Electric vehicle advocate Plug In Adventures is giving the 2017 Nissan Leaf what might be its biggest test yet. They're entering the all-electric Leaf in the Mongol Rally. That's a 16,000 km epic journey from the UK to Siberia. With no backup and no support crew allowed.
Fortunately for the team, the rally isn't a timed event. It's enough just to make the massive distance on roads that for the most part simply don't exist. It used to end in Mongolia, but they moved the finish north and didn't change the name. The rally has only three rules on their site: 1) You can only take a farcically small vehicle. 2) You’re completely on your own. 3) You've got to raise £1,000 for charity. In theory, teams should be using older cars with engines smaller than 1.0L. The Leaf doesn't quite match the low power or age of those cars, but it is small and brings lots of challenges of its own.
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So how is an electric Leaf going to handle the trip? Plug In Adventures has taken their Leaf to UK engineering firm RML Group. They have modified the Leaf that they now call the AT-EV (for all-terrain electric vehicle) for the journey.
It gets Speedline rally wheels and Maxsport rally tires. There are skid plates to protect the underside, and braided steel brake lines to keep the brake juice in. The back seats are gone to reduce weight and add cargo space. there is also a massive LED light bar on the roof for late-night driving in the middle of nowhere. It still has the original battery, giving it an estimated 250 km range on a single charge.
Team founder Chris Ramsey calls the rally "our most challenging electric vehicle drive to date." That seems like an understatement, but they've already completed the challenging North Coast 500 in Scotland and driven the 2,676 km from John O'Groats to Land's End in just two days, using public charging. Ramsey says that "Using a Nissan Leaf for this was an obvious decision." We're not sure that we agree, but he sounds confident despite "a dwindling number of EV chargers the farther east we go." He adds that the Leaf is compatible with the largest network of rapid chargers in Europe, and that it can accept the 240V connection that is common in more remote areas. Ramsey will also be helping to map charging availability in those areas.
The Mongol Rally starts July 16th.