Venturing To The South Pole In An Electric Car Powered By The Sun


Effort aims to spur environmental action

Adventurous expeditions have long been a part of the story about the transition to electric vehicle dominance, and now a new effort is about to extend that tradition. Meet the Polar Explorer (pictured above): a solar-powered four-wheel-drive vehicle made largely from recycled plastic that will attempt to reach the South Pole in about 10 weeks from now.

The project arose from the simple act of disposing of some plastic packaging, something millions of us do every day. For the Dutch couple at the heart of the project — Liesbeth and Edwin — this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and it triggered a series of events that ultimately led them to design, build, and test this glorious photon-fed beast.

For the past year or so, the “Clean 2 Antarctica” team has been posting videos of there progress and associated activities, and so you can probably find the answers to any engineering questions among the 68 (to date) visual missives on their YouTube channel. A perusal of its website does give a few interesting facts, though. For instance, its top speed is a mere 8 kph (4.97 miles per hour) while its weight is 1485 kg (3273.87 pounds).

The “tractor” portion of the vehicle features two solar panels, with each of the two trailers it pulls support four each, giving it a total of ten panels. Speaking of the trailers, they’ll hold enough food for 47 days, though the targeted time for the expedition is 30 days. The entire train is 16 meters (52.49 feet) in length.

Despite all the preparations, the 2,400 km (1491 miles) journey should prove challenging. Though they have the advantage of being on the Southern continent when the sun never sets, they’ll also face temperatures of -30 C (-22 F) regularly and likely experience much colder. Perhaps this is a good time to mention that the cabin of the vehicle isn’t heated. (Yikes!)

We wish the couple and their entire team the best of luck with their unique adventure and hope to hear of their success in the coming months. For a little more insight into some of their preparations, check out the video below of their testing in Iceland.

Source: Reddit, Clean2Antarctica

Categories: General


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37 Comments on "Venturing To The South Pole In An Electric Car Powered By The Sun"

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That’s pretty cool! (Heh. Get it?)

But seriously, this is kinda like “The Martian” where he had to drive across the planet with an electric buggy that he powered with solar PV. This will be kinda like that since the solar insolation will be low down near pole kinda like Mars’ lower solar insolation due to being farther from the sun.

Lower insolation? If the panels are perpendicular to the sun’s rays, there should be 24/7 output near the peak. The sunlight will pass through more of the atmosphere so there will be some loss, but cold air tends to be clearer as well. And the panels are significantly more efficient at cold temperatures. I do wonder about wind loads tipping them over…

Perhaps you are thinking of average annual insolation, which of course is lousy at the poles. But they are going during local summer.

“Despite all the preparations, the 2,400 km (1491 miles) journey should prove challenging. Though they have the advantage of being on the Southern continent when the sun never sets, they’ll also face temperatures of -30 C (-22 F) regularly and likely experience much colder. Perhaps this is a good time to mention that the cabin of the vehicle isn’t heated. (Yikes!)”

That’s terrible.

It wasn’t possible to design a cabin with heating to make the long journey more comfortable?

That would use too much of the energy. Gotta conserve.

Design something that can transport a lot more solar panels?

I’m not sure if this current design is optimal.

It looks at least a bit risky to me, if you would ask me.

Dangerous journey.

I think it requires more thinking.

Agreed. I hope they have it well worked out who is going to come and rescue them when they get stuck. Cell reception is going to suck and I know AAA doesn’t service that area. My guess is they’ll need a lift on some taxpayer’s dime from somewhere.

Satellite Phones are a basic tool for such explorations, one would think. Or a Satellite Uplink Dish?

I would definitely think they would have at least one satellite phone on the expedition. Hopefully with at least one backup in case the first failed.

The lack of heating really makes me think this is a bad idea. Maybe is unavoidable due to power use, but whatever the reason it gives me pause.

I wish them the best, but I feel like this is a recipe for disaster overall. Hopefully the Antarctic bases are aware of their journey and able to provide assistance if they get into trouble. But what happens if they get into trouble in bad weather? I don’t know…

The equipment that provide heat for the meals will provide warmth for them I guess… that is what the skiiers use, when they sleep in tents on their way to the pole.

If i was the guy ‘s wife i would increase the life insurance policy payout about now…

The only problem is, I think she’s going with him.

Hmm…the angle of the panels shouldn’t need to change much the direction of them should.

Shouldn’t the panels be on a directional pivot so they can track the sun?

My first thought as well. At the South Pole in December the sun circles the horizon at ~23 degree elevation.

He must plan to run when the sun is on his right, rest when it’s behind him, then flip the panels and run when the sun’s on his left and then rest again when it’s in front.

