11 October 2013

Range Rover Hybrids drive through Nepal

The Silk Trail 2013 expedition prepared to enter the 14th and final country on their epic journey from Solihull in the UK to Mumbai when it passed through Nepal and reached the town of Mahendranagar on the border with India, writes Trish Whelan.

Leaving behind high altitudes and the peaks of the Himalayas, the three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes were driven on flatter but more hazardous roads, passing paddy fields and rain forests.

The heat and humidity, and the density and unpredictability of the traffic, have been increasing every day. The team say the responsiveness of the Hybrid engine to the driver's throttle commands, and its ability to accelerate strongly, enabled safe overtaking manoeuvres on roads busy with trucks and buses.

Last week's journey started by crossing a deep river ravine on the Friendship Bridge connecting the town of Zhangmu in China with the village of Kodari in Nepal. One-by-one the RR Hybrids were given permission to drive slowly across the bridge with the passengers made follow on foot. On the other side lay a journey to Kathmandu of 85 miles, but with dense traffic and roads severely potholed, the short distance actually took three hours to drive.

The next leg from Kathmandu to Pokhara (a town surrounded by three of the ten highest mountains in the world), was a 127-mile stretch of road demanding eight hours of unwavering concentration. Every foot of road space was contested by bicycles, tricycles, horse-drawn carts, scooters, motorbikes, cars, mini-buses, buses, trucks, roving cows, slow-moving water buffalo, loose dogs, and fearless pedestrians. The need for regular braking kept the hybrid motor's battery recharged ensuring it assisted the 3.-litre SDV6 diesel engine and further improved fuel economy despite the ever-changing pace of driving.

The three Range Rover Hybrid prototypes were then read to cross the bridge over the Mahakali River and into India, for the final 1,000 miles to the expedition's destination, the city of Mumbai.