Teslas Invade Croatian Islands, Speed Race at Losinj Airport

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As the world rails against Trump on climate change, meanwhile in Croatia, the world’s quietest rally moved to the islands on June 3, 2017, a delightful show of the power and potential of electric cars at the Nikola Tesla EV Rally. 

It is the birthplace of Nikola Tesla, one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, and an ideal place to organise a luxury rally through its various delightful regions. But organising an electric car rally through Croatia, which is hardly noted as offering the most comprehensive infrastructure for electric cars in Europe? Could it be done, and if the answer was yes, just what was possible to achieve? 

The answer to the first question is a most emphatic yes, in the form of the outstanding Nikola Tesla EV Rally, a private initiative which is one of the most innovative and well organised tourist events in Croatia today, as well as being one of the least supported and funded officially. Now in its fifth year, the rally has overdelivered to the participants from 31 countries who have discovered the beauty of Croatia from this unique perspective, and the organisers have striven to push the boundaries year on year, to not only promote Croatia, but also to show the true potential of Croatian tourism for the electric car driver.  


Having enjoyed three magical days on the tour last year, I was delighted to accept an invitation to come on the 2017 rally, but when I saw the itinerary, I was more than a little shocked. No less than four islands were included in this year’s race, including such treats as speed racing at the airport of Mali Losinj. Had the organisers bitten off more than they could chew? Organising an island-hopping holiday in Croatia can be the challenge at the best of times, but when you have to do so for over 50 electric vehicles, including 47 Teslas, with all their charging requirements, a bridge too far in ambition, surely?

I joined the rally after the initial leg in Istria, about which we have already reported, and I got a taster of the beauty that the rally participants had already experienced when I took the bus from Rijeka via Cres, above, to the next rally stop in Mali Losinj.


Mali Losinj is a destination I had wanted to visit for a long time. A regular winner of tourism awards, the Island of Vitality is quietly building a reputation for quality, wellness and luxury tourism, and I was keen to learn more. 

It certainly wasn’t a problem for me to have to wait a couple of hours to catch up with the rally. This town was the ultimate chill zone.  


And then they appeared, the Tesla Boys (and Girls), all lined up on the Losinj riva, their doors open for the general public to explore and enquire.  


There was a very warm welcome from Mali Losinj’s young mayoress, just 27, on the left, who spoke together with the rally’s legendary organiser, Tina Kolovrat. The mayoress’ speech was among the best I had ever heard from a local politician. Short, passionate, welcoming. We all left feeling welcome on an idyllic island, which specialised in quality, wellness and pristine nature, a natural backdrop for the Tesla rally.  


While the Teslas were the undoubted attraction, there were other electric products on how, including these scooters which proved rather popular. 


For all ages. The interaction with a curious public is one of the many charms of the rally.  


Another feature of the rally has been the extraordinary cooperation with the Croatian police. My dealings with the Croatian police have generally been confined to driving a little too fast on the nation’s roads, and it was truly impressive to see another aspect of their work. The efficiency of the rally, and the ability to pull off such an ambitious itinerary, could not have happened without such fabulous cooperation. The first of several police escorts, and one I was very much looking forward to – speed racing Teslas at Losinj Airport.  


I had never been to Losinj Airport before. Being a Hvar boy, the merits of having an airport on an island is something that I have discussed a lot over the years. It is clearly a benefit for Losinj, with almost 50 small aircraft parked at the airport in early June. At least one of the Tesla participants had flown in direct from Austria.  


The excellent organisation had booked the runway for two hours, and the police made sure everything ran like clockwork. The runway preparation. Two Teslas racing against each other at a time, along a distance of 201m. 

This is how it looked as an onlooker. 

This is how it was in the car. Quick and QUIET! 

And the electric innovation in Croatia is not confined to cars. Dok Ing bikes also took part in the rally, and in a quiet moment, our police escorts were encouraged to try them out. They were impressed with what they tested. Just one more positive step from the rally to plant the seeds of change and sustainability.  

A fabulous day, and immediate sleep for this correspondent, having arrived at the hotel. But not too much sleep, for the next day promised plenty to entice. 

Fours islands were included in the 2017 rally, the first time islands have been included. Catering to 50 cars on a tight schedule requires perfect planning, and no less than three Jadrolinija ferries were chartered for the journey; from the mainland to Cres, Cres to Krk, and the mainland to Pag. Has a ferry ever been filled with Teslas before? As a symbol of Croatia, the beautiful tourist land of Nikola Tesla, is there a better symbol than this? Tourism chiefs, are you listening?


Electric vehicle routes are obviously dependent on charging (and super-charging) stations, and the good news is that they are expanding rapidly. This week a new super charging station opened in Vrgorac on the way to Dubrovnik, thereby expanding the range and options. As the network develops, it is a fact that some lesser known destinations acquire a greater importance for events like this. A juicing visit to the superchargers of Senj is an essential stop for the rally, as was one at Hotel Katarina in Dugopolje later in the day. 

Next stop Pag, the island which looks in places like the moon, but is also the island of some of the world’s best cheese, Croatia’s favourite lamb, UNESCO lace, and the country’s most famous party beach. My first (and last) visit to Zrce above.  

On we went, soaking up the rays of the endless Dalmatian sun, right into the heart of the former capital of Dalmatia with our faithful policemen leading the way. The historic Zadar waterfront is one of Croatia’s coolest waterfronts. Here one can find the amazing sea organ, as well as what Alfred Hitchcock described as the most beautiful sunset in the world. Fast forward 50 years, and the Greetings to the Sun attraction was invaded by Teslas. Visiting tourists and curious locals were more than impressed.


All good days must come to an end, Teslas must be charged, even those driven by our little ones. 

The Tesla rally continues in Central Dalmatia today, visiting Imotski and then a speed race around the Hajduk stadium at 1730, before parading by the Split harbour, both private initiatives as the city of Split had no interest in sporting event. With a change of mayor in the election last night, one would hope that might change for 2018, and that other tourism chiefs and local authorities will see the potential of this excellent event to push the image of Croatia internationally, as well as delivering an outstanding tourism experience for those taking part. 

You can follow the Nikola Tesla EV Rally on Facebook




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