Driving an electric vehicle down the Pan-American Highway is no easy feat but a team in two Teslas is doing just that. Life is a journey and sometimes we find ourselves in the most interesting places. This is literally true for Electric Americas Foundation founder, Martin Canabal. Martin is driving the Pan American Highway and has a team filming a documentary on the adventurous road trip. I interviewed Martin for CleanTechnica earlier this summer just after he started his trip from Alaska. This is a follow-up to that interview.
When we spoke, Martin was in Mexico and we talked about some of his adventures along the way from Alaska to Mexico. The team is taking two Teslas down the Pan-American Highway, the world’s longest motorable road. Although it starts in Alaska and ends in Patagonia, there will be a portion of the trip where they have to ship the cars across the Darién Gap, an area where the highway does not exist due to political and environmental reasons.
So far, Martin and his teams have endured flat tires, bad roads, heavy rain, and Mexican speed bumps. Martin explained that the speed bumps in Mexico are extremely huge and that he has to modify the tow hitch due to the speed bumps.
“We have taken the cars to places that I didn’t think we could be able to take them on this trip,” he said. One of those places is Punta Abreojos, Baja California. a remote fishing village in the Pacific.
“We slept in off-the-grid cabins with solar power (so no charging!), no charging stations in town. We could barely charge in some homes using the 110/12A mobile charger. We had to change tires, and we had to wait some days for them to arrive, so we could not reach our next charging station. The tire shop had a welding machine, but we did not have the correct plug, so we had to improvise.”
Bahia de Todos los Ángeles was another place Martin and his team visited in Baja, California. He told me they drove off the main roads to see shark whales and barely made it back in time to charge.
“We thought we could charge for some hours, but the voltage of the town was not enough, so no charging at all!”
In Cabo Pulmo, the roads were so bad that Martin had a flat tire and the two cars had become separated. And the bad roads ended up damaging their tires.
“We used a tire fix and had to put air on the wheel using a bicycle pump from someone who stop to help us. We had an electric air pump but it was on the other car, that had to leave the day before to replace the other tires. After that, we made a rule: we will not drive separately! After all of this, we were able to get replacement tires, replacement wheels, and everything we needed to repair and replace the tires, but we also added more weight and this affects our range.”
The team had to change their schedule and timings of the trip to replace all of the tires for the Model X, which had also gotten a flat tire.
“It was a challenge. In the end, we were able to buy old tires and continue our trip to Cabo San Lucas where we bought new tires. This story ended in Guadalajara where we were able to go to Tesla Service and were able to change the other two tires.”
Another extreme place that Martin and his team visited is El Peñon, a paragliding spot near Valle de Bravo.
“You get there driving countryside roads, and dirt roads. But the place is majestic, and it is one of the best paragliding/Hang Gliding in the world!”
Martin’s last Tesla Service appointment took place in Mexico City where they looked at the cars to make sure that any repairs were done. After Mexico City, there will be no more Tesla Service Centers for the team as they continue along the Pan-American Highway.
“We have road service in Mexico but in a week after we leave the country, we won’t have any support from Tesla. That will be a challenge if something happens. We also had our last Tesla Supercharger in Puebla, Mexico.”
While Martin was chatting with me, his car was at a local Nissan dealership that had charging stations. As for charging along the rest of the trip, Martin was prepared to be creative.
The initial plan didn’t include charging stations past certain points, however, Martin emphasized that the EV charging landscape has changed and he’s seeing this along his trip.
“I planned this trip in 2020 and we’re supposed to charge between several days. There were no charging stations. Now we are in Puerto Escondido and we’re going to be here for four days. We have to film for the documentary and we have to charge. Normally it was going to be slow with no chargers.”
“Now, we can find chargers so our situation is much better now. I think things have improved a lot in two years. When I did my research, there was not a lot of charging stations for our route from Mexico to Argentina. And now I see more. And that’s incredible.”
“On the other hand, we were supposed to charge using the normal outlet. But we found out that this isn’t possible all the time. In several places, we tried to charge it and the Tesla didn’t charge because it sensed that the grid was not okay.”
Martin and the team expect that this will be a common occurrence for the rest of the trip. One unexpected surprise was that they didn’t have to pay for Supercharging in Mexico.
“Since Tesla isn’t able to charge for Supercharging in Mexico, hotels were incentivized for installing destination chargers which were great for us.”
Martin noted that soon, Tesla would be charging for Supercharging in Mexico but for his trip, however, he didn’t have to pay for Supercharging. He and the team also had hotel adventures. Some were expensive, some were reasonable, and some, he said with a laugh, were difficult to explain.
As Martin continues his journey across the Pan-American Highway, he plans to keep me updated on his progress. And when he does, I’ll be sure to share his stories here.