An electric car invasion of Croatia, as the Nikola Tesla EV Rally 2016 gets underway in Porec on June 2, 2016, including the star attraction, Rimac Concept One, with a guest appearance from the man himself.
Croatian tourism at its finest, and I was delighted to take part in the third Nikola Tesla EV Rally, which started yesterday in Porec, with some 50 electric cars of all shapes and sizes taking part in a four-day tour of Croatia, from Istria to Dalmatia through national parks to the final destination of the main square in Zagreb. A little backgound to the aims of the rally as we previously reported:
“Rally organisers EVA BLUE have set up charging stations along the Electric Touristic Route where we set a numbers of charging stations. They also point out that connecting the most beautiful and significant locations in Croatia with emobility, promoting sustainable energy, organically grown food and setting infrastructure for electric cars. Organisers of the Rally invented a smart solar/wind charging system with energy storage, and built over 50% of all charging stations in Croatia. Participants of the rally include Croatia’s leading clean-energy, technology and automotive companies E.V.A. Blue, Rimac, DOK-ING, Ducatti Komponenti, Bellabeat, and others. Most of the cars competing will be Tesla’s, Rimac founder and CEO Mate Rimac is set to take part in the rally in his Concept S, the DOK-ING teams in their Loox’s, etc. The rally aims to promote electro-mobility and the establishment of the needed infrastructure in Croatia and Europe and to strengthen the tourism, technology and energy potential of the country and, not least, to be fun and exciting for participants, spectators and visitors at the stops of the rally.”
And so to the start at Porec, where a little before 10:00, the first Tesla cars started to arrive to prepare for the start. Having heard that all the cars were being tested in a nearby square, we wandered off in search of the rest of the competing cars, which is when I saw it.
Rimac Concept One, the electonic car genius which dazzled at the Geneva International Motor Show early this year when it was unveiled. A gorgeous machine, but I was not sure if I got in that I would be able to get out…
Rimac Automobili CEO Mate Rimac was at the start, although he was not driving Concept One himself – that privilege fell to the car’s new American owner – this car will be the first car Croatia has ever exported to the United States. It was a privilege to meet the great man himself, together with producer Ashley Colburn. Knowing he rarely gives interviews – you can read a rare one with TCN here – we talked instead about one of our future projects, Total Croatia Technology, and I was delighted when he agreed to help a little with that project when the time comes. A very down to earth young man, and certainly the highlight of a star-studded day.
It was time to see Concept One in action – here she is, in the initial test drive before the start of the race.
The rally is not a race as such. The aim is to introduce Croatia in all its beauty, and allow the participants – who had come from all over the world to take part – to experience Croatia at a pace that suited the individual. Maps and directions provided, generous time deadlines introduced to allow stops on the way, as well as some excellent and educational stops as well. This being truffle country, the first stop was with the family Karlic, where we were treated to a presentation about truffles, including meeting the famous hunting dogs, before a gourmet extravaganza which set us up well for the rest of the day.
Next stop was Buzet where the results of the earlier skills test were published, and it would appear that Concept One new owner Paul Runge is continuing the Rimac Automobili tradition of being number one…
Teslas have a range of about 400 kilometres if driven responsibly. An interesting thing that I did not realise is that charging stations are free, so no need to pay for any more fuel or energy again. And when you find a charging station at an electric car rally, you can guarantee a traffic jam, as happened at the Aura Distillery in Buzet.
A wonderful family business, and a tour of the distillery followed, one more example of a hard-working family producing great organic products, efforts which have been mirrored elsewhere and collectively established Istria as a great agro-tourism destination.
Next on the itinerary was a visit to delightful Hum, officially the smallest town in the world, with just 30 inhabitants, and one of the most charming places I have ever seen. Just as the coast is busy, so Hum was silent, a delightful little diversion, which somehow mirrored the tranquility of the rally. One of the first things you notice sitting in an electric car is how quiet it is. The effect is hypnotic, and traditional road rage feelings evaporate and one finds the pace of driving much more relaxed. Perhaps this is why all the electric car drivers I met at the rally were such nice people…
Idyllic Inland Istria. Our team leader, with his expert knowledge, introduced us to an Istria one can’t find in the guidebooks.
Tesla technology meets the tranquil Istrian way of life.
While Concept One and the dozens of Teslas were perhaps the main attraction, the competing field came in all shapes and sizes.
After a wonderful tour of Istria over the top of the hill at Ucka, it was time to descend to the final destination of the day – Opatija.
And with a cold beer on the terrace overlooking the stunning Adriatic, time to reflect on both a magnificent day and how yet once again, many of the most spectacular tourism initiatives in Croatia are private ones. Time too to reflect on what tomorrow may bring, from Opatija to Sibenik. To be continued…