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Swiss team to attempt record high-altitude drive with solar truck

The Aebi Schmidt electric, solar-powered truck pictured with David Koller and Patrik Koller from the Gebrüder Weiss Peak Evolution team, together with Gebrüder Weiss air and sea branch manager Katharina Zimmerling and digital communications team leader Vanessa Hafner

In addition to the solar photovoltaic modules installed on the truck’s roof, there are mobile, extendable modules providing additional power supply during sunny hours

The expedition equipment will be shipped together with the vehicle from Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, to San Antonio, in Chile, in a 12.2 m high-cube container

5th October 2023

By: Donna Slater

Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer


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In an attempt to set a new world record for driving a wheeled vehicle to the highest altitude possible, a team of three men from Switzerland are preparing to reach the summit of the Ojos Del Salado volcano, in the barren Atacama region of Chile using an electric, solar-powered special purpose truck.

Reaching high elevations using a vehicle with a conventional internal combustion engine is challenging because of the low volumes of oxygen present at high altitudes, thereby presenting problems in the form of increasingly degraded engine power as altitudes increase.

Developing, refining and eventually driving the solar-powered truck up the volcano, the Peak Evolution Team – comprising David Pröschel, Patrik Koller and David Koller – want to conquer the summit of the volcano, which at a height of 6 893 m, is the highest active volcano on Earth.

Through embarking on the record-setting expedition, they intend to prove the efficiency and capability of alternative and green drive technologies.

Pröschel and the Kollers took nearly four years to develop the truck and have been assisted by the team’s main sponsor and logistics partner, logistics company Gebrüder Weiss.

The slopes of the Ojos Del Salado volcano have been the scene of two previous such high-altitude record-setting attempts, with local Chileans Gonzalo Bravo and Eduardo Canales having reached an altitude of 6 688 m in their modified, 1986 Suzuki Samurai on April 21, 2007; and a team of ten people in two Mercedes Benz heavy-duty Unimog trucks having reached an elevation of 6 694 m on December 13, 2019.

The Unimog team of ten installed a system of emergency radio units for mountaineers on the volcano.

The vehicle due to be used in the latest attempt is based on a multipurpose truck by Aebi Schmidt, powered by two electric motors with a combined power of 380 hp and with 240 kW of torque.

Powering the truck are solar photovoltaic modules totalling 42 m2, providing as much as 7.4 kW of output.

Gebrüder Weiss corporate brand strategy and communications head Frank Haas notes that, although being hindered with a limited payload capacity that limits its carrying capabilities, the solar-powered truck shows a “completely new direction” in which the automotive industry will be able to move with alternative drivetrains in the future.

The solar-powered truck has more traction capacity than an average 40 t truck and has a special use case in rough terrain.

“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,” says Peak Evolution team codeveloper and finance head Patrik Koller.

He adds that the expedition will show the commercial viability of the product the Peak Evolution Team has developed.

Gebrüder Weiss have also assisted in handling the shipping of the truck from Switzerland to Chile by sea. The transport requires comprehensive expertise and flexibility, since electrically powered vehicles are considered hazardous goods. As such, Gebrüder Weiss developed a double container floor that secures the expedition equipment and enables the disconnection of the truck’s battery.

To document the expedition, the Peak Evolution team will be accompanied by a documentary film team headed by award-winning Swiss filmmaker Claudio von Planta.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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