As you may recall from the previous blog post, last night was really tiring and frustrating, and the road blocks combined with the charging problems and the very early start had pushed us close to the limit of exhaustion. We needed a long sleep to catch up! Unfortunately, this was not possible as we had to wake up early to try and find somewhere to charge the car a little faster in order to make our next stop before the end of the day. Fortunately, we had Sergio from the British Embassy come down from MC to help us out and be on hand for the forthcoming press events. So at 8am we were up and ready to roll!
As usual, we split up in order to make best use of everybody. Toby, Nik and I went out into the city to try and find other places to charge the car, while Clemens and Andy stayed back at the hotel with Sergio to work on logistics and to plan in some press for later today and tomorrow. A few hours later though, we had still not found a suitable charging place, and we came back to the hotel with one more option up our sleeves; this was to call the local electricity company, and to see if they could help.
Sergio made the call, and within an hour, representatives of the electricity provider were at the hotel and were keen to help. “No problem,” they said, “You can charge the car at our office.” So we jumped in the SRZero, and followed them to their “office”. I say “office” because, while there was an administration building, the site was dominated by a large substation dealing in 30,000 volts rather than the meagre 220 volts which we required! They asked for us to park the car next to the substation, and then they promptly laid a cable which went to our chargers directly from the substation! Here we had a 30,000 volt supply being transformed in 220 volts by a large transformer; essentially what your mobile phone charger does, but on a much bigger scale. The great thing was that we had access to all the power we would ever need, and the car started charging fast! Our calculations were that by 6.30pm we would have enough juice to get to our next destination.
While we were charging the car, we held a large impromptu press event with local, national and international media turning up. This was yet another fantastic occasion to get the project’s message out there, and a number of very pertinent questions were asked demonstrating that the Mexican media was very much on the ball when it comes to electric cars!
After the press event, we still had a few hours to spare so we headed back to the hotel, picked up the rest of the team, and along with Sergio went out into town to try and find some food. As I mentioned earlier, Oaxaca is renowned for its cuisine, so we were keen to find a small traditional place in this beautiful city. A short walk around took as to a small restaurant about 5 minutes from our hotel, and one look at the menu showed that we were eating some real local delicacies! Among the dishes we ordered, we had fried grasshoppers, sunflowers stuffed with cheese, and chicken in a whole variety of local sauces; it was undeniably delicious!
By now, it was rapidly approaching 6.30pm, so we left the restaurant, collected the support van and Claudio from the hotel, and headed back to the substation. Again there was media there to see us off, and by around 7pm we pulled out of the substation to start our belated journey to La Ventosa about 180 miles away. Unfortunately, due to the charging delay, we were driving at night which is not great for the view, for filming, or for safety in general. Nonetheless, we had no choice, and we pushed on. The drive was actually very exciting, with lots of twists and turns as the road made its way down and off Mexico’s high central plateaux. The weather, aside from a brief spell of very heavy rain, was great, but unfortunately the road condition in many places was not the finest, and we ended up taking quite a bit more time than predicted to get to our destination.
Finally though, at 4am, we pulled into our hotel in Juchitan de Zaragoza, a town about 10km from La Ventosa which is where the car was to be charged. You may be wondering why we would bother having the car charge a massive 10km away from where we were staying. The answer is simple, for La Ventosa is not a town; it’s a massive wind farm, and we had been invited to charge directly off a wind turbine! So after unloading the bags and checking into the hotel, we drove the support van and SRZero over to the wind farm, getting hideously lost on the way, and pulled in at around 5.30am. Amazingly, many people had stayed over at the wind farm’s office to greet us, and with their help we had the car plugged into pure wind energy in very little time! This was a charging first for the team, and it was great to see the car being powered off clean electricity that we could actually see being produced.
As you would imagine, we were now thoroughly exhausted, so we rushed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep. The consensus among the team at this stage was that we really needed to get out of the habit of driving so late into the night, for our own sanity if not anything else!