World's largest electric-car rally kicks off in Switzerland


WAVE Rally start, Winterthur, Switzerland, June 2018 [WORLDREACH PHOTO]

WAVE Rally start, Winterthur, Switzerland, June 2018 [WORLDREACH PHOTO]

Undeterred by major automakers that build electric cars by the millions, tinkerers and apostles aren't finished coming up with new ideas on their own.

Whether sharing their knowledge with community, or just a sense of unflagging camaraderie, 160 such teams ranging from solo shade-tree mechanics to major corporations to visiting tourists in rented Nissan Leaf and BMW i3s took to the roads in Switzerland to participate in the largest electric-vehicle rally in the world.

Oganizer Louis Palmer talks to solar powerd tandem crew WAVE Trophy start, [PHOTO MARIUS KEIL]

Oganizer Louis Palmer talks to solar powerd tandem crew WAVE Trophy start, [PHOTO MARIUS KEIL]

The teams will spend 8 days circumnavigating the mountainous country in the WAVE (World Advanced Vehicle Expedition) Trophy rally, now in its eighth year. Their route hits more than 50 towns in Switzerland and travels over the 6,700-foot Oberalp Pass.

This year they will gather twice, with a second round in Austria in September for those who can't make the June date. The rally's rules are simple: the cars must be electric or electrified. If they have a gas tank, it needs to be sealed and empty. The cars must have a 37-mile range, but those with shorter range may be stopping to charge often since the group will drive at least 130 miles per day.

The organizers allow mass-market electric cars and motorcycles, boutique vehicles, and homemade vehicles. There's also a class for electric bicycles, although that group has a different route.

One of the more interesting trends this year was toward putting big, modern battery packs in classic microcars to give them 200 miles of range or more.

BMW Not-a-car (Isetta)

Electric BMW Isetta at start of WAVE Rally, June 2018, Wintertur, Switzerland [WORLDREACH PHOTO]

Electric BMW Isetta at start of WAVE Rally, June 2018, Wintertur, Switzerland [WORLDREACH PHOTO]

The best example might be the 1960s BMW Isetta converted by 48-year-old architect Hans-Georg Herb from Erfurt, Germany. The car runs on a recycled Tesla battery pack with 240 miles of range. Herb says that since he got both the car and the battery pack used (and the car is tiny), it has a particularly low carbon footprint. With a 322-horsepower electric motor in a microcar, it could prove adept at scampering up the Alps.

Crowdcar

Crowdcar at start of WAVE Rally, June 2018, Wintertur, Switzerland [WORLDREACH PHOTO]

Crowdcar at start of WAVE Rally, June 2018, Wintertur, Switzerland [WORLDREACH PHOTO]

Last week we shared news about a crowdfunded electric car project from Estonia. The Crowdcar is a similar idea if further along in execution and perhaps less elegant. The three-man team sees the car, which uses a lightweight home-built spec chassis, as a proof of concept of crowdfunding and designing a car than as any type of validation for this particular prototype. 

Though team captain Juergen Riegel says the specs are unimportant, his car weighs 1,100 pounds and uses a 20-hp electric motor to give it a top speed of 49 mph. The car has a range of about 62 miles, making it of a long-distance cruiser than an urban runabout. Fortunately, the team also has an Opel Ampera (Chevy Volt) chase and camera car to fall back on.

Siemens Bull-E VW Bus

Siemens Bull-E 1979 VW Bus electric conversion demonstration

Siemens Bull-E 1979 VW Bus electric conversion demonstration

Among its wide range of products, the German conglomerate Siemens builds chargers for electric cars along with car parts. It brought its converted 1979 Volkswagen Microbus Westfalia camper on the rally as a demonstration of how much energy can be saved by cleaning up old technology in buildings as well as transportation. Siemens says it chose the camper since it's basically a house on wheels.

Siemens converted the Bus last year to battery power with a 37-hp electric motor (just over half what the Bus would have had originally) and a 46-kwh lithium-ion battery that gives it a range of about 120 miles. The company's drivers say it is comfortable up to about 56 mph—about like the original Bus—and gets about 169 MPGe. That's better than most electric cars available in dealers today. 

Powerpiki electric Smart Roadster from WAVE rally 2017

Powerpiki electric Smart Roadster from WAVE rally 2017

Powerpiki Electric Smart Roadster

Smart has built a lot of models for sale elsewhere in the world that were never sold in the United States, and this one looks particularly fun. It's the latest creation by couple Andrej and Jasna Pecjak who have converted other Smarts before.

The conversion to electric power ups the smile wattage with a 93-horsepower electric motor that gives it a top speed of 100 mph—and even that is only because it's governed. It has a 22.6-kwh battery that gives it 120-mile range after about 2 hours of charging. For paying customers, they say they could build one with a bigger 30-kwh battery, 173-mile range, and a 16-kw charger. If you want heat driving over the snowy Alps, they offer a diesel or ethanol heater. Rally rules only mandate driving on electricity.

Piaggio Ape Classic 400

Electric Piaggio Ape (r.), SAM at start of WAVE rally June 2018 [WORLDREACH PHOTO]

Electric Piaggio Ape (r.), SAM at start of WAVE rally June 2018 [WORLDREACH PHOTO]

Builder Andreas Grimm spent a year and a half converting his Piaggio Ape tricycle delivery truck to electric power. Known around the world as Tuk-tuks, the Ape truck is built on the front half of a Vespa with a giant box on two wheels in the back, almost like Grandma's beach bicycle. Grimm built the trike in an effort to develop a commercial conversion kit so other Ape owners can make their deliveries on cleaner power.

In the process, he installed an 8 hp electric motor to power the trike—good for a 10 percent boost from the Ape's original diesel engine. Since it's a truck (or "self-propelled trailer" as Grimm calls it), he considered adding a 1,500-pound load to the bed for the Wave rally but became concerned about the little trucklet's range over the mountains carrying that much weight. If Grimm's conversion kit is successful, his market could be huge. Piaggio has built millions upon millions of Apes all over the world.

 
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