A-to-Z EV Rally: Team National Grid


Team National Grid are heightening the challenge for the EV Rally this year, as none of their vehicles can do over 150 miles. And for the first time, Sam Clarke will be attempting to ride the 1,500 journey on an electric motorbike. GREENFLEET caught up with both Lorna McAtear, head of fleet at National Grid, and the EV Cafe's Sam Clarke, to find out more

We are delighted that Team National Grid is involved in the EV Rally again this year, as you have been since its inception – could you tell us why you have decided to participate again?

Lorna McAtear: "As with all years, it is about the lessons learned and from that what we can do to help others transition. We have moved on from early adopters to the start of mass adoption and that brings with it different challenges.  

"For us, it is still important to work collaboratively with everyone and to constantly think about all the others. That is why this year we are using vehicles that are not mainstream or are new to the sector. We want to remind people that there are different vehicles out there and not to forget these niche areas when looking at solutions and infrastructure. We need to include as many people and types of transport as we can."

Please tell us about Team National Grid – who will be driving and in what vehicles?

Lorna McAtear: "I will be driving the Rally again, and will be joined again by BBC South’s Transport Correspondent Paul Clifton, supported by daughter Frankie, who will be in a converted Porsche.

"I'm also please to announce that Sam Clarke is joining us again, but this year he will be driving an electric motorbike, which he'll explain more about below.

"The rest of the team is made up from people from our group and distribution business, using a new van and a 4x4 vehicle.

"And not one of the vehicles can do over 150 miles, in fact a lot less in some cases."

Sam Clarke adds: "As Lorna has mentioned, I will be riding the rally this year, which is the first time it has ever been attempted. For my trusty stead, I will be on Zero DSR/X Black Forest Edition. 

"This will complement a number of alternative and challenging vehicle types that National Grid have committed to. So, expect to see motorbikes, cars and vans on the team this year."

The Rally is over 1,500 miles and this year will be visiting towns and checkpoints from A to Z in alphabetical order. What challenges do you anticipate?

Sam Clarke: "I have some unique considerations this year. Firstly, my bike has a very small battery at c.17kWh compared to all the other vehicles, have AC charging and at a maximum rate of 12kW. I will also need to follow range pretty closely and also be wary that lots of high-speed riding is going to be energy sapping. 

"On the plus side, the power to weight ratio is significant and I am hoping to be able to comfortably achieve c. Nine miles per kWh. On the car side around four to five miles per kWh is usually a good benchmark so I should be able to compensate for small battery and lower power charging, by greater efficiency! But who knows? This is all part of what makes the rally great, it affords us the opportunity to stress test the art of the possible and push boundaries."

Given that you’ve taken part in every EV rally, what lessons-learnt will you be bringing with you to ensure this rally runs smoothly? 

Sam Clarke: "As always, we know that collaboration and team spirit make it all work smoothly. Good communication and making use of the Webfleet telemetry and the Paua Rally App will certainly help to make everything go smoothly. But for me, as a stark contrast to last year, planning my route will be essential as we go into unchartered two-wheeled territory on the rally!

What improvements do you hope to see in the public charging infrastructure?

Sam Clarke: "Well, whilst I am Team National Grid for the Rally, my day job is Chief Vehicle Officer at GRIDSERVE. So, naturally I am looking forward to visiting another world-leading Electric Forecourt in Norwich this year, as opposed to Braintree last year. But because I am an AC-charging only vehicle, it will be interesting to understand more about low-powered charging. Unlike my unique use case, these types of chargers are typically and traditionally used for customers on longer dwells times and so I’m keen to learn from other Charge Point Operators and their methodologies in this space."

National Grid has reached a massive milestone of having over 2,000 electric vehicles in its UK fleet - what's next for your fleet electrification plans? 

Lorna McAtear: "Across all the cars and commercials, we are around 2,500 pure electric vehicles on fleet, with more on order. So the 'easier-to-do' vehicles are just happening as part of business-as-usual processes.

"The reason we have the 4x4 and new van player on the rally with us is so we can keep working with the OEMs to develop what is next – those more challenging vehicles that have to be operationally efficient to keep us working."

Why are events like the EV Rally important for driving up electric-vehicle adoption? 

Sam Clarke: "Awareness. The early rallies presented many challenges, particularly in charging infrastructure. However, in recent years, it has been very evident how that area has dramatically improved, and it is critical that we give the next cohort of EV drivers the confidence to make the switch. The GREENFLEET rallies are a fantastic opportunity to do that. And now, with more alternative vehicle types entering the fold, the depth of learning simply increases."

The Rally takes place from 1-5 July 2024. To keep up to date with EV Rally news, visit the website and follow us on LinkedIn.