The Nikola Tesla EV Rally concludes in Zagreb on June 7, 2017, one of the finest events in the Croatian tourism calendar.
After a fabulous tour of some of Croatia’s spectacular islands, including Tesla speed racing at Losinj Airport, the 4th Nikola Tesla EV Rally continued its tour of Croatia by hitting the mainland in Dalmatia and its capital, Split. The rally has been an unqualified hit, both with the rally participants (who have come from 31 countries since the start of the annual rally) and fascinated spectators, many of whom have taken advantage of the showcasing of the 50 plus electric vehicles, including 47 Teslas, at various prime location points along the route. Various locations in Istria, the waterfront in Mali Losinj, Greetings to the Sun in Zadar – just some of the places where the rally has opened its doors to the public wanting to learn more about electric cars and the Tesla experience.
Such events require the cooperation and support of local authorities, however, and plans to do a similar display in Split almost came to nothing, as the local authorities showed no interest in the event, leaving it to the innovative and creative organisers to come up with their own private programme for Split, which included skills testing by the Hajduk Split stadium at Poljud (see video above), followed by a presentation of Teslas on the Split waterfront in an area controlled by the port authority, who were happy to give their support.
One of the key aspects of the rally is to introduce the very best of Croatia to the rally’s participants, and a rich cultural programme accompanied the daily drives through some of Croatia’s most arresting nature. With six national parks, four islands and 16 cities and towns along the route, there was plenty to savour, including this walking tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Diocletian’s Palace in Split.
The latter part of the rally took the electric convoy from Split to Zagreb, via some of Croatia’s famed natural beauty. An emotional homecoming for rally co-organiser, Igor Kolovrat, perhaps, as the rally visited his home town of Imotski to enjoy the famous Red and Blue Lakes there. On any normal day in Imotski, the arrival of 50 Teslas would be the talking point of the day, but this was no ordinary day.
Just two hours prior to arrival, some daring Austrian tourists were slacklining across the Red Lake. You can read more about it, with more pictures, here.
Meanwhile, in nearby Vrgorac, a very significant event for electric car users, the opening of a new supercharging station in Vrgorac, thereby expanding the network of supercharging stations further south. I was fascinated to learn that almost 40% of new passenger car registrations in Norway last year were for electric cars, and there are plans to have only electric cars available in the country in just a few years. While the Norwegians are the pioneers, the rest of the world is sure to follow. An exciting environmental shift in our lifetime.
With the opening of the Vrgorac station (a Tesla will charge for 400km of driving at normal speeds in one charge), Central Dalmatia has become the leader in supercharging stations. Dugopolje Tourist Board director Tomislav Balic was on hand to welcome the rally to the supercharging station at Hotel Katarina, just off the motorway entrance to Split. There is currently one other supercharging station on the coast in Senj, with two more – one in Slavonski Brod and another near Zagreb – to be opened by the end of the year. Electric change is coming, and it was a privilege to spend time with these international Tesla enthusiasts – their vision of the future is SO much brighter than the norm.
Another feature of the rally has been the extraordinary cooperation with the local police, who have been outstanding throughout. In quieter moments, a chance to explore the Tesla future for some police officers. A great constant in the rally has been the gentle education and availability of information to those who seek it. Incredible change is coming with the electric car revolution, and events like the rally are the true pioneers in a country like Croatia. It has been fascinating to watch such exchanges from the sides.
Onwards and upwards, the snaking line of Teslas covered over 1500km of Croatia during the rally – this shot above from the island of Pag. But the first destination on Day 7 was one I was very much looking forward to. As Igor mentioned in the television interview (see below) on national news last night, we were headed to the ‘electric Medjugorje’, a place from which miracles truly did evolve and changed the course of the 20th and 21st centuries – Smiljan, the birthplace of one Nikola Tesla.
I had never been, and my overriding first impression was one of peace. Such a tranquil and well-maintained location just outside Gospic. The video above will give you an impression. The museum in the house of its birth was superbly presented – some of his inventions and works on the top floor, and a very impressive timeline exhibition on the ground floor walls, detailing not only his life, but the major changes in the world during the same period. It was a powerful backdrop, making it all the more remarkable that one man from a small village in Croatia made such an impression on the world, with his 112 inventions and patent applications. So was Tesla a Croat or a Serb, that eternal question which consumes so much energy of patriots with nothing better to do. As the museum stated, he was equally proud of his Serbian origins and Croatian homeland.
The youngest rally participants, brought up on a lifestyle of the electric vehicle, clearly knew who Uncle Nikola was.
And a perfect photo op for The Sevens, my companions in rally car 07, providing logistical support and a lot of laughs: top DJ and occasional good driver Yesh and hostesses Iva and Ines.
The finish line on the main square in Zagreb beckoned, but not before one last stop, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a natural beauty which inspired Tesla himself in his early works – Plitvice Lakes.
With more than a million visitors a year, Croatia’s prime natural attraction was mercifully free of tourists in the late afternoon, leaving us at one with nature and the sound of the power of running water. No wonder Tesla was inspired.
And, as throughout each stage of this superbly organised rally, plenty of time for the rally drivers to relax, unwind and immerse themselves in the beauty of Croatia. A perfect final stop before the two-hour drive to Zagreb.
And, as advertised for a 2100 finish, Trg Ban Jelacica encountered a Tesla invasion, with a curious public being treated to various demonstrations – never seen a car dance? Watch the video above.
And the prize for the cutest Tesla of the rally? For that category, there was only one possible winner.
There were a couple of little ones accompanying their parents throughout the rally, and they seemed to have a wonderful time, charging their miniature Teslas overnight as well. And as I watched them in their little electric cars, perhaps the most uplifting thought of all. A new generation is being born, who will hopefully grow into a world where EV cars rule and fossil fuel cars are all but obsolete. In the same way that kids today are born with Internet while their parents struggle to get online, a new generation which only knows of cleaner energy must be the biggest hope for us all.
It was a thought that kept me smiling all evening, as the sad reality of my own miserable existence hit me as I waited for the late night diesel bus back to Varazdin…
The other thought which stayed with me on the way home, and stays with me still, is how it is possible that a country with such stunning beauty, the birthplace of Nikola Tesla, the sunniest island in Europe and the quickest electric car in the world produced here, is not making more of these God-given gems, to really brand Croatia as a cool, sexy eco destination of the future. The overall lack of media interest staggered me – surely probably the world’s first ever ferry 100% occupied with Teslas, speed racing on Losinj Airport and several other highlights were newsworthy?
Not it seems in The Beautiful Croatia. This rally deserves to be supported, encouraged and expanded in line with the vision of the extremely visionary organisers. It will be interesting to see how much support it receives in 2018, where plans are to take it all the way down to Dubrovnik.
Media interest did pick up somewhat in the latter stages of the race. Watch last night’s report on HTV Dnevnik below, including a couple of words from TCN, and follow the Nikola Tesla EV Rally Facebook page here.