Last week, the Chevrolet Volt became the first production car to drive from the U.K. to France, using the service tunnel of the Eurotunnel underwater railway line between the two European countries.
What’s more, the stunt was orchestrated by Top Gear Magazine, the more measured, printed sibling of the hit T.V. show hardly known for its love of electric cars.
As GM’s British arm Vauxhall detailed last week, Top Gear Magazine approached the automaker with the idea to drive a Vauxhall Ampera--the U.K. version of the Volt-- from London, England to Calais, France, and back, without refueling.
Obtaining special permission from Eurotunnel, the company responsible for maintaing the subterranean high speed rail link between France and England, Top Gear’s Dan Read was able to drive a road-going Ampera along the service tunnels normally reserved for Eurotunnel’s maintenance and emergency vehicles.
The only catch? Read had to ensure the Ampera stayed in all-electric mode while it remained underground.
Using the charge hold function--standard on all European Volts but only introduced in the U.S. for the 2013 model year--Read left London using gasoline power only.
On approach to Dover, where the tunnel starts, he switched to electric mode, using the battery pack to glide along the Eurotunnel’s 31.4-mile length.
At its lowest point, Read was 250 feet below sea level.
2012 Vauxhall Ampera
2012 Vauxhall Ampera
While the Eurotunnel’s twin rail tunnels are 25 feet in diameter, 98 feet apart, the service tunnel Read travelled down was only 16 foot in diameter, and situated between the two rail tunnels.
While electric trains zipped by on the main tunnels at speeds approaching 100 mph, Read--we assume--kept his speed a little slower.
That’s because he managed to make the entire return trip from Dover to Calais and back--some 63 miles--without using any gasoline.
That’s far larger than the official EPA all-electric Volt range of 38 miles, although we suspect minimal drag in the tunnel helped improve range.
If this story sounds familiar however, don’t worry. Back in 2009, a prototype Ginetta G50 sportscar became the first all-electric car to drive the length of the EuroTunnel.
The Volt is the second electric car to make the trip, but since the G50 was a prototype, the first production plug-in car.
Could you cope with driving a Volt underground for 63 miles with only its battery pack for power? Or do you think you’d just end up with a severe case of tunnel vision?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.