Groupe Renault drives the future
It was an inevitability that motor sport would go electric. The proof is in the success of the Renault ZOE in two major events.
When it comes to testing mechanical reliability and driving ingenuity, the women-only Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles race in Morocco is an exceptional trial ground. This rally follows the rules of an orienteering race: drivers are equipped only with a compass and 1:100,000-scale map to help them trace their route between the different checkpoints. All in all, they cover 2,500 kilometres in the Moroccan Sahara, with six off-track stages, including two marathon stages that extend over two days. For the 2018 edition, Solen Kerleroux and Carine Poisson competed in the SUV/”Crossover” category, behind the wheel of their ZOE, which means they drove under the same conditions as some petrol-powered 4X4s, even though an E-Gazelles category dedicated to electric vehicles had been created this year. Further proof that electric cars are as comfortable on sand as on a track!
Stage after stage, the two teammates braved the slopes and rough terrain to take the lead in the race. To make it across dry riverbeds, rocky fields, and sand dunes, the ZOE only needed safety modifications: raised rocker panels, under-engine protection, and wide 4×4 tyres. Everything else came as standard, both engine and battery! In the end, the two Groupe Renault employees finished second in the standings, between the 4×4 Dacia Dusters that were competing in the same category. This extraordinary real-life adventure ended in a momentous achievement, with an unprecedented performance by an electric car.
It can’t be denied that for a first outing, the organisers of “The Green Expedition” rally thought big, with a course nearly 5,000 kilometres long through the middle of Patagonia. Drivers could expect extreme conditions, steep slopes, and tracks without any charging stations. The organisation therefore arranged for mobile stations and came to agreements with the local governments of each stage city in order to gain access to their electricity networks via 32A three-phase power plugs.
And so “The Green Expedition” was born as the world’s longest eco-rally, an “electric” race without precedent in the history of auto sports. It was held in April 2018, and the winner of this historic, first edition was a Renault ZOE. “But the results are really symbolic, what matters more is the experimentation, the accumulated knowledge that pushed electric vehicles beyond their urban use,” declared Bruno Ricordeau, director of “The Green Expedition.”
All along the Andean Cordillera, on the mythical “Ruta 40”, competitors clashed on the same kinds of tracks and tarmac as those of the Dakar race. The comparison ends here, however, as the way to be competitive is the direct opposite of the Dakar rally. Instead of stepping on the accelerator, the driver is more concerned with reaching the finish line.
“The Green Expedition” is a 20-stage journey, each nearly 250 kilometres. It is as much a sporting challenge for an electric car as it is a technological one. The secret to winning? Achieving perfect eco-driving, piloting the car smoothly, charging the battery when going downhill with engine braking… in a nutshell, being as energy efficient as possible. And, in so doing, prove that an electric car is not just a city car. Having accomplished that, we can look forward to the next edition in 2020.
Cities & planning
Cities & planning