Solar truck will attempt to scale world’s highest active volcano

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by Emily Atkins

Three men from Switzerland are attempting to conquer the summit of the world’s highest active volcano using a solar-powered truck specifically developed for this purpose.

At a height of 6,893 metres, the Ojos del Salado volcano is located in Chile on the border with Argentina, about 600 km as the crow flies from Santiago. 

The expedition equipment will be shipped together with the vehicle from Rotterdam, Netherlands, to San Antonio, Chile, in a 40-feet high-cube container. (Source: Gebrüder Weiss / Anna Pocinska)

Team Peak Challenge is using a solar-powered truck to scale the peak. If the team reaches the summit, this would be a new world record. Never before has a vehicle climbed that high.

For nearly four years, the three Swiss developers, David Pröschel, Patrik and David Koller, have been working on putting the multi-purpose truck into practice.

The vehicle is based on a conventional multi-purpose Aebi VT450 transporter with combustion engine. It is driven by two electric motors with an output of 120 kW each.

The transmission has been optimized for electric propulsion. This allows the performance data of the diesel version to be clearly surpassed. The energy is stored in an 90 kWh battery. For the planned market launch of the vehicle, the battery capacity can be scaled up to 140 kWh depending on requirements.

It has 200 kilometres of range and 240 Kw of power.

In addition to the PV modules installed on the truck’s roof, there are mobile, extendable modules providing additional power supply during sunny hours. (Source: Gebrüder Weiss / Anna Pocinska)

In addition to the electrification of the drive train, various adjustments will be made to the chassis of the vehicle for more ground clearance and better traction. A special lightweight body is also being developed. It will transport the equipment and be a place of refuge for the team in bad weather. In order to secure the vehicle in the terrain, powerful cable winches are attached to the vehicle.

By embarking on an expedition to a place that no vehicle has ever reached, they want to prove the efficiency of alternative drive technologies. “Our vehicle makes it possible to perform even the most demanding transport tasks, whether in mining or when erecting high-altitude solar power plants, in an environmentally compatible and economically efficient manner. The expedition is going to show the commercial viability of the product we developed,” says Patrik Koller, head of finance and co-developer of the Peak Evolution Team.

David and Patrik Koller from the Gebrüder Weiss Peak Evolution Team together with Katharina Zimmerling (Branch Manager Air & Sea Zurich at Gebrüder Weiss) and Vanessa Hafner (Team Leader Digital Communications at Gebrüder Weiss). (Source: Gebrüder Weiss / Anna Pocinska)

“Due to its limited payload capacity, this solar-powered vehicle cannot yet replace a conventional truck, but it shows a completely new direction in which we will be able to move with alternative drives in the future,” said Frank Haas, head of corporate brand strategy and communications at Gebrüder Weiss, which is shipping the truck to Chile.

The truck and expedition team are expected to board a ship in November for transport to Chile. The attempt on the summit will be in January 2024, if all goes according to plan.

The mission will be accompanied by a documentary film team headed by award-winning Swiss filmmaker Claudio von Planta.

You can follow the mission here.