(Pocket-lint) - If the idea of trading in your petrol-guzzling car for a planet-friendly all-electric model has appealed to you but range anxiety has stopped you, this is a story that might help you take the leap.
Chris Ramsey, founder of Plug In Adventures, set off on Sunday 16 July in a bid to complete the Mongol Rally with his wife in a modified model of Nissan's Leaf. Ramsey hopes to reach the finish line in Siberia by 4 September, which will see him cover a total of between 8,000 and 10,000 miles in the all-electric vehicle.
Will he make it and what are the challenges he will face, aside from finding plug-in points in Kazakhstan? We spoke to Ramsey ahead of his departure to find out his plan.
What is the Mongol Rally?
The Adventurist's Mongol Rally claims to be the greatest motoring adventure on the planet. It began in 2004 and for 11 years the finish line was in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, with the starting point being Europe. In 2015, the finish line moved to the Siberian town of Ulan-Ude, 400 miles north of Ulaanbaatar.
The idea of the Mongol Rally is for teams to drive their tiny, banger cars around 10,000 miles across the mountains, desert and steppe of Europe and Asia to reach the finish line. There is no back up, no support and no set route and getting lost is a good thing rather than a bad, with teams encouraged to interact with locals and get themselves out of trouble.
The Mongol Rally has three rules and three rules only. Teams can only take a farcically small sub-1.0-litre vehicle, they are completely on their own and they have to raise £1000 for charity.
The first Mongol Rally had just six teams, four of which completed the course. Thirteen years later and the 2017 Mongol Rally sees 340 teams taking part, one of which is Chris Ramsey, his wife, their two mascots and a modified, but still all-electric, Nissan Leaf. If the Ramsey team crosses the finish line, they will be the first to do so, as well as attempt to do so, in an electric vehicle.
Challenges of electric vehicles
The biggest problem for electric vehicles isn't design or technology, but range anxiety, making this particular adventure quite the challenge.
Many of us will buy a petrol or diesel car without thinking twice about the fact that we may at some point run out of fuel. Yet, running out of battery is probably the first thing we are concerned about when it comes to buying an electric vehicle, even though in theory it's pretty much the same thing.
If you were wondering why Chris Ramsey has decided to challenge the Nissan Leaf to the Mongol Rally, dispelling range anxiety of electric vehicles is one of the reasons.
"The Mongol Rally is our most challenging electric vehicle drive to date, but it's one we've been planning for a number of years. Not only will we face a dwindling number of EV chargers the further east we go, the terrain also becomes more difficult to navigate.
"Using a Nissan LEAF for this was an obvious decision. I'm very familiar with the car, it's always been reliable and dependable for me, and it has the largest network of rapid charging options in Europe.
"As it will also accept a 240v Commando connection even in the remote areas when my fast-charge options are gone, I can still charge the battery and keep moving. This journey is about the travel experience though, not reaching the destination in a fast time. I can't wait to get out on the road and introduce more people to the advantages of electric vehicles, whatever country they're from!"
Those fast charge points we see at petrol stations and in carparks in the UK won't be a luxury Ramsey will have whilst dealing with the dirt tracks and pot holes in Kazakhstan so if he manages even half of the Mongol Rally 10,000-mile trek, who could really argue that range is a problem for electric vehicles? We certainly wouldn't like to be on the prosecuting side of that trial.
A standard Nissan Leaf Acenta is said to offer up to 155 miles on a single charge and Ramsey plans to do between 150 to 200 miles a day in order to meet his aim of crossing the finish line on 4 September. He's not worried though, claiming "electricity is everywhere", which we suppose it is when you think about it, even if it's a plug in a standalone shop rather than a special electric vehicle charge point.
In order to make use of this fact, Ramsey has a domestic three-pin plug, a two-pin European plug, a caravan-style amp cable and a three-phrase charge cable with him. The latter will allow him to use industrial sites, which he claims will reduce the Leaf's charge time by eight hours.
According to Ramsey, a dead to full battery for the Leaf takes between 12 to 14 hours to charge but it will only cost around £1.90, though he doesn't plan on charging to full each time.
The Nissan Leaf and its Mongol Rally adaptations
The Nissan Leaf the Ramsey team have entered into the Mongol Rally is based on a standard 30kWh Leaf Acenta. There are a few modifications and adaptations but it's still an all-electric vehicle.
Called the Nissan Leaf AT-EV, which stands for All Terrain Electric Vehicle, the car Ramsey will be driving has been fitted with Speedline SL2 Marmora wheels and Maxsport RB3 narrow tyres to allow it to perform better on unsealed roads.
Plates have been welded to the underside of the wishbones, while braided brake lines, mudflaps and a 6mm aluminium sump guard offer further protection from rough terrain.
The suspension has been raised by 4mm too and the back seats and seat belts have been completely removed for 32kg weight loss. A modified roof rack has also been installed for external storage and it features a Laser Triple-R 16 LED light bar that produces 16,400 lumens of low-voltage forward lighting for the remotest parts of the rally.
In terms of the driver and passenger area of the Leaf AT-EV, it looks just like the standard Leaf, with only rubber mats installed as an adaptation. The interface is clean and simple, while the seating is comfortable, though we aren't sure how comfortable it will be after eight weeks.
We drove the Leaf AT-EV with Ramsey briefly and it handled the rough dirt tracks around Rickmansworth in the UK extremely well. We suspect the tracks we drove on will have nothing on those Ramsey and his wife will experience on some parts of the Rally though.
How to follow the Ramsey team and the Leaf
Chris Ramsey will be making regular stops in the countries he is passing through to promote the benefits of running all-electric vehicles to the residents.
He will be using What3Words to log the locations of the unchartered charging network so those driving electric vehicles across the regions Ramsey is travelling can benefit from accurate charging point locations.
Nissan's new Leaf launches on 5 September.