On Monday, six cars set out from Monte Carlo, Monaco en route to St. Petersburg, Russia. The 2,920-mile rally will pass through 10 countries and 29 cities in a mere 11 days. And did I mention that all the cars are fully electric? It’s called the Electric Marathon rally, and it’s the coolest all-EV racing series you’ve maybe never heard of.
The Electric Marathon website posits that the idea for a cross-continental rally isn’t new, but that it’s been updated for the modern era. From 1930 through 1939, rally drivers pushed their cars from Tallinn, Estonia to Monte Carlo.
The revamped idea is the brainchild of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Jüri Tamm, the Honorary Consul of Monaco in Estonia. Back in 2011, the two men got together and wondered how they could bring that mad dash back to the modern era in a more palatable way. And what better way to do it than to make it an all-electric race?
Since then, the rally has followed the Formula One Grand Prix in Monaco. This year’s incarnation kicked off on May 27 and will run until June 6. You can check out their full schedule online—the competitors will run anywhere from two to four stages per day. Some are escorted over border crossings (it is, after all, not super easy to just roll into Russia whenever you feel like it) while others include 200-mile speed sprints.
This year, there are four hailing from the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and France. Three of the teams are driving the Tesla Model S—but the SandFox team from Estonia have converted an old GAZ-M20 Pobeda into an electric car, which has earned my Official Badassery Seal of Approval. Tesla’s have a 100 percent win ratio so far, but I’m hoping this year will be the one to change it, given that they’re currently leading the standings by 32 points!
The whole thing isn’t just judged by time. Electric Marathon calls itself an “intellectual” challenge, since competitors are judged on accuracy of timing and navigation as well as reliability. The cars all have to follow the rules of the public roads they drive on, so the goal is, essentially, to road trip as efficiently as possible.
It’s a massively interesting spectacle, if only for the layers of implications that are involved in it. Take the presence of Teslas, for example—the company hasn’t offered itself up as a manufacturer for purpose-built racing series, so the Electric Marathon is pretty much the first time you’ll see Teslas racing for a trophy. Of course, it isn’t competing against a ton of different EV manufacturers—but we can still see how a Tesla performs when it’s pushed to its limits.
And it’s also a great way to encourage manufacturers to keep increasing battery lengths. Yeah, consumers are always going to want to travel more distance per charge—but an entire long-distance racing series dedicated to pushing the boundaries is a great way to encourage ‘em to do it fast.
The rules for the Electric Marathon allow any mass-produced or converted EVs to join, along with electric bikes. It’s a race that’s still on the up-and-up, but it promises some real neat competition as it grows from year to year.