Or they just track with the sun and travel to the pole in a gigantic spiral 😉

Geometry jokes… 😉

Good Luck.

If it is purely based on solar, it will be very tough… 10 panel at 350 W per panel is only 3.5kW peak. That is max power it will have. We all know that isn’t much power to move a vehicle. Granted, it is pretty slow speed. Even with more daylight, it will be lucky to generate more than 30-40kWh per day due to the angle. That is going to take them a long time to reach the South Pole. At 4 mph and over 1400 miles, it will take them more than 350 hours to do. With 10 hours per day, that will take them at least 35 days…

that is also assuming that there are no weather related delays. 47 days of food is probably enough if they don’t run into bad weather delays.

Perhaps more solar panels would be a good idea?

Extra weight and complexity. There will be a point of diminishing returns.

It’s a slow speed but between all the trailers it looks like a fair bit of weight (although it’s apparently made of plastic so maybe not as heavy as it looks?). Also it’s not exactly like they are using low rolling resistance tires, or traveling over a well maintained road.

I wish they luck. Te adventure is very hard, a terrible enviroment.

Stop these people!!!

They are asking for trouble.

This is not going to end well.

Their lives are more important than this stupid journey.

I do believe that it can be done, but not with what they have come up with.

More engineering is required to make this journey a success.

They should write a letter to Elon Musk.

He likes a challenge.

He will send a few of his engineers to help these people to do it in a much safer way.

Elon Musk has more important things to be doing with his time…

Yes, maybe he can send them his submarine or pod or whatever

They will likely have the rig inspected and OK’d for the trip, Either by some Country’s Military that is based in Antarctica, Back at Home, so to speak, or – when they arrive on station. Or – it might be smart – for them to at least try to do that!

Will we be able to follow them on a GPS Tracker Map? That would be Cool, and – it would be wise, too – in case of a Rescue Operation!

@ Benz… You can’t be serious, there are people risking their lives every day in more stupid ways so why should this adventure be stopped? Our world would be a lot different if previous explorers hadn’t made the effort and “pushed the envelope”.

Their biggest problem will be wind. The current design is almost guaranteed to cause the trailers to blow over several times per day. Seems ill conceived and dangerous.

The Trailers need More Batteries at the Bottom, and the Food Storage on top of that, all below the Panels, for Base Weight and Ballast!

If (when) the wind kicks up, they have to take off panels to avoid flipping.

Not the best way to do this.

Best way would be to take a battery powered vehicle. Carry some solar panels and batteries. Set up base 0 to recharge. Leave the base back for your supply drop at the shore – recharge, get more solar panels and batteries. Drive to base 0 and recharge. Continue on to set up base 1, recharge, return to base 0, recharge, return to the coast, recharge.

All the backtracking probably ultimately makes this first mission take longer, but you’ve set up infrastructure that can be used for future green adventures in the area.

Don’t ask me how the bases are set up to survive months or years without humans there to maintain them – haven’t figured that out yet.

Taylor – Lots of Greenland Realated Videos about the USA’s Station there, might be a good watch!

A few years ago, one of Scott’s emergency depots was discovered in Antarctica. Fuel reserves and booze in the depot were still intact (after more than a century in the ice). I bet that food will also be good for a long time, as the whole island is a deep freezer without much animals that might get into it. Penguins are at the coast only, and then there is basically nothing, not even rats.

Don’t try this in the winter, folks.

I think they know that. That’s why they do it in the summer, when there is actually sun down there.

I just don’t get the point.. is it just to be first?
Is it to prove people can get to the pole with no CO2 emissions? If so. . .
People ski to the pole many times a year, dragging all their food and equipment- and it’s become common.
The tourist ships that come from south america, and cross over … they offer trips to the south pole by plane, scooters, dog sleds, skiing and what not.
The more you pay, the easier and more comfortable it gets.

“I just don’t get the point.. is it just to be first?”

What *I* don’t get is all the negative attitude shown in comments here. The first expedition to fly to the south pole in an airplane wasn’t the first to make it to the pole; did people sit in their comfy armchairs and wag their chins about how dangerous it was, and how they should get really good insurance, and how their wives should stop them?

Heck no, they cheered them on as the adventurers they were!

I don’t see that risking your life doing this is any more foolish than some extreme sports, like bungee jumping or “base jumping” or cave diving. At least the people going on this expedition have the possibility of being able to proudly proclaim they were the first to do something!

I’m sure those going on this expedition realize it’s dangerous. Perhaps that’s the point; to attempt something that’s difficult and dangerous!

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. — Eleanor Roosevelt

@Pushmi-Pullyu……..Well said!