Couple Plans to Drive Solar Powered Electric Vehicle to the South Pole

solar voyager 2

Now that the fall Himalaya climbing season is starting to wind down, we’ll turn our attention south to Antarctica where in a matter of a few weeks the first skiers will be setting out for the South Pole. As with every Antarctic season there will be a number of fascinating expeditions to follow, some more traditional than others. But this year, there will be an interesting vehicle-based journey to follow as a husband and wife team set out to drive an electric vehicle to the very bottom of the world.

Dubbed the Clean2Antarctica expedition, the plan is for Liesbeth and Edwin ter Velde to travel 2400 km (1491 miles) on a round trip journey that begins at the Antarctic coast, goes to the South Pole, and then back again. They are expecting the entire trip to take about five weeks to complete, with plans to get underway sometime in November, which is traditionally when the Antarctic season truly gets underway.

But what makes the Dutch couple’s adventure such a unique one is that they’ll be driving in an electric vehicle dubbed the Solar Voyager. This unique machine was custom built to survive in the Antarctic while creating its own source of fuel along the way. The team will use large solar panels, mounted on trailers pulled behind the main vehicle, to generate the power they will need to push the Solar Voyager along. And since it will be 24 hours of daylight throughout the drive to and from the South Pole, they should be able to collect energy at a constant pace.

The Solar Voyager’s main component is a buggy that has been designed to roll over the ice and snow with relative ease. But adding two trailers carrying the solar panels does increase the length of the vehicle to 16 meters (52 ft). That’s fairly long and could be quite ponderous, particularly when trying to avoid crevasses or even sastrugi, which can grow quite large and thick too. How the Voyager handles the conditions in the Antarctic will be interesting to watch.

While driving in an electric vehicle to the South Pole is a big enough adventure in its own right, the duo aren’t doing it solely for that experience. They are also hoping to raise awareness of the impact climate change is having on the frozen continent. That’s a big reason they’ve launched this “zero waste” expedition, along with drawing attention to renewing the Antarctic Treaty by 2048, which if allowed to expire would open continent to commercial development.

Find out more about this undertaking on the Clean2Antarctica website and thanks to my friend Lou-Phi for sharing this story. 

Kraig Becker