The 10k mile Mongol Rally & Other EV adventures
We caught up with Chris Ramsey from Plug in Adventures whilst he charged his car for a quick Q&A about ditching police escorts, route planning & the other Grand Canyon...
Chris is best known for driving an electric car over the 10,000 miles of the intercontinental Mongol Rally from Europe to Siberia in 2017.
Q: CHRIS - WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST ELECTRIC CAR?
A: My first EV was a 2014 Nissan Leaf Tekna. I still have it today. Although my wife nicked it for her work trips and I never got it back - she got rid of her Mini and I walked to work :). I've now got an 30kWh Leaf as a daily run-around.
Q: WHAT MADE YOU WANT AN EV?
A: I'm from Aberdeen and worked in the oil & gas industry for years. The firm I worked for had a renewables arm, which got me intrigued. I borrowed a local Nissan Dealer's 24kWh Leaf in 2012 and drove to all 3 mainland UK capitals in one weekend (Aberdeen - Edinburgh - Newcastle - London - Cardiff - Aberdeen). We received a Twitter message from Robert asked if we wanted to meet up as we were passing near by him. So we interviewed Robert about EV's and the myths for the road trip documentary we were making at the time (which is on the Plug In Adventure Youtube channel), its incredible to think that 7 years on we are still talking about the same electric car myths today as back then.
Q: WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE ADVENTURE YOU’VE EVER HAD IN AN EV AND WHY?
A: Wow, that's a question. We were the first people to do the Mongol Rally in an EV in 2017. It was a major challenge, taking us all across Europe and Asia, ending in Siberia. Wherever we went we asked people if we could charge at their businesses and houses as there weren't any chargers.
Q: WHERE WAS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE TRIP?
A: Kazakhstan - the craziest, most wonderful place we have ever been. Lots of potholes, dirt tracks & off-road. I mapped each 80-90 miles to the next village where we would stop and ask if we could charge. Ours was the first EV people had seen. Most people had heard of them and were interested - I got to have the sustainability conversation and experience some phenomenal hospitality in return.
News of our adventure across Kazakhstan spread and that we planned to attend the Future Energy Expo in the capital city, Astana. Due to this we somehow picked up a police escort as they wanted to make sure we arrived safely. However, the constant change over from regional police to town police, and then town police to regional police as we drove through places slowed us down quite a bit, so we ditched them one morning using the old "I have an electric car, they take forever to charge!" myth....which I found quite ironic to use.
Kazakhstan is a very misunderstood country - in the west there's wild horses & the 'Grand Canyon' and in the east there's national parks, boating
lakes & forests
Q: WHERE'S YOUR NEXT TRIP?
A: I'd like to go somewhere more untouched - South America. Some key countries for climate change & deforestation. We could take the car, raise awareness and have those conversations to educate people and businesses, as well as witness the devastation first hand.
Going to places where there is no charging infrastructure is an adventure and you can influence people. In Kazakhstan we met the boss of an oil giant, he said 'This is the future - I need to go and install electric car chargers'. I now get messages with pictures of where they have installed chargers.
Q: WHAT OTHER EV ROADTRIPS HAVE YOU DONE?
A: Wow I have done so many now, but one that sticks out is in 2015. I wanted to drive my favourite racing track, Monaco, before attending the Formula E race in London, that meant driving a 2500 mile round trip from Edinburgh in just 60 hours.
Needless to say, the friend who invited me to attend Formula E always drives himself to events that we attend now haha.
Q: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR EV ROAD TRIPS?
A: Make sure you have all the charging apps and charge cards and plan your route in advance. I create a spreadsheet from A to B, then broken down into each charging stop with mileage between each one, charge card required, address and postcode and contact number for each location if available.
For example, on the Mongol Rally I had a spreadsheet with 111 address locations listed on it and printed out. Most of these were just towns, villages or petrol stations, but it meant I always had an address with electricity to navigate to.
Charge cards are very important, as they cover you for areas where there's no mobile coverage.
Q: WHAT'S THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORT?
A: EVs are part of the solution. We can make the change to electric tomorrow with the cars available now - although many people are unwilling to change. Hydrogen would work well for trucks - the largest need would be in business and the agricultural industry.
The oil industry could do so much more to reduce emissions than they are doing at the moment.
Q: WHO'S YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATION IN THE EV WORLD?
A: It would be easy to say someone like Robert Llewellyn as I have been a fan of his from such a young age, but without a doubt it has to be Jonathan Porterfield from EcoCars. During my very first EV adventure back in 2015 Jonathan rescued me at a charge point when I had the wrong charge card. He came in person, sorted me out and explained everything.
Also, he has been responsible for Orkney going from having just 12 EV's to having over 200 today, and that number is growing all the time, and having only been on the island for a couple of years too.
He works tirelessly for the EV community and is always giving up his time to support and help others, for no benefit to himself. He is a true gent and such a generous and wonderful human being, and I am so grateful I met him all those years ago.
Q: WHAT ARE YOU UP TO THESE DAYS?
A: Working with the Scottish Government on supporting their plans towards the ban on the sale of new petrol & diesel cars in Scotland by 2032.
It's such an honour to provide my knowledge and experience of global EV infrastructure, gained over the last 7 years to help achieve the bigger goal of encouraging people to make the switch to an electric vehicle.
Q: and finally - IF YOU WERE AN EV, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?
A: The Rivian R1T pickup truck - it embodies everything I'm about, and is a true off-roading vehicle. I have always believed and demonstrated that EV's and Adventure can coexist, with the R1T, Rivian have built an EV that now proves this.