In the last part of our Iceland trip report, we already gave an outlook that we are planning a more extreme overlanding trip in the near future.
From August 2022 we have a one-year sabbatical from our main jobs in the automotive industry and plan to use this time for a big overlanding trip.
Our first idea was to travel around Australia with an electric vehicle, including several challenging offroad tracks.
Sadly this idea didn’t work out as planned. Until February the international borders to Australia were completely closed. A couple of months ago this problem was solved.
Next, we had to get the right visa. In September 2021 we applied for 12 months subclass 600 tourist visa. The processing of our visa took several months. A few weeks ago we got the confirmation. But sadly only for 3 months instead of the requested 12 months. A visa extension in the country would be expensive and not guaranteed to be successful. Leaving Australia after 3 months and then returning and hoping for another 3 months visa would also be expensive and risky, especially in Covid times.
And last but not least our activities to get a suitable EV in Australia for this trip also failed.
Therefore an alternative plan was needed. Our next idea was to drive the complete Panamericana from Alaska to Argentina with an EV (of course with shipping around the Darién Gap).
As far as we know this has never been done without a big support crew in ICE vehicles or support trucks with generators. Well-known is the series The Long Way Up with Ewan McGregor (the Obi-Wan Kenobi actor from Star Wars). The series is available on Apple TV and well worth watching but it’s for sure a million-dollar production with a huge support crew.
The other successful expedition along the Pan-American Highway with an electric car was the Racing Green Endurance drive of the Imperial College London. But they also had many sponsors and a big support crew in an ICE vehicle. The documentation about this expedition can be found on Vimeo.
Our idea was to simply buy an EV in Alaska (ID.4?), bring a Juice-Booster and camping equipment, and see how far we will get. No sponsors, no support crew.
A first impression about the possible problems of traveling in an electric car through Central America gives the book Off the Grid by Randy Denmon. Despite his U.S.-centric view and his political opinions which we don’t share, it’s a good read and recommended to any EV enthusiast.
Sadly there were three problems with this idea:
First, the safety situation in certain countries along the way. We have spent months in the past in Canada, the U.S., Costa Rica, and Chile. Therefore we know these regions very well, but we have no personal experience with other areas of Central and South America.
We collected a lot of information about Mexico. We would have to be careful there and avoid certain regions but the risk seems to be acceptable. Where we don’t have a good feeling right now are Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and the border region between Colombia and Ecuador. The warnings about these countries seem to be much more severe than for the safer parts of Mexico. The reports you find on the internet are quite contradictory. Some travelers felt very safe, some did not, and some had really bad experiences.
If I would travel alone I would probably take the risk. But traveling together with my girlfriend and my daughter I’m not sure if this would be a good idea. But it’s always difficult to assess the situation from far away and the official European or U.S. government websites tend to overstate the risks.
One solution to the safety problem could be that I would drive from Cancún to San José alone or together with a friend, while Kerstin and Linnéa take the plane from Mexiko to Costa Rica.
Second, we would get into problems with seasons and timing. Start and end dates are fixed due to our sabbatical. If we would start end of August in Anchorage getting to Prudhoe Bay without losing too much range due to low temperatures would be the first challenge. To avoid this problem we could just start from Anchorage and drive directly South instead of going first to Prudhoe Bay.
But it would be impossible to arrive in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego before early winter. Charging options in Patagonia are very rare. Often you have distances of more than 300 km between two chargers. And these (slow AC) chargers are mainly located at hotels that are often closed in winter. Therefore it would be very likely, that we wouldn’t be able to reach Ushuaia. We would need about 6 months more time which we don’t have.
Alternatively, we would have to start in Patagonia and finish in Alaska. But it’s impossible as a foreigner to buy a local EV in Chile or Argentina and drive to Alaska. Customs regulations in both countries don’t allow this.
We could buy an EV in Europe and ship it to South America. But we don’t have the time anymore to do this, especially with the current huge delays with any shipping across the world.
The only solution to this problem would be to make a long break in Santiago or Buenos Aires, go back to work in Europe and then return later and finish the last section of the Panamericana. Possible, but not very attractive.
Third, it was impossible to buy an EV in Alaska. An ID.4 was absolutely impossible to get, new, or used. The only option would be to buy a used 2 years old, high-mileage Audi e-tron for a price higher than the current MSRP for a new car. Due to Covid and the semiconductor shortage, the car market in the U.S. is extremely difficult in 2022 for buyers. It would have been possible to buy an ID.4 in some other states for ridiculous prices. But then it would have been impossible to reach Prudhoe Bay before winter (see above).
Our new plan is now to explore Patagonia and the Altiplano in South America during our 12 months overlanding trip. Sadly we will then use an ICE vehicle and not an EV. I know, this may be disappointing for many EV enthusiasts. But as already discussed on this site, for us the idea of overlanding was always more important than driving around with an EV. If possible and at least halfway sensible we will be using EVs for our trips. But if an ICE vehicle is for certain countries, trips, or expeditions the far better (or only) choice we will not hesitate to use it.
This means that for the next 1-2 years there won’t be much new content from us on this site here. If anybody wants to publish their EV trip reports on EV-Overlanding that’s still possible and very welcome.
If you are open to overlanding trips with ICE vehicles and are interested in our experience in South America you can follow us on Instagram @wildplacesoverland and on wild-places.com.