Last year, Mac Mackenney, the leader of expedition specialists Max Adventure, made history in the EV world when he and his team recreated Stirling Moss’s 3,600-mile journey across Europe in a fully electric vehicle.
In this special feature, Mac talks about his career so far, where the idea for the challenge came from, as well as answering a few quick fire questions, too.
Q: How did ‘Max Adventure’ start?
A: I’m ex-military. I was a trainee fighter pilot but not a very good one, so there wasn’t a plan B, so I disappeared off around Africa, driving backpackers around in a big overland truck. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do in my life and it was almost like a delayed gap year. So off I went, came back and thought, “oh, I kind of like this adventuring thing, but I’ve got no idea how to get into it or earn money from it.” I heard about the Camel Trophy and entered into that and, I believe there was something ridiculous like 10,000 applicants, I got down to the last four and represented the UK and the International selections, but the PR girls chose a male model and an actor to represent the UK for what they call the proper tough Camel Trophies.
I thought, “okay, so I love adventuring travel, and I’ve been introduced to this world of Land Rovers and extreme driving, and I love that as well, how can I put the two together?” I registered my name with the Royal Geographical Society in London to say I was a driver mechanic from my Africa days and before I joined the Air Force, I was in the Army fixing helicopters, but they used to teach you how to fix Land Rovers as well, so I’ve got quite a good mechanical background. I got a call from a deputy director of the Geographic Society saying there’s a gentleman that’s seen your CV saying you’re available for expeditions, he would like you to attend a selection weekend, and it was Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the world’s greatest living explorer. I got selected onto the team and that was in 1996.
Q: What have been some of your most memorable expeditions?
A: I’d seen in the Guinness Book of Records years ago, the record for the fastest drive from London to Cape Town. I must have been a teenager. I thought one day I’m going to beat that, but you can’t really go from nothing to racing across Africa to try and beat a record that had been held for nearly 50 years by the time we got to do it. We did a little UK record, with all the counties of the UK and Ireland sponsored by Land Rover. Then we did what was called Cape to Cape, from the top of Europe to the bottom.
For another client, I was doing some work for a classic car company. I was an off-road driving and rally driving instructor. One of the clients, a very good friend of theirs was Sterling Moss and he became our patron for the London to Cape Town record. We were going to film it. So we thought we need to just practice filming; there’s no time to stop set up cameras to do a nice drive by, you’ve got to keep moving. The record’s only 13 days to get to Cape Town with 20 odd countries, 10,000 miles. I said, “well, we need to practice this, let’s go and do something.” We were just going to go from Land’s End to John O’Groats a few times, then I found out that Sterling Moss, as well as being a racing driver and a rally driver, he was also a promotional driver for the Roots Group that owned Hillman and Humber cars. They were challenged in 1952 to visit 15 countries in Europe in less than five days to promote the newly launched Humber Super Snipe, starting in Oslo, finishing in Lisbon and going all the way out to Yugoslavia. They did it in three and a half days.
I don’t like just driving for the sake of a holiday. I like driving because there’s a purpose. You’re trying to achieve something. I’m very interested in the whole EV thing, and I’ve been pushing the EV thing for a long time. Everyone can assume a car would do 200,000 miles before you check the oil level, but I’ve always felt with EVs that same uncertainty from the public. What will happen? What’s the range like? How long will it take to charge? Do I want to invest my money into that relatively new technology? So I’ve been pushing the argument to manufacturers to do exactly what the guys did in the 1940s and fifties, but do it with EVs. And finally, Kia stepped up and said, okay, go for it. We recreated the challenge that Sterling Moss did – Could an EV do what he did? but we actually beat Sterling Moss’s time by about 47 minutes.
Mac’s Euro EV Marathon from Oslo to Lisbon
In September 2022, the Max Adventure Team completed its Euro EV Marathon having driven a fully electric Kia EV6 Air from Oslo, Norway, to Portugal, beating its original target by arriving in just 3.75 days and having added an extra country to its itinerary.
Covering 16 countries and 3,174 miles (5,109 kms) in a little over 89 hours, the challenge was designed to show how easy it is to cover huge distances in a short time using a standard EV and existing charging infrastructure. The adventure started as the team were waved off from Kia’s Norwegian headquarters in Oslo, with Kia Portugal in Lisbon welcoming the travellers at journey’s end.
