Follow the electric car as it crosses Europe.
Follow the progress of the team as it happens on:
Monday 7th June: London to Ejsberg (via Harwich)
Rousing send-off from Broadcasting House, London. Despite taking a wrong turn within seconds, made it to the Harwich-Denmark ferry. Pickled fish and beef in the Seven Sea Buffet.
Manager told us he'd seen Pearl Jam 18 times and invited us to wine tasting the next day ... beginning at 10 am. (Peter).
Peter White, from Radio 4's You and Yours, came to ask the team what the project is all about.
Tuesday 8th June: Ejsberg to Samsø
Arrive in Ejsberg, Denmark: drive across to Hov to take the ferry to the energy island of Samsø (where the Queen of Denmark is also visiting).
Today we drove through the gentle and pleasant Danish countryside to a short evening ferry crossing to Samsø. The queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, was on Samsø so we joined the crowd waving her off at Kolby Kas. (Peter).
Wednesday 9th June: On Samsø
On Samsø: interview 'biofuel' Eric, visit Samsø energy academy and Ballen Brundy Heating Plant, take ferry from Kolby Kas to Kalundborg and drive to Copenhagen.
Samsø is an island of 4000 or so people. What makes the island unusual is that it is a net energy exporter. Groups of islanders have formed co-operatives to build and run power stations like the straw burning Ballen Brundy plant and wind-farms both on and off the island. The islanders are now looking at the next stage of their plan to be both energy independent and to create new jobs. They are now considering replacing their carbon fuelled vehicles with electric vehicles. (Richard).
Thursday 10th June: Copenhagen
Interview Move About, interview Gert Jakobsen from DFDS on an electric powered boat (Den Grimme Aelling), Lunch with Jens Nørgaard in his Cafe Europe, board ferry to Oslo.
After interviewing people from the car-share scheme, Move About, we enjoyed a quiet and smooth glide around the Copenhagen canals in electric boat Den Grimme Aelling (the Ugly Duckling) followed by a superb lunch in Cafe Europa. The cafes owner, Jens Nørgaard is an EV car enthusiast.
Friday 11th June: Arrive Oslo, on to Gottenburg
Arrive in Oslo, meet and join an EV convoy, lunch at THINK, leave Oslo for Gottenburg, meet English Punk Band from Oldham - Extinction of Mankind - on way to camp-site. Peter goes on ahead to meet Volvo.
Overnight Ferry to Norway, disco until 4am above my little berth. Mixture of Boney M style europop and banging techno from back in the day. Back in the car next day we are met by a convoy of over 70 electric vehicles from all over Norway and escorted to the parliament building for a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition Conservative Party.
Do satellite interview on Radio 4 You and Yours before driving to Gothenburg in Sweden to road test Volvo's new electric concept coupe, the C30 in driving rain at dusk. It's a beauty though, in looks and drive.
Saturday 12th June: Leave Gottenburg for Kiel
Plugged into a 16A supply on the ferry to Kiel, soon to be surrounded by lorries.
Sunday 13th June: Kiel to Hannover, via Hamburg
Arrive Kiel and drive to Hamburg to interview Wolfgang Lohbeck - transportation expert at Greenpeace Germany.
Wolfgang was a delightful and hospitable host who not only allows us to charge the car but also makes us lunch and played happy birthday to Rose on his trumpet. Afterwards we drove onto Hannover with a stop in a pleasant camp-site to charge the car, eat supper and watch some football. Electric vehicle drivers beware, a 16A label on the charging post does not necessarily mean you get 16A. We ended up watching the whole football match when we expected to have charged up by half-time.
Monday 14th June: Travelling through the heart of Saxony
We've set our satnav to avoid motorways and so we've travelled through the most delightful countryside and villages. Our route (and speed) has been ideal for enjoying the scenery.
At one point en route we stopped for a coffee and met a young man hitch-hiking. He helpfully corrected my German phrase for "Can I charge my car here please?" to "Entschuldigungen, kann Ich bei Ihnen mein elektro-auto aufladen? Bitte!" It's been very useful.
Monday evening we arrived at a chocolate box beautiful spa town called Bad Salzungen. An oversized park bench made me look like some horribly aged child. Behind was a wide and high wall of calcite covered thatch dripping with water. This bizzarre device (building?) creates a humid atmosphere that is supposed to improve your health. It struck me you were more likely to catch Legionnaires' disease here than recover from chest ailments.
Tuesday 15th June: Volkswagen plant at Volksberg
Their main experimental engine scientist Frank Seyfried took me on a tour of the labs which wouldn't have disgraced a Bond villain. Had to sign confidentiality agreements and photos were verboten. Frank is a lovely man who has created the hydrogen powered engine that won't be commonplace for a decade or more - but we got a chance to drive his prototype. Strange alien noises from under the bonnet and very smooth performance. Image: Bad Salzungen water wall. Credit: Rose De Larrabeiti.
Then we jumped into the electric buggy of Lucas who took us into the pressing and welding plant where we saw rolls of steel go in one end and cars come out the other.
