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]
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]
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 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
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.