This weekend, while Australians head to the polls to have their say in what has been dubbed “the climate election”, a dedicated team of engineers from Western Australia are taking on the fossil-fuelled motorsport community with an original all-electric Tesla Roadster.
Australia is well-known for its love of grunty, petrol and diesel-hungry cars, but the issue of clean transport has come to the fore with electric cars now well and truly on the agenda for both Labor and Greens policies in the election lead up, while being categorically, and surprisingly, rubbished by the Coalition.
“Two key element of lowering carbon emissions are renewable energy and electric vehicles, which have polarised the Australian political & motoring worlds,” Gemtek’s Florian Popp said in a note by email to The Driven.
Gemtek’s hope – starting this weekend in the Targa South West race – is to show that electric vehicles are up to the challenge of claiming a position in Australia’s motor-loving heart.
The 2011 Roadster, representing Tesla’s first electric vehicle, has competed previously against gas-guzzling high-performance vehicles under the banner of charging infrastructure providers Gemtek Group.
In August 2018 the 2011 Roadster has already fared well against some of the fastest combustion cars around, coming fourth in a gruelling 900km race against a 2017 Lotus Elite, a 2012 Porsche 911, a 2002 Mazda RX7, a 2013 Holden VF SSV and a 2007 BMW 335i (it beat the Holden and the BMW).
This weekend, sponsored by MSP Engineers, it will be tearing up the tarmac in the real road conditions of the Healthway’s Targa South West race that is to be held this election weekend, racing in the Challenge Category for unmodified vehicles.
It will cover almost 400km of country roads winding through the ancient Karri forests of Pemberton, not 40km from Greenbushes, the longest continuously operating lithium mine in WA.
Up against some Australia’s gruntiest combustion engine cars – including a Holden Torana, a Subaru WRX, a Porsche Cayman and a Mazda MX5 – it will demonstrate how capable and even superior an electric car can be in Australia’s harshest, most isolated regions.
“This election weekend sees us taking on Targa South West in our Tesla Roadster to again make an effort to become the first EV to reach the podium in an FIA tarmac road event in Australia (and we still think in the world),” says Popp.
“Our pre-race testing & preparation has been extremely positive, and if the Motorsport gods are with us, we hope to complete the event both safely and with a great result.
“There is a palpable cultural shift occurring during this election campaign, and we are very proud to be making a difference as part of this effort in Western Australia, with the hard core V8 motorsport fraternity looking on.”
Australia’s uniquely vast distances pose a challenge for the uptake of electric vehicles, with availability of charging infrastructure a key barrier for many considering switching to electric vehicles.
This has given Gemtek some particular issues to deal with in the FIA-sanctioned Targa racing format, which is the world’s oldest form of car race, including the development of a specialised mobile charging station.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.