Oxford to London Eco-Rally 2012

Bravely spanning the divide between the Olympics and the Paralympics was this year’s Eco-Rally organised by Revolve : towards zero emissions.  A first for Eco-Rally, the event this year was pre-empted by the Investing in Future Transport conference co-organised with Cleantech Investor, who also published the event magazine…a must read!  The conference, held on August 16th and supported by the Mayor of London, was held at London’s City Hall.  It brought together discussions about the state of our energy supplies and how their production will change and undoubtedly affect transport solutions.  However, the conversations within the building would never have a market to invest in without the transport vehicles, provided by Mia Electric UK, ITM Power, Rieju and Hyundai, on show just outside.  In short, Investing in the Future Transport needs a holistic approach whereby all parties can work in a sustainable and equitable way to gain momentum and become mainstream.  Let the race begin!

Appropriately the next leg of the clean weekend ahead was the 6th annual Eco-Rally challenge itself with drivers getting ready to depart from Oxford, one of UK’s and Europe’s most recognised electric automotive hubs.  From F1-retired Patrick Head developing flywheel technology to Silverstone-based Delta Motorsports, from Riversimple to the University of Oxford one could say that the area has probably the highest concentration of alternative engineering eco enthusiast per capita…seriously!  After a show of eco cars open to the public at this prolific location the rally commenced with celebrity Quentin Wilson, TV presenter and eco driver, starting the proceedings in his Vauxhall Ampera with everyone heading to the iconic mid-way pit stop Ace Café just outside London.

This is where we met up with the group in our very own Twizy courtesy of Renault.  On loan for the weekend we had planned to the mile (on paper and google maps) that I could just make it to the Ace Café down to Waterloo Place, the finish line, and back to the office without recharging.  What we hadn’t calculated was the awesome regenerative braking that the Twizy is capable of; I managed the trip from our office to the Ace Café, Waterloo Place, and back to the start without even going under half the proverbial ‘tank’.  Shocker…add to that its good looks then I have to say that the Twizy was my favourite of the day.  In conversation with the Lightning Company’s owner Iain Sanderson he confessed that the Twizy is probably the best thing that ever happened to EV, the design is pure fun! 

The Ace Café is a known biker hangout and the organisers of Eco-Rally didn’t disappoint delivering EV bikes and scooters to the hard-core bikers dismay.  Bikers confronted with soundless motorcycles despair at the lack of roar, but once tested a few had second thoughts about its potential.  POD Point were also on site to recharge any vehicles that needed topping up at the mid-way point and are also offering free charging home units worth up to £1,000.00 to anyone who participates in their Low Carbon London electric vehicle usage trial and lives within the M25.  This  offer is still available and you can find out more information on their website.  Did I mention it looks super cool?  I want one!

After oohing and aahing about all the cars on show, notably of interest to us at GCD was Ford’s Electric Focus, Ampera Police Car, Cambridge University’s Eco Racing vehicle and charming development team, and surprise appearance by Saietta the convoy departed with the finish line in mind.  Driving the Twizy on the A40 was a breeze, thankfully as it was such a hot day, and although the speed limit was 40 mph I could have easily done 50+.  Its external proportions truly belie its internal headroom and although it has no windows (something I think aftermarket will develop) it really is a cool ride.  I arrived, having made a few friends on the way, to a buzzing Waterloo Place where we parked next to our long termer mia electric.  Now let me tell you that we had packed all our essentials into the mia for the day, a foldable table and four chairs, boxes of magazines, and promotionals with room for two people to spare.  What more do you want from a city car? And its tiny, next to the Twizy it makes sense for people who have a lot going on! I digress.

The mobile motor-show had finally come to rest all together and in all its glory.  Yes, it was not the fanfare that it was last year with Bridgestone as sponsor but neither was Ecovelocity that great this year.  It has to be said that with all investment focused on the big top show that was the Olympics eco events fell the wayside.  Ironically Boris Johnson wanted these to be the greenest games but it never quite came to fruition either (I would like to see their carbon emission bill!).  However, a few gems were to be seen.  For one the Saietta came to a standstill to be adored, of course the Lightining car, a beautifully kitted out Tesla Roadster, and the AEDC, Electric Drift Car, developed by Spain’s Quimera Responsible Racing sustainable motorsport company, was a fabulous attraction.  The AEDC (aka K1 Evelio) is capable of quietly speeding from zero to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in just 3.2 seconds, has an average range of 150 miles (241.4 km) per charge and is expected to reach speeds of 170 mph (273.5 km/h). Powertrain can be ramped up to 250kW. The vehicle complies with all sanctioned safety regulations.

The hot summer’s day highlighted the fact that our planet is getting warmer, the people who stopped and chatted about the cars show a keen interest in alternatively fuelled and designed cars, so why is the uptake so painstaking slow and difficult?  It might probably be scale, glancing over the cars at the finish line is a successful example of scale, the Boris Bikes subsidised by Barclays, two institutions.  So although this year may be quiet for the electric or hydrogen powered vehicle hold on to your seats because 2013 is the year of the EV supercar with production versions of some of the industries most lusted after vehicles BMW’s i8, Porsche’s 918 Spyder, Jaguar’s C-X75, Audi’s R e-tron coming to market.  If you have a garage get it electrified! 


photos courtesy of David Spink Photography via Eco-Rally

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