Today, at 4 a.m. California time, Sebastopol resident Alan Soule embarks on a trip in his 2012 Tesla Model S.
His trip is 15,534 miles long through 20 countries and across three continents — around the world in 80 days.
Soule and 11 other electric vehicle teams from seven countries are in Barcelona to begin a trip demonstrating that electric cars can be sustainable means of transportation.
Called “80eDays,” the teams will cross mountains (Alps and Rockies), deserts (the southern part of the Gobi) and plains, idle through huge cities, and traverse Asia and Europe before reuniting Sept. 4 and driving together across the finish line at the Arco de Triunfo in Barcelona.
It’s a journey that’s been a year in the making for Soule, a 66-year-old retired commercial building contractor.
“I have always been interested in alternative energy for vehicles,” he said. “I had a car that ran on propane back in the ’70s, and then when General Motors came out with the EV1, I leased one of those, and that was in 1999.”
When Tesla first came out with its Roadster in 2008, he snatched one up, too, and in 2012, took it down Route 66.
“From all the research that I’ve done, I’m almost positive it’s the first electric vehicle to drive Route 66,” he said.
After purchasing his 2012 Model S the year of its release, he was emboldened by a Spaniard he met while getting his car serviced in Menlo Park. The man told Soule he was trying to take his Tesla Roadster around the world in 80 days. Rafael de Mestre didn’t make it in the allotted time frame, but he and Soule kept in touch, and now, four years later, de Mestre is giving it a shot again. Joining de Mestre and Soule are two Swiss and two German teams, along with one each from China, Hungary, Czech Republic and Austria.
In March, he did a shorter drive, a test run across the western half of China over the course of five days, to see what charging might be like, especially across vast rural stretches. He charged 10 times.
“I think in much of the rest of the world, liability isn’t a big issue to them,” Soule said, “so what we would do is we’d drive up and see a tire shop, and we would just ask if they would mind if we connected (our portable charger) to their circuit breaker. We never got turned down.”
Preparing for the trip has been a full-time job, Soule said, such as lining up visas for China, Kazakhstan and Russia, and making sure the cars will have all the charging adapters they need — something that changes country by country.
Over the course of the trip, Soule will have a rotating crew of five co-drivers who are friends and friends of friends who will meet him at various junctions, and planning the route took time as well.
“I originally wanted to go through Turkey because I like Turkey, but there are problems there,” Soule said. “And I’ve been told that Belarus has a lot of gangs. And the southeastern portion of Ukraine is where the Russians are trying to make a stronghold. But if you go up through Latvia, that’s an extra 600 miles, and we don’t want to do that, so we’re going to take a chance and go through northern Ukraine and see what happens.”