Sudeep Koshy writes about the electric cars being tested, charging stations being installed, and the positive influence being cast along the 1217 km of Electric Vehicle Road Trip across UAE and Oman that he is currently a part of.
Sohar has remained a red dot on my map. Every time I used to take the roundabout that commemorated Sindbad the sailor’s journeys I have told myself to come back here for a night’s halt: to breathe the air that inspired many chapters of the 1001 nights. Well, it is to witness a fairytale beginning that I happened to stop by the fabled town of Sohar: the inauguration of the first electric charging station in Oman, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
The electric era begins in Oman
Now, that’s probably a tall claim to make. But every momentous journey has to begin somewhere. And in Oman, the tale of electric cars seems to have taken a positive turn tonight at Crowne Plaza, Sohar. It was a milestone, well celebrated. The atmosphere was despite the cliché, truly ‘charged up’. There was a very encouraging and favourable aura about the dignitaries present at the ceremony, including His Excellency Sheikh Muhanna bin Saif Al Lamki, Governer of North Batinah, who inaugurated the charging stations in the name of the Almighty. The small crowd of men, women and children did not hide their excitement, or their curiosity, upon laying eyes on so many electric cars in Oman perhaps for the first time – seven is still a multitude, as far as electric cars go! They did not hold back their hands from applauding the Model X as the machine gracefully folded back its wings at the conclusion of its electronic ‘dance’.
It was clearly obvious. The brilliant magic of Tesla was yet again lighting the path ahead. For the Chevrolet Bolt EV that claimed its own bright spot tonight, and the string of electric vehicles waiting to hit the road to the future. Because, the first step of acceptance in love, magic, and technology is fascination.
Earlier today: An electric vehicle exploring pylon territory
There was only one better way to fill my morning than set out sightseeing in Sohar: go test-driving in Sohar. Wadi Al Jizi sounded scenic, and seemed close. There was a dam and an imposing mountain setting, which would bring up some great pictures with the Bolt EV in front. So, confident that the car was fully charged to cover 412 km, Ronald from General Motors and I set out with Google maps to guide us. The Bolt doesn’t come with navigation or driver assistance features like blind sport monitor, advanced cruise control and collision mitigation. Most cars in the compact segment, that don’t wish to burden their price tag, skip those options – anyway most people prefer using Google maps. (But in strange lands, when the data package is unreliable, internal maps are a blessing!)
Within twelve kilometers from start, as I revelled in the presence of the open road and the absence of passengers to worry about, the car had recalculated the range to something around 360. Which simply meant that I had lost around forty kilometres to aggressive driving. But actually this was bound to happen even with restrained driving, because those admirable figures at the start were mere keepsake from the previous evening’s long downhill ride with plenty of hyper-miling! Quite similar to the way projected range is calculated in petrol vehicles – based on current driving style. Bottomline: when there are no chance of long downhill strides and low mode cruising that recuperates energy, 360 is a more realistic figure than 400.
Talking about realistic driving, we were in for some surreal stuff as we turned into the bumpy slopes that led to an expanse of red earth and rocky mountains where according to the map lay the route to the dam. The Chevrolet Bolt is no SUV but it was no sucker in tough terrains. Suddenly, the Bolt felt much more than a hatchback. Solid, purposeful moves of the Bolt EV and a confident stance at the steering egged me on through the rough, undulating terrain. The Bolt EV had self-sealing tyres but that wouldn’t be of great use, if the terrain gave us a puncture! I could see power towers approaching, one after the other, and soon we were in pylon territory – a speck of electric charge steadily progressing in a sprawling electric jungle!
The vehicle held a firm grip on the terrain and its range figures. But if there arose a need for holding on tight, we might not have been able to do it, as the Bolt didn’t have grips to hold on to, above all windows. Two kilometres from the dam, we turned back for fear of pushing our luck too far. Anyway, we reached the hotel without a puncture or heartburn.