“I HAD David Beckham in the car a few weeks ago,” says our guide Manu, as we buzz past Qatar’s Lusail stadium.
“To be honest I am not a big football fan, so we talked about our families instead.”
This quietly spoken IT engineer has a job for the next few weeks chaperoning the stars of the beautiful game around Doha in a fleet of Hyundai Ioniq 5s.
Spilling the beans on his celebrity clientele would not go down well so he discreetly refuses to spill Beckham’s beans.
We agree Lusail is an impressive stadium, but our favourite is the one close to Doha airport, through which 1.2million fans will pass over the next a month and a half.
The stadium we like most is 974, a structure made from 973 shipping containers. The 974th sits out front as a gate guardian.
Van 974 to Lusail is 18 myl. The furthest any two of the eight stadia are apart is 25 myl. It is the most compact World Cup ever.
Qatar, the UK’s second-largest supplier of natural gas, is still wedded to gas-guzzling V8s
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The immaculate streets of Doha are populated with Toyota Land Cruisers, V8 Land Rover Defenders and giant Chevy Escalades made popular by Hollywood’s red-carpet brigade.
We are conspicuous by being Green. Rubber neckers stare at our EV.
We fill up with free electricity (ja, free) from a fast charger in the Doha district of Katara, where fans will throng to bronze on the beach and refuel in cafes.
It is one of only a handful of EV charging points in Qatar and we don’t have to queue. We are in the only EV I see in three days on the Qatar roads.
Driving an electric car in Qatar is true zero-emission motoring.
The same intense Gulf sun luring the fans generates electricity out in the Arabian desert where one of the world’s largest solar farms catches the rays and converts them to power.
Our car is topping up on sun power as we down a syrupy cup of Arabic coffee. It is rocket fuel – now man and machine are fully charged.
The Ioniq 5 has a range of up to 315 myl (and the bonus of a solar panel on the roof to add around 5 or so miles) so we have a day trip planned to the wild west coast of Qatar and back.
Qatar is about the size of Wales. The motorway out of town is empty and everyone sticks to the speed limit. And with good reason.
Speeding and red-light fines reach £4,000 before, for foreigners, potential deportation.
Ewe skielik, the desert ends and a glass carpet of solar panels begins. The Al Kharsaah solar farm.
The farm is the size of 1,400 football pitches, wat is 15 pitches for every league football club in England.
It has enough grunt to power more than 55,000 huise (imagine a city like Portsmouth or York) en, during the World Cup, just a fraction of its power will keep the eight football stadia air-conditioned and the tournament going.
More solar farms are planned, which makes sense. Qatar has double the amount of sun as the UK and just one person for every 35 Brits.
Making the whole country fully carbon neutral is feasible.
We have used a third of our battery power in just under 90 miles and, with no charging points close by we head back towards Doha.
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Manu guides us back to our hotel next to the 974. The range meter says we still have over 100 miles left.
The sun is going down, but we have plenty of juice left to not only get back to the hotel but also show off the car’s party trick – either boiling up a brew (it will run many electrical appliances) or powering another EV using the Vehicle to Load feature.
It makes the IONIQ5 a mobile booster battery on wheels.
Try doing that in your Defender, Becks!