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Peak Evolution Sets Solar EV Altitude World Record

The Swiss Peak Evolution team recently set a new world record for the highest elevation achieved in a solar-powered electric vehicle by driving up to 21,325 feet (6,500 meters). The current land vehicle altitude record is held by French race driver Romain Dumas (three-time 24-hour Le Mans winner), driving an off-road adapted Porsche 911 powered by the 443 horsepower, 3.0 liter, 6-cylinder ICE boxer engine, who achieved the altitude of 22,093 feet (6,734 meters) a mere two weeks ahead of the Peak Evolution team.

A David vs Goliath battle was afoot early in December 2023 as both teams set out to conquer Ojos del Salado, the world’s highest volcano, perched at an awe-inspiring altitude of 22,614 feet (6,893 meters) and located on the Argentina-Chile border. The Peak Evolution team had to settle for the EV altitude record as they could not match the elevation achieved by the well-funded Porsche team. We reached out to Peak Evolution and asked why the climb ended where it did and if a loss of traction was the deciding factor.

“We couldn’t keep going because it was too steep and sandy. We had really good tires, 44-inch Nokian Hakkapeliittas, that allowed us to get further than most vehicles, but there was just no way to advance without winch(ing). We had all the equipment to winch our truck up, but in the end, we decided against it. Other expeditions like the Porsche team or the Unimogs (the previous record holders) that tried it a few years ago had big teams, backup vehicles, and nearly unlimited funds. For us, everything was on the line. We worked for three years on this prototype, and our company relies on it. Also, we would have been stuck up there with -20°C [temperatures] and 60 mph winds with no one to get us down. But we’re confident that no campervan with a fully equipped kitchen and running water has ever made it that far and probably won’t for a while.”

This angle of the story interests us the most. Could an independent, three-person team push the limits and achieve what would have been impossible a few years ago? Essentially, they drove a solar-powered EV overland camper up the side of a volcano, which leads us to the question, what could such a vehicle achieve in everyday overland travel? The possibilities are nearly endless, and instead of being limited by the availability of fossil fuels, this vehicle, and others like it, could eventually carry travelers across continents relying on solar and conventional EV charging.

In the overland world, this achievement is akin to a man walking on the moon, and unlike the now record-holding Porsche, this vehicle could potentially drive on the moon. One great advantage of driving an EV at high elevation is that electric motors do not require oxygen. This begs the question: is an altitude record attempt in a solar-powered electric vehicle a pointless exercise? Perhaps not.

Pushing the boundaries with a solar-powered electric vehicle at high elevations can drive advancements in solar technology, battery efficiency, and vehicle design, and these innovations can trickle down to consumer vehicles and other solar-powered applications.

Demonstrating the capabilities of solar-powered vehicles in extreme conditions can reinforce the viability of renewable energy sources, supporting efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. And, while an EV does not require oxygen for fuel combustion, high-altitude conditions present unique challenges (like reduced air pressure and extreme temperatures) that can test and ultimately improve the durability and efficiency of solar panels and electric vehicle systems.

How did David Pröschel, David Koller, and Patrick Koller gear up for the formidable high-altitude challenge? Their journey began with acquiring and transforming a 4WD Aebi VT450 turbo-diesel transporter from the Swiss company Aebi Schmidt Group. The team skillfully reengineered the VT450 to be powered by two electric motors and charged by solar energy, ensuring it could endure the rigors of extreme elevations and frigid temperatures while keeping its environmental impact low.

DDP Innovations (an acronym for David, David, and Patrick) utilized advanced electrical components from leading companies like Bosch and Eco-Volta. The Terren electric drive system powers the vehicle, typically used for municipal and agricultural functions. It is propelled by two motors, each delivering 120 kilowatts, roughly 161 horsepower.

The team added a composite panel structure to the frame, serving as the mobile camper and transporting supplies and tools. It weighs 8,157 pounds when empty and can support a maximum load of approximately 20,944 pounds. The entire vehicle is slightly shorter but wider than a standard full-sized pickup truckmeasuring 16 feet 5 inches in length and 7 feet 3 inches in width.

One notable drawback of the record-breaking Terren is its top speed, electronically limited to 28mph, as the vehicle is registered as a tractor in Switzerland. While this speed might be adequate for trail and off-road travel, it’s useless for highway driving. However, the DDF team has assured us the top speed will, in the future, be limited to an almost respectable 56 mph.

An essential aspect of the Terren is its battery quick-change system. The system splits the battery into two modules, allowing for swift replacements. One module can be charged to 80 percent in just one hour under ideal conditions. The Terren is equipped with external power connections that allow the vehicle to perform tasks typically reliant on a generator, with a continuous output of 15 kilowatts.

Swiss filmmaker Claudio von Planta has been documenting the Peak Evolution record attempt. We know von Planta for his global work and contributions to various adventure shows, including the motorcycle series Long Way Round, Long Way Down, and Long Way Up, featuring Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.

This record-breaking endeavor has demonstrated the ability of a solar-powered electric vehicle to navigate challenging terrain in remote places. However, we are still some distance from achieving worldwide energy-independent overland travel.


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Graeme Bell is an author and explorer who has dedicated his life to traveling the planet by land, seeking adventure and unique experiences. Together with his wife and two children, Graeme has spent the last decade living permanently on the road in a self-built Land Rover based camper. They have explored 27 African countries (including West Africa), circumnavigated South America, and driven from Argentina to Alaska, which was followed by an exploration of Europe and Western Asia before returning to explore the Americas. Graeme is the Senior Editor 4WD for Expedition Portal, a member of the Explorers Club, the author of six books, and an Overland Journal contributor since 2015. You can follow Graeme's adventures across the globe on Instagram at graeme.r.bell