Around the world in 80 days… in an electric car

I have a confession to make: the car that I drive is not electric. It’s a practical, nice looking Toyota Matrix. Not entirely unexpected for a person who teaches matrix computations at university regularly, of course, but I do feel pangs of guilt occasionally when driving around town. Honest, my next car will be electric. Especially after hearing, whilst driving that same Matrix,  a wonderful NPR “The World” segment last week on the recently completed Zero Emissions Race.

The three finalist of the Zero Race, from

Imagine driving 27,000 kilometers through 17 countries in 80 days in an electric vehicle. Three teams from Australia, Germany and Switzerland managed. The Australian team drove a three-wheeler that was dubbed “TREV”, the Germans an electric scooter and the Swiss a sort of high-tech motorcycle.

The race was organized by Louis Palmer, who some of you may remember as the “Solar Taxi Guy”, who toured around the world in a solar car three years ago.

The participants stopped off at the World Climate Conference in Cancun, Mexico last December. They drove through Europe, Russia, China, Canada and the United States, and finished with a track through Morocco and Spain.

I loved this “race”. It was not without its share of problems. It was difficult at times for the teams to charge their vehicles, particularly in Russia and China, where sometimes they had to wire directly into the power supply. And naturally, the race was not entirely emissions free. In places, electricity used for the vehicle was generated by fossil-fueled power plants.  But overall, it was a challenging, exciting adventure that managed to put a bright positive light on electric cars. I also loved that the Trev was designed by students at the University of South Australia in Adelaide.

For all of you interested in participating in such a race, there is another chance: The Zero Emissions Race Europe from September 3rd to the 25th. Let me know if you put a team together. I’d be happy to be the supply van. Me and my Matrix, but guilt free as we’d be helping to advance this future mode of transport.

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