January 28, 2018 – History is made, as not only has Croatian Team Tesla – Powered by RWE become the first electric car to cross the Sahara Desert, but also the first to complete the gruelling Budapest to Bamako Rally.
Sixteen days and 8629 kilometres after leaving Budapest, Croatian entrepreneurs Sasa Cvetojevic and Oleg Mastruko, ably assisted by Czech Tomas Kovicka in a Dacia support vehicle, have arrived in Banjul in Gambia, the finish line of this year’s Budapest to Bamako Rally. They are driving the first electric car ever to make it not only through the Sahara Desert but also to complete the rally.
Oleg, an accomplished writer and traveller, has been keeping the team’s Facebook group updated with regular updates, which we have been happy to translate and publish. Here was his most recent account of the journey through the Sahara.
The journey was not without challenges for regular cars – and there were plenty of reminders along the route – never mind additional problems that an electric would have to deal with. Elon Musk’s Tesla revolution may be making great progress internationally, but there are some parts of the globe where Tesla charging stations will not be arriving any time soon…
The Dacia support car has been an indispensable part of the journey, carrying additional supplies, as well as the all-important generator for recharging the Tesla when it was out of range of any regular electricity supply. But sometimes support cars can become liabilities, especially when you go a little offroad in search of the perfect selfie.
I am not a Tesla driver, but I have learned a little about ‘range anxiety’ from chats with Tesla drivers over the years. The Tesla technology is phenomenal, and it is excellent at reminding you not to stray too far if you are looking for a Tesla charger to top up the juice. This must have been a significant moment on the rally, just outside Casablanca – boys, you are on our own.
And the journey into the unknown proved to be just that. How to explain to locals in a language you don’t speak that you just need to borrow a pulg to charge your car?
I am looking forward to interviewing the guys for Kratke Rukave TV when they get back – I have a feeling that Oleg’s descriptions of Sasa’s efforts to find charging options will be quite entertaining.
Being the first electric car to cross an international border was a source of curiosity to several officials, adding a little more time to those legendary West African border crossings.
Welcome to The Gambia, the final country. Just let me check out this strange car for an hour first.
West African celebrities wherever they went. Here are Tomas (left) and Oleg being interviewed by Senegalese TV.
Technology versus the desert. Team Tesla has been sending regular reports back to the Facebook group, but it has been a communications battle with the elements at times.
And finally, on day 16, a sign that the end was in sight. A welcome billboard in Banjul, which confirmed that they had come to the right city.
The finish! (above)
TCN caught up with Sasa moments after he crossed the finish line – this was his first reaction:
“I am exhausted but very happy to finish the Budapest to Bamako Rally as the first electric car driver. Crossing the Sahara with a Tesla has never been done before and was full of challenges, but we have shown that even the most remote parts of the planet can be visited by electric cars. And things will only get easier in the future. It was a character-building and life-changing experience, and it CAN be done by electric car.”
Sasa has promised a full interview once he returns to Zagreb. While we wait, here are our two intrepid heroes with their thoughts on the trip back in December, below.
Congratulations to Sasa, Oleg and Tomas – your place in the Guinness Book of Records surely awaits.