The past 2,5 weeks, we have traveled all-electric from the North to the South of Senegal via the Gambia. We drove with our Skoda Enyaq iv80 which we charged solely with our 60m2 solar panels we have with us in the car. Mauritania was the first country we drove through solely on solar energy. In Morocco, we charged a bit more than 50% at wall outlets. In Senegal and the Gambia, we did not use a single wall outlet either. We are now driving for one month and 1.500km purely on solar energy. In this article, we share our experiences in Senegal and the Gambia. As to tell you the truth; this way of solar travel is so much easier than expected!
At the beginning of our all-electric expedition, we had to get used to this new way of solar travel. How to find a place to charge, how often do we charge, and what impacts the yield of the day? But now it is becoming a habit to us, it is almost normal. In this article, we share all about our charging techniques. The interesting thing is that this has never been done before, but to us, it is now almost as normal as going to the bakery in the morning to buy fresh bread. In addition, it is more than doable. You could almost call it easy!
Could that mean there is a future for this way of solar travel? We don’t know, but we do know it feels very good to us to travel this way and we truly like it.
The impact of the landscape of Senegal and the Gambia
Compared to Morocco and Mauritania, both Senegal and the Gambia are much greener. Which we as nature lovers like a lot. Though finding a spot to set up our 60 solar panels became a bit more challenging. A greener landscape means more plants and therefore less free space, and also more shade during the day. The advantage is that high wind speeds don’t have a big impact on the ground surface anymore. Therefore the risk is way less that wind might lift our panels from the ground.
We did get another challenge for our expedition; clouds. We had to plan ahead to charge during the ‘blue sky’ days. While in the Gambia we had to wait at the same location for 2,5 days until the clouds would disappear so we could charge again. We did not mind, as we found a beautiful spot to camp in the wild overlooking a lake with a lot of birds. A nice place to spend an extra day!
We find it interesting that each country has its own challenges to travel all-electric on solar. Sometimes we try to predict the challenges of the next country we visit. Often it is different than expected.
Besides charging our car, finding water for our personal needs is another task on our weekly agenda. In the north of Senegal, we noticed it was difficult to find locations where we could get water. We have an electric purifying system in the car to filter water out of a lake or river to make it into drinking water. We do this so that we don’t have to buy plastic bottles all the time. However, in the north, it was so dry that lakes and rivers were empty or they were salty. In the Gambia and the south of Senegal, this became a bit easier but still many lakes and rivers were salty. And salt water is not something we can purify.
The salty lakes did result in a night stuck with our car, as it is sometimes difficult to see if an off-road track is dry enough to drive. We had to dig ourselves out to continue our journey >> check the video
One last challenge for us was the heat. In the afternoon it is very hot and there is not much wind. When driving this is doable, however, while solar charging we sometimes just don’t know what to do with ourselves. We cool ourselves down by making our hair and t-shirts wet. But they dry in a few minutes… We hope we will get used to this in the coming weeks.
The city of Dakar
In the past weeks, we learned another lesson we would like to share with you. Big cities are often bigger than expected here in Africa. Not in the height of buildings, but in square meters they cover. For us, this means a crowded and built-up area with no (safe) space to set up our solar panels. As cities are bigger than expected they often start earlier and end later than we thought. In addition, you never know how long and what route you will take in a city. Sometimes we were held up by police, and one time we had to take another route than planned. Therefore we decided to make a rule for ourselves:
“Only go into big cities with at least 50% state of charge.”
As you never know how long it will take (time- and kilometer-wise) until you can charge again.
Dakar did show us once again why we started this expedition as well. In this city, there is a lot of traffic, which none is electricity. In fact, it is the opposite. Black air is coming out of the exhaust pipes, you can smell it everywhere. You even feel your throat after one day in the city. Sustainability is in this case not only good for nature and climate but also for personal health.