Environment

Frenchman Xavier Chevrin begins 3,000-mile African EV adventure

Frenchman Xavier Chevrin begin...
Xavier Chevrin recently began a journey through Africa in an electric Citroën Berlingo to demonstrate the reliability and energy efficiency of electric vehicles under extreme conditions
Xavier Chevrin recently began a journey through Africa in an electric Citroën Berlingo to demonstrate the reliability and energy efficiency of electric vehicles under extreme conditions
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Xavier Chevrin at the press conference held at UNEP's headquarters in Nairobi
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Xavier Chevrin at the press conference held at UNEP's headquarters in Nairobi
UNEP's Peter Gilruth gives Chevrin a memorable send off
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UNEP's Peter Gilruth gives Chevrin a memorable send off
The press get up close and personal with the electric Berlingo ahead of the Mission Africa challenge
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The press get up close and personal with the electric Berlingo ahead of the Mission Africa challenge
Xavier Chevrin recently began a journey through Africa in an electric Citroën Berlingo to demonstrate the reliability and energy efficiency of electric vehicles under extreme conditions
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Xavier Chevrin recently began a journey through Africa in an electric Citroën Berlingo to demonstrate the reliability and energy efficiency of electric vehicles under extreme conditions
Xavier Chevrin and the bright orange electric Berlingo about to set off on an African adventure
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Xavier Chevrin and the bright orange electric Berlingo about to set off on an African adventure
Xavier Chevrin hits the roads of Nairobi after leaving the UNEP headquarters
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Xavier Chevrin hits the roads of Nairobi after leaving the UNEP headquarters
A map showing the intended route
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A map showing the intended route
A number of conferences discussing sustainable transport and renewable energy have been arranged
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A number of conferences discussing sustainable transport and renewable energy have been arranged
Locals get to grips with the electric Citroën Berlingo at Amboseli Arusha
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Locals get to grips with the electric Citroën Berlingo at Amboseli Arusha
The bright orange electric vehicle has no back-up generator, so if it runs out of power it will be stranded
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The bright orange electric vehicle has no back-up generator, so if it runs out of power it will be stranded
For many, it will be their first encounter with an electric vehicle, and the adventurer will take every opportunity to show off zero emission technology
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For many, it will be their first encounter with an electric vehicle, and the adventurer will take every opportunity to show off zero emission technology
The aim of the trip is to demonstrate the reliability and energy efficiency of electric vehicles under extreme conditions
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The aim of the trip is to demonstrate the reliability and energy efficiency of electric vehicles under extreme conditions
Xavier Chevrin has embarked an an epic journey that will see him travel along the roads and trails through Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa in a electric Berlingo
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Xavier Chevrin has embarked an an epic journey that will see him travel along the roads and trails through Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa in a electric Berlingo
The electric Berlingo being used for the challenge is similar to those currently in the service of the French Postal Service, albeit with some extra battery power to extend its range and raised suspension
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The electric Berlingo being used for the challenge is similar to those currently in the service of the French Postal Service, albeit with some extra battery power to extend its range and raised suspension
The vehicle is powered by three 23.5 kWh nickel sodium chloride batteries which gives the vehicle a range of up to 500 km
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The vehicle is powered by three 23.5 kWh nickel sodium chloride batteries which gives the vehicle a range of up to 500 km
Stunning views and frequent wildlife encounters are almost guaranteed
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Stunning views and frequent wildlife encounters are almost guaranteed
The local wildlife can see the electric vehicle as it passes, but may not be able to hear very much
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The local wildlife can see the electric vehicle as it passes, but may not be able to hear very much
Xavier Chevrin navigates the dirt roads of Arusha Kondoa
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Xavier Chevrin navigates the dirt roads of Arusha Kondoa
The electric Berlingo has received some suspension modifications to cope with the various road conditions that will be encountered during the African adventure
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The electric Berlingo has received some suspension modifications to cope with the various road conditions that will be encountered during the African adventure
For many Dodoma locals, it will be their first encounter with an electric vehicle and Chevrin is taking every opportunity to show off zero emission technology
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For many Dodoma locals, it will be their first encounter with an electric vehicle and Chevrin is taking every opportunity to show off zero emission technology
Approaching some local people at Kondoa Dodoma - who will doubtless ask Chevrin to raise the hood
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Approaching some local people at Kondoa Dodoma - who will doubtless ask Chevrin to raise the hood
Charging up the batteries at Makambo
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Charging up the batteries at Makambo
Full recharge time is said to be seven hours when plugged into a standard 220V/16A socket or five hours for 80 percent capacity
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Full recharge time is said to be seven hours when plugged into a standard 220V/16A socket or five hours for 80 percent capacity
An elephant never forgets - at Mikumi National Park
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An elephant never forgets - at Mikumi National Park
The electric Berlingo features a 21kW (nominal) / 42kW (max) asynchronous three-phase electric motor delivering 180 Nm of torque and giving a top speed of 110 km/h (68 mph)
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The electric Berlingo features a 21kW (nominal) / 42kW (max) asynchronous three-phase electric motor delivering 180 Nm of torque and giving a top speed of 110 km/h (68 mph)
View gallery - 25 images

