CROSSING THE SAHARA
In a Toyota Prius PHV
While two intrepid Polish travellers are still busy crossing the African continent with their electric Nissan LEAF vehicle, a group of experienced Japanese adventurers have retraced an epic route over the Sahara Desert in the latest Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid vehicle.
Team ACP was formed in 1979 by a group of Japanese driving enthusiasts who wanted to prepare themselves for the daunting Dakar Rally Raid. They got hooked after their foray and participated in subsequent rallies, driving from Paris to Dakar annually for the next twelve years. From their experiences driving through the desert, the team members developed an appreciation of different cultures, as well as an increased concern for the environmental issues the world faces.
After the Prius was launched in 1997, Team ACP was presented with the opportunity to drive the Prius on expeditions on five different continents – from North America to Africa – over a ten-year period. This allowed them to test the feasibility of driving hybrid electrified vehicles in different parts of the world under varying conditions. At the same time, the team leveraged the publicity from their expeditions to
cast a light on efforts made in different regions toward green energy and other sustainability projects.
In March this year Team ACP retraced the Paris-dakar route they first took almost forty years ago, setting off from Paris in France for a 7 000 km trip, crossing the vast Sahara Desert on their way to Dakar, Senegal.
After traversing the snow-covered fields and mountains of France the team crossed the Pyrenees, stopping over in Madrid before making their way to Tarifa for a ferrytrip over the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier. From there they drove to Casablanca and Marrakesh before reaching the Tarfaya wind farm in Southwestern Morocco – the largest in Africa with 131 wind turbines in operation. According to the team it is still less than the many goats they encountered on their way …
From there the Prius made its way through the Western Sahara Desert to Raayun and Dankura, and then it was onwards to Nouadhibou and Nouakchott in Mauritania. In the electricity-less desert the Prius PHV acted as a power source; its output of 100 V/1,500 W was more than enough to boil a pot of tea or cook supper in the middle of the dunes.
Heavy winds and deep sand, not to mention herds of camel, stymied the
progress of Team ACP, and more than once the two-wheel drive Prius got stuck in the thick sand. But they pushed on, and soon negotiated the African savanna, with its huge baobab trees, to reach Saintlouis in Senegal. From there it was just a short hop to Dakar, the final destination of the team. But before arriving in Dakar to complete the 7 000 km trek, the team stopped at the pink Lake Retba, famous for its salt harvesting.
This recent trek of Team ACP with a plug-in hybrid vehicle through the Sahara and Northwest Africa may be over, but the journey towards an ever-better environment continues.