A solar electric truck climbed the world’s highest volcano using solar power alone – and set a new world record for altitude for an EV.
A Swiss team called Peak Evolution, which is sponsored by Austrian transport and logistics company Gebrüder Weiss, successfully climbed the western edge of Ojos del Salado, 6,500 meters above sea level in Chile, in their solar-powered electric truck.
Two months ago, the electric truck was transported to Chile from Switzerland via Rotterdam by sea freight. From there, it was transported overland to the Atacama region, where the team began to prepare for their ascent at Chile’s Maricunga salt lake, which is at an altitude of 3,400 meters (11,155 feet).
The expedition vehicle is based on a multipurpose Aebi VT450 transporter, but instead of gas, it’s driven by two electric motors with an output of 120 kW each. It features a 300 V nominal EcoVolta lithium-ion battery with 90 kWh capacity and has a 200 km (124-mile) range.
The solar electric truck is charged with four rooftop solar panels and 16 panels that are laid out on the ground. The panels have a peak power of 370 W and 22.5% cell efficiency. The total output of the system is 7.4 kWp, so a range of around 150 km (93 miles) can be achieved in around five hours.
The solar power is fed back to the truck with a DC-coupled charging system with triple redundancy in case of component failure, and there are five solar charge controllers that maximize the energy generated. There’s also a 230 V AC inverter so the team could charge up their equipment.
The cool thing about electric vehicles, including this solar EV, is that, unlike gas vehicles, they don’t lose power at high altitudes. But the extreme terrain and environmental conditions of the world’s highest volcano put the solar electric truck – and the team of three, who are experienced mountaineers – to the test.
“Despite these extreme conditions, our specially developed vehicle managed to drive higher than any other e-vehicle – let alone a solar-powered one,” said Patrik Koller, CEO and developer at Peak Evolution. “We have been training for this moment for four years, so giving up was never an option.”
Check out this short video of the team making their journey below:
Photos: Gebrüder Weiss/Anna Pocinska
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