The team improved on the time set by racing legend Sir Stirling Moss, who undertook the drive in 1952, by 47 minutes. This is understood to be the first time the route has been attempted in a fully electric vehicle. Having completed the epic 3,174-mile adventure, the team arrived in Lisbon to mark World EV Day on September 9th.
Q: What did you learn about EVs on that journey?
A: Prior to working with Kia, I’d never driven one before. I drove a Nissan Leaf for about a hundred yards down a runway, and that was my entire knowledge of an EV, so I was as apprehensive as everybody else about the charging. I did an awful lot of planning trying to figure out where all these charging points were, thinking it was going to be a major mathematical strategic undertaking. But within a few hours, and once you’ve charged it once and you’ve lost your charging virginity as it were, then it’s no different to driving a petrol or diesel car. It becomes very, very easy. It was far easier than I thought.
Q: What challenges did you face along the way? Were there any surprises?
A: The surprise was the capability of the vehicle. We took a Kia EV6 Air before to have a little practice run so we’ve got half an idea before we just dive straight in and try and take on Sterling Moss. We drove between the highest road in the UK, just under 3000 feet, about 600 feet higher than the highest publicly accessible road in Scotland, and the lowest point in the road, just south of Peterborough. It’s a distance about 210 miles uphill the whole way.
I thought “could this car actually do 210 miles uphill continuously?” Off we go at a very steady 50 miles an hour because the book is saying at best 300 miles and at best 250, but that’s going to be with some downhill as well and we’re just going up the whole way. Anyway, we got to the top of this thing with a hundred and something miles left in the tank. It was ridiculous. It was just brilliant what the vehicle could do. It was quite easy. The hardest bit was staying awake and trying to sleep in the back, but the car breezed it.
Max Adventure’s ‘Fen to Fell’ Challenge
In preparation for the Euro EV Marathon, Max Adventure took the fully electric Kia EV6 Air from Britain’s lowest road to Britain’s highest road on a single charge.
The Kia EV6 ‘GT Line S’ AWD completed the 209-mile drive, with an ascent of 2791 ft., and finished with a range of 107 miles remaining. If that wasn’t enough, the Max Adventure team then decided to continue to Britain’s highest public house, the Tan Hill Inn.
To celebrate the success of the Fen to Fell drive, the team then decided that a drink in Britain’s highest pub, the Tan Hill Inn, was essential. Far from straight forward, the 31-mile trip involved the car descending 2,300 ft. before climbing to 1,732 ft. and the historic hostelry.
Finally, at the end of its challenge, and having covered 239 miles that day, the Kia EV6 still had a remarkable 86 miles remaining as indicated range. This meant that once ready to leave there was charge left to descend the Yorkshire Dales to the nearest charging point, before the team began its journey home.
Quickfire Questions: The Max Adventure journey from Oslo to Lisbon saw Mac and his team travel to 16 countries in 89 hours 12 minutes, so we asked him 16 quickfire questions!
Favourite EV? Kia EV6 Air
First electric car you ever drove? Nissan Leaf.
Favourite country to drive in? Mongolia. It’s huge and you’ve got it all to yourself and it’s stunningly beautiful.
Favourite holiday destination? Skiing in the Alps.
Best country to own an EV in? I think the Norwegians have got it hands down.
Which country has the best drivers? Probably the Scandinavians again, either the Norwegians or the Swedes.
Which country has the worst drivers? Mauritania wasn’t brilliant. They thought the line down the middle of the road meant that you drove your wheels should straddle it.
Country you’ve not been to yet that you want to go to? I haven’t been to South America yet. Chile, Bolivia, Argentina. I definitely want to do that one day.
Scenic route or just get there as quickly as possible? if I’m beating a record, then as fast as I can, but if not then I’ll always take the scenic route.
Playlist, radio or audiobook? Playlist. I need some good eighties tunes to keep me going.
One random thing on your bucket list? That London to New York record still needs to be beaten and I want to be the person to do it.
If you could convert one classic car to electric what would it be? I think the only classic car that that would really suit electric would be a Rolls Royce.
Dream road trip? London to Sydney.
Favourite in-car snack? Haribo Tangfastic’s.
Dream celebrity roadtrip partner? Ewan McGregor.