You know it’s going to be a road rally with a difference when the car in front is an orange Bond Bug from which a cheery hand waves an unabashed greeting. It turns out that it (the hand as well as the Bug) belongs to Roy Campbell, an electronics wizard who has converted the 1970s three-wheeler into an EV with the assistance of a couple of Tesla battery modules and a motor making 50bhp – enough to propel all 400kg at a fair old lick for 80 miles.
Campbell has sunk around £30,000 into the conversion, but it’s not just an idle project. Instead, he has designed an evolutionary new body – described as “beautiful” by Tom Karen, who designed the original – and plans to sell new electric Bugs based on the existing three-wheel chassis design.
Along with 70 other electric car, van and motorcycle owners and operators, Campbell is on the inaugural London to Brighton Electric Vehicle Rally.
I’m on it too, driving a borrowed Renault Zoe R135 ZE 50 GT Line. I’m only observing but am keen to meet the other runners. I don’t have to look far. All participating EVs, arranged by vehicle category, are to be inposition near the National Theatre on the South Bank for the 7.30am rolling start. It’s 7am, so there’s time after chatting to Campbell to find out who that gentleman is with his tuk-tuk.
Steve Webb of Tukshop.com saw his first one on holiday in India in 2002 and has since imported 300 of the tiny passenger vehicles to the UK. He’s now on a mission to electrify the vehicles with the help of Oxford based Saietta, leaders in axial-flux motor technology. His electric tuk-tuk has a range of 80 miles, and he’s about to start operating a fleet of them as taxis in Newquay.