Solar-Powered Truck Achieves World EV Altitude Record

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Gebrüder Weiss, a European logistics company, recently announced that the company’s Peak Evolution Team has achieved a remarkable feat: setting a new world altitude record for EVs.

After going up the western ridge of Ojos del Salado, the highest active volcano on the planet, the team reached an astonishing height of 6,500 meters (about 21,000 feet) above sea level. What makes this achievement even more extraordinary is that their truck, powered only by solar energy, managed to conquer this unprecedented elevation. So, it’s not only the EV altitude record, but the solar car altitude record.

“This is a record not only for this technology, but for our years of research work and for the very future of mobility,” says Patrik Koller, CEO, and developer at Peak Evolution. “We hope that this success will attract more attention to alternative drives and their use in mining and other demanding transport tasks.”

Gebrüder Weiss, the team’s logistics partner and main sponsor, was a big part of the effort and not just a donor. Getting the vehicle safely to South America and keeping the team well-supplied was essential to the effort.

“As the oldest transport and logistics company, we are committed to the future of mobility,” says Frank Haas, Head of Corporate Brand Strategy & Communications at Gebrüder Weiss. “This success underlines our ongoing support for sustainable mobility projects and innovative technologies. We are delighted for the team and will now bring the record-breaking vehicle safely back to Switzerland.”

The endeavor started two months ago when GW transported the electric truck from Switzerland to Chile, via Rotterdam and sea freight. The solar truck was then transported overland to the Atacama region for the climb.

The journey started at the Maricunga Salt Lake, where the team took on smaller exploratory tours and acclimated to the mountain at an elevation of 3,400 meters. The formidable terrain and harsh environmental conditions of the world’s highest volcano not only tested the capabilities of their high-tech vehicle but also pushed the team members to their personal limits, both physically and mentally.

“Despite these extreme conditions, our specially developed vehicle managed to drive higher than any other e-vehicle – let alone a solar-powered one,” says Patrik Koller, CEO, and developer at Peak Evolution, summarizing the success. “We have been training for this moment for four years, so giving up was never an option.”

After weeks of struggle, the team of three adventurers achieved a significant milestone when they passed the 6,000-meter mark, setting a new record for e-vehicles. They kept going and just a week later, they pushed further and reached the maximum altitude of 6,500 meters above sea level.

This would be a remarkable feat for any EV, but they did it all on pure solar power. It may have actually been the only way for any EV to work out on the highest volcano on the planet, because there’s simply no plugs or stations out there.

After securing the world record, the Peak Evolution started the return journey to Switzerland. Gebrüder Weiss is now responsible for the safe transport of the record-breaking vehicle back to Europe.

The logistics company’s executives say they’re committed to supporting other visionary initiatives, and they have the receipts to prove it. In January, a dress rehearsal of the Austrian Space Forum’s Mars mission will be held at the Gebrüder Weiss site in Maria Lanzendorf near Vienna. On top of that, the company plans to conduct trials with an autonomous truck during 2024, and will dispatch an international research team to Greenland to gain valuable insights into climate change.

So, the company’s adventures are just beginning.

Why An Electric Truck Might Be The Best Vehicle For This Sort Of Challenge

One thing I’ve written about several times is the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb, and how EVs are dominating the field.

It’s very common for the human body to experience illness when traveling to high altitude areas. The decrease in oxygen levels at elevations of eight, nine, and ten thousand feet can have a significant impact. Some people can’t handle it and have to go home.

Just like humans, cars with combustion engines rely on air to perform, and there’s a lot less of the stuff when you go that high. While cars may still be able to move, their efficiency and power are noticeably reduced compared to sea level or even at 5,000 feet. Because of this, annual racing events that challenge vehicles to ascend the steep road to Pike’s Peak, reaching an altitude of 14,110 feet, present a formidable test for any team. Even with turbochargers, getting the air-fuel mix and boost right as the air thins during the climb can be tough.

So, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that electric vehicles have a distinct advantage over the other cars in such uphill, high altitude races. After all, electric motors don’t require any air to operate, so they don’t lose power or stumble as they propel a vehicle into the thinner and thinner air. Heck, they can even work on the moon, where there’s no air at all.

Electric cars also have other advantages when racing at high altitudes. Electric motors can generate a lot of torque, which helps the car to quickly accelerate and reach higher speeds on hills, and then have more precise control of speed on the downhill segments due to regen.

People have been experimenting with EVs at Pike’s for decades, and by the 2010s were taking home trophies. The Volkswagen I.D. R electric car took the overall victory in the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and it set a new course record of 7 minutes and 57 seconds. That’s more than 16 seconds faster than the previous record set by Sebastien Loeb in 2013!

What made this trip particularly challenging was how long it had to go, and in an environment with no EV charging infrastructure of any kind. To get up the hill, the team had to bring their own power along, and since the goal was to do it without fossil fuels, solar was about the only option available.

Featured image provided by GW.


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