The Upcoming Aptera (& Other Future 1,000-Mile EVs) Can Do London-Moscow-Beijing
Published on February 2nd, 2021 | by Jennifer Sensiba
February 2nd, 2021 by Jennifer Sensiba
In a previous article, I ran a simulated Aptera through several long routes in the US, and then I pushed the limits, figuring that the vehicle could likely drive the entire Pan-Am Highway from Alaska to the bottom of South America.
Now that readers helped me find data on China’s DC Fast Charging (DCFC) infrastructure, I’m ready to see if a vehicle like the Aptera could drive across all of Eurasia. To do that, you’d need to use CCS charging stations for most of the trip, but for China, you’d need to work with a company like SETEC Power to come up with a GB/T to CCS adapter. If you could set up the vehicle to run on these two differing networks, this is what it would look like:
Building The Plan In ABRP
Exact driving data for the Aptera isn’t available, but with its super-efficient design, the company projects that it can get 1,000 miles of range with a 100 kWh battery. To test routes, I told A Better Routeplanner (ABRP) that a Tesla with a 100 kWh battery can get 100 wh/mile, giving it the same theoretical range as the Aptera.
I then started building the plan in ABRP, but the app’s data could only take the virtual Aptera as far as Moscow. Europe’s charging network is very well built out, so you could take nearly any route you wish getting through Europe. Seeing the sights in places like Paris and Berlin would be very much doable with the car and the network.
After Moscow, I had to start manually inputting waypoints in ABRP based on data from Plugshare. I’d search for a city that I knew had CCS stations, set a waypoint, and tell it that the car would charge for 1-2 hours to top up before going to the next point. I used that approach to get as far as Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. To continue from there, you’d need to find a level 1 plug somewhere between there and Almaty, stop somewhere cool for a couple of days and let the solar panels give you enough juice, or go slow and hypermile that segment.
From Almaty, you can fast charge up to 100% and make it to Urumqi, Xinjiang, China. At that point, I used locations from the NIO app to put in a few more charging points to get to Beijing. Like Europe, most of China is very well covered with charging stations once you get out of Xinjiang, but the crazy high range of the Aptera makes it relatively easy even to cross that charging desert.
If you look closely, you’ll see a place where the line is yellow. ABRP recommends keeping it under 75 MPH on that segment to conserve range. That shouldn’t be too hard.
How I Would Approach This Trip
Unless I was trying to make a speed run of some kind, I’d take my time going through Europe. Having not been there, I’d want to see the sights. The Aptera’s range and the great charging network would make it easy to do that, and give nearly limitless options.
I’d start by exploring the UK a bit, and find some places I know ancestors lived. It’s always more fun when you can make a connection to a place you’re visiting, even if you’re many generations removed from the people who lived there. I’d make stops like this in several parts of Europe, including Germany and the Nordic countries.
If at all possible, I’d like to take the vehicle on its own power from the UK to the rest of the continent. Sure, ferries are cool, but I’d definitely try to get permission to take the service tunnel that goes between the train tunnels that cross under the channel, like Top Gear did. The authorities apparently only give permission for people driving an EV, because fumes would build up in the tunnels if you were to drive an ICE car through there.
Once out the other side (or off the ferry if they say no), I’d take a trip around Europe to see the sights. I minored in history in college, so I’d want to go see historical places along with places I knew ancestors were from. I’d probably spend at least a couple weeks doing this, and could write whole articles about it, but that’s a little off topic.
As far as charging is concerned, I’d probably only use half of the Aptera’s battery when in places with good charging networks. That way, I’d avoid spending time charging in the upper half of the battery where it slows down. Once I get to where charging is less available, I’d start charging to full or near full as needed to get to the next place.
Once I was done sightseeing, I’d have two options: go on to Moscow, or do a more southerly route to get to Kazakhstan. If I were going for speed, there are a couple of more southerly routes that the Aptera would do, but it would be less interesting than heading through the capitols.
Getting further east, it wouldn’t be possible to avoid going through Kazakhstan. There isn’t enough infrastructure to continue on in Russia, and it appears that Mongolia is the same way. The only way to really do this at present would be to enter China at the far west end and use their infrastructure for the rest of the trip east. Hopefully this changes in the future!
Once past Xinjiang, I’d definitely want to spend some time exploring China. I’m not fluent in Chinese, but I am conversational enough to survive a trip. Plus, there are more English speakers in China than there are in the United States (the same is true for India). I’ve been to Taiwan, but would definitely like to check out a good loop of the mainland prior to finishing the trip up.
Challenges & Work That Still Needs Done
I hope that nobody takes my ABRP plan and hits the road when they get an Aptera, because while theoretically complete, there’s still a ton of preparation work that would need to be done before this trip would be safe.
First off, you’ll need to doublecheck every station and make sure it’s running. Come up with a backup charging plan just in case, like a hotel that will let you plug in. You don’t want to get hundreds of miles away from charging in a place where you don’t speak the language. While you’re at it, maybe learn a few phrases in case you need help.
Next, go through Open Street Map (OSM) data and make sure the speed limits are correct for every segment you’ll be driving on. ABRP uses OSM data to simulate your energy consumption along the route. If the app assumed you’d be driving 45 MPH on a route and you go 65 or 70, then you might not make it. More details on all that can be found here.
Obviously, you’ll need to check on the laws for taking yourself and a 3-wheeled car through every country on the route. Obviously, you’ll need to have your passport and get a visa for the UK, the EU, and then every country on the route. You’ll also need to see what each country requires for the vehicle itself, like local insurance and possibly a temporary license plate. From what I’ve read, driving your own car into China can get pretty expensive. Finally, you’ll need an international driver permit, which is something you can get from an agency in your own country. The AAA is where you’d get this in the US.
China is the biggest pain to do this legally. It doesn’t take the IDP like other countries, so you have to apply for a temporary license. It also requires a deposit for the vehicle, proof of insurance, permits, and many other things.
Once you have all of the legalities sorted, you’ll need to make sure you’re supplied. I have a guide for backcountry EV adventures here, but I’ll recap quickly. You need to make sure you have parts for basic repairs (especially a spare tire or two). You need supplies for bad weather and food in case you get stuck somewhere. You’ll also need to make sure you have all charging equipment/adapters for the route. Finally, have a satellite phone, amateur radio (check on license reciprocity), or something else that you can use to get help in case there’s no cellular service. If possible, buy a local phone or SIM card so you’ll have coverage as much as possible.
I’d personally carry along my emergency communications backpack. It has a Yaesu HF radio, a LiFePo battery, a solar panel, a portable antenna, and a converter box to plug all this into a computer. With that, it’s possible to communicate to almost anywhere in the world to seek out help. That’s probably overkill for most people, though.
How would you take this trip? Let us know in the comments!
If you’re going to preorder an Aptera, and you feel like we’ve given you good information about Aptera, feel free to use our referral link to make your preorder. You’ll save $30, and we will get an Aptera of our own for detailed testing.
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