Electric wacky racers take to Switzerland's roads

ZURICH (Reuters) - An oddball convoy of electric-powered wacky racers including a converted garbage truck and new type of bubble car takes to the streets of Switzerland from Friday to promote plug-in vehicles.

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Teams from 10 countries will take part in the seventh WAVE -- world advanced vehicle expedition -- trophy organized by Swiss electric vehicle pioneer Louis Palmer.

The 1,600-km event follows the route of the Swiss Grand Tour, which has recently been decked out with 300 electric charging points along mountain passes and lakeside roads.

Works teams from Volkswagen, Opel, Daimler and BMW will be providing some of the 112 vehicles taking part in the eight-day event, which will also include many self-built vehicles.

“We want to raise awareness about electric vehicles and what they can do,” said Palmer, who has promoted alternative fuels by driving around the world in a solar-powered car.

“We can show that these cars are fun, reliable and working, and you can drive a car without a bad conscience,” he said.

Electric vehicles are becoming more popular in Europe, with registrations rising 4.8 percent in 2016, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. But the total of 155,273 represented only 1 percent of new passenger car registrations last year.

Palmer, a 45-year-old former school teacher, was accompanied at times by film director James Cameron, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Prince Albert of Monaco when he drove 52,000 km around the world between 2007 and 2008.

This year’s event features vehicles including a 1960s Citroen 2CV and a converted VW camper van. One team is using their Tesla car to tow an electric-powered boat, while electric motorbikes and pushbikes will also take part.

The participants will visit schools and towns on their trip, with challenges along the way including a speed trophy at a former military airfield and competitions for the best painted car and best blog.

Oliver Ouboter will take to the road in the Microlino, an electronic-powered two-seater inspired by the bubble cars of the 1960s. Another participant is Fabian Wyssmann, whose Designwerk company has developed an electric-powered garbage wagon.

“For us it’s really important to show you can drive around Switzerland with an electric vehicle,” he said. “A normal garbage truck uses up to 100 liters per 100 km, which is a really dirty business.”

Editing by Michael Shields