Gargantuan steel presses with a force of up to 8000 tonnes make the panels, pedals, floors and roofs at a relentless pace. It's all on a grand operatic scale and the noise in there is like the hammers of the gods. There's no sneaking off to watch the world cup - this building is the size of twenty football pitches.
Wednesday 16th June: Munich - Rose creates a new record for the electric car by driving 280km in one day
The team split up in Munich to interview different people.
I met Dr. Florian Bieberbach, CEO of Stadtwerke Munchen (SWM). This is a publicly owned company, employing over 7,000 people. SWM runs the city transport system, the energy system behind it and other components of the city infrastructure. Florian told me that Munich intends to use renewable power, replacing the gas and coal that keeps the city moving at present. So the city is funding wind-farms around the coasts of Britain and also paying for concentrated solar power plants in Spain in order to generate the renewable energy it requires.
Meanwhile, from Peter: I visited the Tesla showroom, only 84,000 Euro for a battery powered sports car. Mind you, does 0-60 in under 4 secs, so great for getting those lollies and fish fingers home before they defrost.
Later I join Munich's English choir as they rehearse for a concert. Pianist and conductor Mark Davey gives an excellent Brits-abroad appraisal, before falling of his stool as a way of relaxing nervous singers with a big slapstick laugh. He is an excellent fellow, as Dr Johnson might have said. You can hear the piece on R4's You And Yours on Thusday 24th June.
Thurs 17th June: Testing the Mini E outside Munich, and then on the road to Austria
Two weeks ago the drive I took this morning in a new BMW electric mini would have been a completely novel experience. Today it was an interesting variation on our driving experience of the last three thousand kilometres.
I took the mini for a 30 minute drive around country roads, through villages, and for a quick buzz on the autobahn. The electric mini was fast and responsive, the regenerative braking was strong enough to substitute for using the brake in most situations, and my overall sensation was that of having fun.
But, the car has lost its two back seats to make space for the batteries required to give it this performance. I also noticed that I'd used about 20% of the charge during my trial so I wonder whether the car would have the 170km range claimed. The mini is still in its consumer trials period so I received no information about where and when it will be available to buy.
The Alps beckon and so we left Munich heading for Austria.
Fri 18th June: The Ferrari Factory, Modena, Italy
In an interview with Ferrari technical Director Roberto Fideli we learnt that the Ferrari Hybrid - the HY-KER will be available in three years. Ferrari are using hybrid technology to increase power and performance while simultaneously reducing emissions. In creating the hybrid Ferrari have avoided increasing the vehicle weight or reducing the space available to man and engine. More technical information is available here: The car you can see is a 458 Italia.
I did not test-drive the hybrid but was able to take a spin in a 458 Italia, the car you see pictured here.
Saturday 19th June: Up and over the Alps
On our way up the San Bernardino pass we intended to top up at a restaurant only to find it closed. With 50% charge remaining we decided to chance it and made it to the top with 10% charge left, which very reassuringly increased to 15% thanks to regenerative braking as we swept down the other side.
Far more impressive were the hardcore Belgian cyclists who had ridden up the mountain!
Sunday 20th June
A lesiurely drive across north Italy.
Monday 21st June: The Zero from Tazzari
Kevin and I missed out on Ferrari but are not in anyway bitter. Instead we had a look at the tiny new Italian EV - the Zero, made by Tazzari a company more famous for manufacturing ski grinding machines. You can hear my review in Programme 3 of the Electric Ride. As a bonus we got caught up in the bewildering and choked one-way system of Genova.
Tuesday 22nd June: Takeover talks stop play
A planned visit to Fiat was called off as they are in takeover talks (for parts of General Motors) and so want to wait until those are resolved before sharing their EV plans with passing journalists. We stopped for a recharge last night in the northern costal village of Spotorno (Italy) and found a fanciful early attempt at conversion to electric motoring.
Wednesday 23rd June: Emilie's toy shop in St. Maximin
As we entered St Maximin, our overnight stop for today, a glorious sight greeted our tired eyes. A toy shop selling fabulous die-cast metal pedal cars. The shop is owned by Emilie and her husband Herve. Inside it's packed with fabulous retro-toys and games which they source from all over the world. We parked the our electric beast and went in to marvel at the shop and the small cars with 'no emissions' and tons of style.
St Maximin is also famous for a huge church - a Basilica of Mary Magdalene, begun in 1295 but not completed until much later. The Black Death killed half the local population in 1348 which delayed building work for some years and the Basilica was eventually declared finished in 1532. As the Basilica lacks bell towers to break up its outline you feel you are in the presence of a brooding castle rather than a church.
Thurs 24th June: Montpellier
Overnight outside Montpellier
Friday 25th June: Colera, our first stop in Spain
Colera is a small sea-side town on the coast where the Pyrenees meet the sea. It was a shame we could only overnight there, a place to return to.