Xavier Chevrin is no stranger to extended EV adventures. In 2008, he rode an electric scooter between Paris, France and Almaty in Kazakhstan, and two years later he set the record for the longest distance traveled in an electric vehicle by taking a Venturi-powered electric Citroën Berlingo van from Shanghai in China to Paris, notching up some 13,400 km (8,326 miles) in the process – but costing less than 200 dollars for the whole trip. Now he's set off on an African adventure that will take him from Nairobi to Johannesburg – a distance of around 4,800 km (just short of 3,000 miles) – in about six weeks, charging the vehicle as he stops to chat with locals along the way.

Mission Africa, as it's being called, is the fourth Venturi Global Challenge. Mission 1 started in 2009, is still ongoing, and aims at setting new benchmarks for speed and performance in partnership with Ohio State University's record-holding Bullet Buckeye team. The second mission was that record-breaking Shanghai to Paris trip mentioned earlier, and Mission 3 involves creating a zero-emission vehicle capable of operating under extreme Antarctic weather conditions.

A map showing the intended route
A map showing the intended route

"This fourth opus is a new challenge for Venturi with a particular feature; that of combining the pioneering spirit with a human adventure, in contact with different populations who will discover an electric vehicle for the very first time, and all the magic that surrounds this silent means of propulsion," explained Venturi's President Gildo Pallanca Pastor. "An adventure which also embodies our desire to demonstrate that the electric vehicle is an alternative to the combustion engine all over the world, from Shanghai to Paris, Nairobi to Johannesburg and, tomorrow, in the Antarctic."

The challenge has the backing of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and is part of the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Energy for All initiative. It began on May 10 with a press conference held at the Nairobi headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The 45 year-old English teacher and part-time EV adventurer is expected to arrive in Johannesburg around the middle of June, although the driver hasn't been given any speed objectives. The aim of the trip is to demonstrate the reliability and energy efficiency of electric vehicles under extreme conditions, while also drawing attention to the distinct lack of electricity in many communities throughout Africa.

It's said that some 65 percent of Africans do not have access to electricity, so relying heavily on chance encounters with friendly locals to top up the vehicle's batteries as he travels along the roads and trails through Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa may prove a difficult task. For many, it will be their first encounter with an electric vehicle, and the adventurer will be taking every opportunity to show off the zero emission technology.

Locals get to grips with the electric Citroën Berlingo at Amboseli Arusha
Locals get to grips with the electric Citroën Berlingo at Amboseli Arusha

The bright orange electric vehicle has no back-up generator, so if the power runs out it will be stranded, although Chevrin has planned on making around 20 scheduled stops along the way, and a number of conferences discussing sustainable transport and renewable energy have also been arranged. Distances between stops vary from 130 km (80 miles) to 320 km (198 miles), which should be well within the range of the batteries.

The electric Berlingo being used for the challenge is similar to those currently in the service of the French Postal Service, albeit with some extra battery power to extend its range and raised suspension to cope with various road conditions. It's powered by three 23.5 kWh nickel sodium chloride batteries, which gives the vehicle a range of up to 500 km (310.6 miles).

Full recharge time is said to be seven hours when plugged into a standard 220V/16A socket or five hours for 80 percent capacity. The battery pack feeds a 21kW (nominal) / 42kW (max) asynchronous three-phase electric motor delivering 180 Nm of torque and giving a top speed of 110 km/h (68 mph).

According to the latest updates, Chevrin appears to be making good progress but reports that he's frequently stopped by the police – not because of any wrong-doing, but because the local law enforcers want to take a closer look at the strange electric Berlingo he's driving.

Mission Africa #1 :NAIROBI

Sources: Mission Africa, Venturi

Photo credit: Vivien Floris and Xavier Chevrin

View gallery - 25 images
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