Brief history and key figures
Mt. Fuji has always had a special place in people’s heart, often featuring in art or as a pilgrimage site, and recently it is attracting a lot of international tourists. In order to make it easier for weekend hikers, there are roads that take you up to about 2,300m / 7,500ft so you can reach the peak (3,776m / 12,390 ft) and head back home in one day. However, as a popular tourist destination, particularly in summer, the roads were always congested and exhaust from the many cars and buses traveling the route caused the trees lining the road to suffer and die. Thus the municipalities introduced regulations back in 1994 to restrict all private vehicles during summer.
Picture of the same location in 2014 and 2019. Some participants said they remember it being much worse when they were younger.
For a long time, only cars with certain permits such as sightseeing buses and supply trucks were allowed in, but two years ago, the doors were opened to EVs and FCVs. So Hisatsugu “Alan” Nakamura, a Tesla evangelist living near the mountain, and Fumio Kuwabara, a representative of EVOC, joined forces and started the EV Parade Run event.
This year marks the third iteration of the event, with 35 Teslas from TOCJ joining 31 other EVs and FCVs from EVOC, including rare models such as the Toyota Mirai and BMW C Evolution motorbike. In addition to enjoying the scenic drive up Mt. Fuji and the fresh mountain air, there were a few events in which Alan promoted awareness of zero emission vehicles along with his hometown, Fuji-kawaguchiko city.
Shifting from a celebration to a charity
A study was published recently, revealing that one out of six children belongs to a household experiencing relative poverty. This fact shocked Alan, and he immediately reached out to the local food bank. While figuring out how to integrate the charity component into the event, he learned about other Tesla Owners Clubs around the world hosting “frunk food drives.” (Tesla owners are known for using the front trunk, or frunk, for various charities)
So a note was sent out to the club members, and while people fretted over whether they were bringing the right food or proper amounts, the four Tesla frunks prepared for the event became full almost immediately, resulting in a total of 286kg / 632lbs of donation. Alan’s ambition is to use this momentum to expand the activity to other cities in Japan.
The parade run
After opening remarks from Alan, Fumio, and Vice Mayor Sakamoto, an orientation on the parade run and the e-rally was given, then the 66 vehicles headed to the Fuji Subaru Line, a toll road that leads up to the Fifth Station at 2,300m. The road is about 30km / 19mi long and gains an altitude of 1,500m / 4,900ft. EVs have to spend as much as 3x the normal power to climb up the steep hill, but as long as you don’t rely heavily on friction brakes on the way down, you can recoup a large portion of the excess energy spent, so even super-compact EVs such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV with a mere 10.5kWh battery can make it all the way. (For reference, a Tesla P100D, as the name indicates, has a 100kWh battery.)
Once everyone arrived at the Fifth Station parking lot, a group photo was taken, followed by a lunch break. Then, it was time for the Model Xs to line up their cars for a synchronized “dance.” There were 14 Model Xs in total, making it probably the largest group dance in Japan, and the sight of more than a dozen SUVs flapping their falcon wing doors at buses loaded with tourists passing by must have contributed to raising awareness of Tesla and the fact that EVs can drive up the mountain even during the high season.
The timing to activate the dance is very sensitive, so the owners had to try a few times to have all the cars synchronize perfectly.
Getting to know Fuji-kawaguchiko city
After descending from the mountain, participants split into two groups: for the e-rally and the Model 3 test ride. Tesla Japan’s PR division was generous enough to bring one of their LHD test ride cars to the event, and those interested in the latest Tesla model had a chance to experience the car first-hand.
The e-rally entrants were given a map with checkpoints around the city and had to visit 3 or more locations to collect points. The person with the highest total points wins the game, but the points for each location were not disclosed until the end of the event, so this was purely a game of luck. The organizers didn’t want people to zip through the town to collect points but rather, they wanted people to drive slowly, appreciating the beautiful countryside scenery while visiting the famous landmarks such as museums and shrines.
After the e-rally, a social gathering was held at a restaurant featuring local produce to wrap up the tour of the city. Members of the two owners groups got to know each other better as they enjoyed the hearty meal, shamisen performance (a traditional three-stringed instrument), and the announcement of the e-rally results.
I’d like to thank all the volunteers who devoted their time to bring this event to life, especially Alan, who laid most of the ground work all by himself. The event was successful on many levels, and I hope the tradition continues.