UNEP Flags off Electric Car on African Odyssey
Nairobi, 10 May 2012 - Xavier Chevrin, whose 2010 trip from Shangai to Paris was the longest journey ever made in an electric vehicle, was flagged off from UNEP's headquarters on an unassisted odyssey from Nairobi to Johannesburg in an electric vehicle.
Mission Africa, part of the UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, aims to demonstrate the reliability and energy efficiency of electric vehicles under extreme conditions and also highlight the lack of electricity in many communities in Africa. The trip is supported by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, and is the first in which an electric vehicle attempts an unassisted journey from Nairobi to Johannesburg.
The trek through the bush of Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa will see him end up in Johannesburg, an estimated 4,800 kilometers and one-and-half months later.
"We have been using combustion engines for over a century, but now it is a new revolution," Mr. Chevrin said. "Within a few decades it will be logical for everyone to have an electric car as it fits with the philosophy of having to be careful how we use energy."
According to UNEP's soon-to-released flagship report on the state of the environment, the Global Environment Outlook 5, the current fossil-fuel based transport system accounts for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. This figure is expected to rise to almost one third in the coming decades.
Mr. Chevrin pointed out that the electric vehicle was zero emission and much cheaper to run. The Shangai-Paris trip cost less than 200 dollars in electricity, compared to the 4,000 dollars it would have cost to use diesel, Mr. Chevrin said.
"We want to prove that electricity is an alternative energy source that can be used for transportation," he said.
As with the Shangai-Paris trip, Mr. Chevrin will trust in encounters with locals to recharge his batteries. He plans to use these random meetings to engage with ordinary Africans, inviting them on board the vehicle and showing that clean technology is a vital part of the world's future energy sources.
However, he will face the challenges of limited access to electricity and frequent power cuts in rural Africa. The car has no back-up generator, so should he run out of power he will be stranded, adding to the scale of the adventure.
"Here in Africa is going to be the toughest so far because of the problems of power supply," he said.
Peter Gilruth, Director of UNEP's Division of Early Warning and Assessment, flagged off the bright orange vehicle, which departed with barely a hum due to its silent electrical motor.
The vehicle is a souped-up version of cars used by the French postal service. While the vehicle in use in France has one battery, Mr. Chevrin's chariot has three, and also a raised suspension to cope with the bumpy roads. It can cover 500 km without recharge at a maximum speed of 110 Km/h, and has a load capacity of 750 kg. Recharging the batteries from scratch takes seven hours, plugged into a standard 240V socket.
You can follow Mission Africa's progress online at the following locations:
http://english.missionafrica.fr/ (in English)
www.missionafrica.fr (in French).
For more information on the trip, please contact Clément Dorance on +377 9999 5200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For any questions, please contact, Waiganjo Njoroge on +254 762 5261 or email email@example.com