Saturday 26th June: Barçelona
Peter talks with residents and journalists about the impact on the city of pollution from combustion engine vehicles.The striking facade of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia cathedral has darkened with grime - even as it's being restored/completed. The 'Estacion Bicing' scheme offers residents hundreds of bikes for hire across the city on a pick up/ drop off anywhere basis. A popular, cheap anti-pollution initiative; it does mean a glut of bikes dropped by the sea, a people decide to take the train or bus back up the hill into town!
Sunday 27th June: 'Range anxiety'
Editing and writing links for next programmes. Great interviews have come in for this week but can't get to them in time with the electric car. 'Our range anxiety' has become a reality.
Monday 28th June: Madrid
Have left car outside Barçelona to get interviews with Spain's governement agency for renewable energy in Madrid. Their head of transport, Juan Luis Plia, said the government are planning for an ambitious 250,000 electric vehicles in Spain by 2014.
Met with innovation director of Iberdrola, Spanish energy company and the world's biggest wind power producer. They're planning to offer their electricity customers electric vehicles, recharging points and help with financing. Road tested new Vectrix electric motorbike, which proved a spine-tingling experience weaving through Madrid's rush hour traffic.
Jumped onto the night train to Lisbon, have got access to tomorrow's unveiling of Portugal's massive investment in electric vehicles and infrastructure by their Prime Minister.
Back to Spain and our little red friend tommorrow night.
Tuesday 29th June: Peter met Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Socrates in Lisbon
Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Socrates launched the country's MOBI.E electric vehicle charging system which will create a network of charging points for electric car users. After the opening ceremony I asked him about what is probably Europe's leading initiative to power all electric vehicles with renewable energy and to offer all power suppliers 'open' access to a uniform charging sytem througout Portugal.
This is a close as they initially let me get to the only Nissan Leaf in Europe. Before heading back to Madrid from Lisbon I made friends with Steve from Sunderland - the car's technical expert and minder. They electric Leaf will be built in the UK by Nissan in Sunderland. I did get a short but favourable test drive before interviewing Portugal's Secretary of State for Energy and Innovation.
Wednesday 30th June
Journey from Madrid towards Pyrenees. Traffic a tad lively - massive tourist coach in our path as we gently round a bend and have to swerve/ brake to avoid joining the Italians on board.
News that Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs has issued a personal challenge to race me over the course of the Brighton to London EV Rally next Wednesday. The expedition hardened BBC Electric Ride team will be gracious in victory.
Image: Solar family Sendros. Manel, Fatima and their children Francesc and Gemma. Their home is powered by the solar panels Manel has installed.
Thursday 1st July: On to Ainsa
Arrive in Huesca region and a small immaculate campsite ouside town of Ainsa. Pitch tents in 90 degree heat and look forward to the night under nylon. Car plugged-in but charging painfully slow ... must have a full battery as tomorrow we have the small matter of the Pyrenees to climb over.
Friday 2nd July: Leaving Ainsa for France
The journey north from Ainsa through the Pyrenees was spectacular. At the summit a tunnel cut through from Spain to France, we left hard sunshine for soft rain and the road down into France. Our evening was spent with Dick and Judy, who have created a truffle orchard in front of their home in southern France. The tree's (or rather the truffle fungi around their roots)are expected to produce truffles within the next year or two, some eight years since the tree saplings were planted. We won't give the precise location of our stop because of the danger of truffle rustlers! You can hear more about Dick, Judy and their truffles on You and Yours.
Saturday 3rd July: Trouble charging
We continued our journey via Bazac and for the first time in the whole journey met with a total lack of co-operation when we tried to arrange a place to charge up. What added to our frustration is that the Saturday market in Bazac was coming to a close and just about every stall-holder had a cable snaking across the market square to abundant clusters of sockets placed all the way around within the medieval arches surrounding the square. Fortunately Monsieur Clave came to the rescue and we parked up outside his moped and agricultural tool repair shop and plugged in. Charged up, we rolled on to Chateux Julie.
Sunday 4th July: Travelling towards Paris
Monday 5th July: Interview with Renault
Thierry announced that their new electric range - two new designs and two adapted from existing vehicles - will appear in 2011. Prices will be the same as petrol engined Renault with the customer leasing the expensive battery instead of buying it outright.
Tuesday 6th July: St. Malo and the ferry
As we waited for the ferry in St. Malo Radio 4 listeners came over to look at the car.
Wedneday 7th July: Eco-rally from Brighton to London
Our dusty, indomitable little car completed the last leg from Brighton to London where we were reunited with colleagues, friends and family for the first time in over four weeks.
Peter Curran sets off on a bold 4500 mile trans-European journey in an electric car.
Visiting more than a dozen countries from Norway to Portugal, he meets major European motor manufacturers, gauges political will across the continent, attempts to drive over the alps and becomes multi-lingual in the phrase "Where can I plug this in please?".
Accompanied by environmental writer Richard Scrase, Peter says goodbye to his loved ones and sets off for the continent. They want to be back in time to join the Brighton to London Eco-Rally on July 7th, but they have four weeks ahead of them, approximately 4500 miles and a wealth of extension leads and universal adaptors to get to grips with.
Saturday, 10.30 - 11.00am, 19th June - 10th July.
Peter Curran will also report live on You and Yours every Friday
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