike while filming in Australia on By Any Means with Charley Boorman. It was amazing”, he explained, talking to TransportEvolved.com “When I had the opportunity to follow this with a car I thought it was perfect to see what was possible. I’m not a missionary. I’m just interested to see what the technology can offer. I want to see where it goes wrong and where it works”
The Racing Green team didn’t make it easy for themselves either. Their vehicle wasn’t to be a rugged SUV or a production electric car. It was a one-off electric conversion of a Radical SR8 race car.
Sitting just a few inches under the height that most long-distance adventurers would consider essential for such a trip, the dual-motored, custom designed SR-Zero found the first part of the journey fairly simple, keeping to well-kept roads in North America.
The only casualties? The expensive battery chargers which shook themselves apart in Alaska and Canada.
Racing Green Endurance - Accident
But that soon changed. South America was as tough as North America was easy, taking its toll on both car and team.
Shock-absorber faults, crashes and even an electrical fire threatened to end the trip forever. But the team, filmed all the way by von Planta and aided by colleagues along the way kept pushing south.
The team arrived in November, many months after they had planned to arrive. But their delay was caused often by the number of publicity events the team took part in during the adventure, as well as long periods of time while they awaited replacement parts to arrive for the car.
Adding up the days they drove during the expedition, the team discovered they were driving for ten days less than they had originally planned.
If you want to watch the adventure unfold for yourself, von Planta’s 8 part documentary Racing Green airs on BBC World News for the next two months, starting on January 1st.