Going All-In With Aptera: South Africa To Europe, Then The World

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After planning a trip in an Aptera for London to Moscow to Beijing, I decided to see about crossing two more continents so we could have a truly global set of insane trip plans. This was where I ran into the biggest challenge: South Africa to Europe.

For those just tuning in, I modified the parameters for a 100 kWh Tesla to imitate the expected efficiency of an Aptera in A Better Routeplanner, and then running it through various routes. The more remote and developing a country is, the harder it is to get the software to cooperate because there isn’t much data on charging station locations, or in this case there are huge areas with no known stations.

A crappy plan to cross Africa on mostly level 1 plugs. You can fiddle with the plan yourself here.

This would be about the worst possible EV adventure trip there is. There is DC fast charging in South Africa, but the only thing between that and Egypt is one DCFC station in Kenya or Uganda. Everything along this route would have to be level 1. To accomplish this, you’d need to stop for two nights at 8 hotels, and you’ll need to find hotels that let you run an extension cord out the door or window to the car, or allows you to plug into a lamp post or something. Plugs in Africa are 220-240 volts, so it’s not as bad as US level 1 would be. You can get probably 2.4 kW from the plugs, allowing you to get more of a charge.

You’d still need to stay for 2 nights at each of these places. Personally, I’d stay a few days and use the Aptera to explore the area a bit and then charge the last night to hit the road again. Expect to spend a month if you don’t want to just see the inside of a bunch of African hotels. Or bring lots of money to pay cabbies, etc. Or bring some bikes along and hope they don’t get swiped.

The above map takes you as far as the bottom of Egypt. From there, things are easier.

The trip through Egypt and on into Europe. You can fiddle with the plan yourself here.

What this means is you can now connect the plan for across Africa to the plan for London-Moscow-Beijing for basically the ultimate three-continent 16,000 mile adventure. Expect to spend 2-3 months doing this, depending on how much time you want to spend visiting things and not just going for speed. If going for speed, the whole three-continent trek would take you 3-4 weeks if nothing goes wrong.

Chances are uncomfortably high that you destroy the car along the way, get it stolen, or die when the last two things are happening, but the trip is theoretically possible if you put in the additional legwork to figure out the level 1 charging hotels in each city coming north through Africa.

Before you run and do any of this, be sure to read the last article. I put a lot of warnings, things to consider, and planning tips. Be sure you read those and don’t blame us if bad things happen (they likely will). I did this mostly for fun and not to send anybody out to their doom!

I thought about going completely crazy and connecting this 16,000 mile trip to Alaska somehow, but I don’t think it’s possible. For one, there’s no ferry service from the east end of Russia to Alaska. Another problem is that there just aren’t roads to even get that far. You’d probably have to ship the car from somewhere in China to Anchorage and (assuming you made it that far), start the Pan-Am trip as covered in this article.

By the time you’re done crossing those 5 continents, you’d have traveled about 30,000 miles and probably spent 3-6 months (depending on whether you do any sightseeing). Chances are that somewhere along those insane miles, you lost the car to something bad happening. Crossing that many war-torn and/or impoverished countries in a flashy and attention-getting car is likely not going to go well. You can get lucky for a while, but that luck seems unlikely to last 30,000 miles. But you might make it! Who knows?

But, Isn’t There A Continent You’re Forgetting?

Ahh yes. Sorry. I did remember that we do have some Australian readers. It turns out that crossing that continent straight across would be about as tough as Africa. Taking the approach of around the edges would probably be a lot more effective.

A plan to cross Australia. You can fiddle with the plan yourself here.

Going along the west coast looks like it’s not much of a problem. There is lots of DCFC infrastructure. Crossing along the top or bottom is going to take at least two nights plugged into wall sockets at hotels or RV parks before you find a few DCFC stations in the region surrounding Perth. We know of one woman who took a trip all the way around the edges of Australia, and it took her 80 days, so the Aptera would be a good improvement over that.

That’s Only 6 Continents. What About The 7th One?

There’s one little problem. The seventh continent is Antarctica. Not only are there no charging stations, but there aren’t really any towns, roads, or much of anything else except research stations. The challenge of driving an EV across there is probably similar to the challenge of driving an EV on the moon (which was done in 1971).

Despite the challenges, a solar-electric vehicle did cross part of the continent in 2018.

Things I Learned Virtually Traveling The World

The Aptera is set to be the electric vehicle with the longest range so far. Virtually testing a vehicle with that kind of range was pretty exciting, and I’m definitely going to be taking mine on some road trips. I probably won’t try to cross Africa or Eurasia with mine because I have a family that won’t fit in it, among other issues (primarily money and family obligations).

Doing this virtual test around the world did teach me a few things, though.

Perhaps most important, it’s clear that EV design is no substitute for infrastructure. The Aptera is good enough to make up for the weak infrastructure situation in the US, but it’s not enough globally. Crossing Eurasia, Kazakhstan was the big hangup. Crossing Africa is possible, but it would take so long that it’s probably not something anyone but someone with mental issues would attempt.

It’s clear that every place on Earth (with the exception of Antarctica) needs more EV infrastructure. Some places are far better than others, but every place could use some improvement.

We also need to consider that the Global South is getting left behind. We definitely need to get the most polluting countries set up with better infrastructure first, but once we have a handle on that, the developing countries and places with impoverished indigenous people will need our help to get off the ground. By then, the prices of EVs and associated technology should drop quite a bit and help spur adoption there. We’ve seen that the developing world is picking up a lot of clean technology as well, mostly because it’s becoming cheaper than fossil fuels, so they’ll have an advantage in the long run with our help.

Finally, we need to see what can be done to help dangerous parts of the world get better connected with the rest of it. As I thought about crossing places that are known to have gangs, terrorism, warlords, and poverty, I thought about how afraid I would be of crossing them. There are lots of good people living in those areas who wouldn’t hurt visitors, but the problems they face with the few bad people need to be addressed. Nobody should be afraid to cross continents, or to live in their own homes for that matter.

I hope that we can address these challenges during the 21st century.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1872 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba