A Dutch couple planning to drive a vehicle constructed entirely out of recycled plastic and fueled by solar energy has completed preliminary test runs for their voyage in Iceland, RÚV reports. Edwin and Liesbeth ter Velde say that the country’s “rough and tough” weather and terrain “gives us an impression what we can expect on the South Pole.”
In mid-November, the couple plans to drive their ‘Sun Voyager’ 2,300 km from Antarctica’s base camp to the South Pole in the hopes of raising awareness about the Antarctic Treaty, which protects the continent from commercial exploitation and which is set to expire in 2048. The 16-meter [85.3 ft] vehicle weighs only about 800 kilo [1,763 lbs], is powered by ten solar panels on its roof, and equipped with vacuum pipes that help melt the ice as it moves across the punishing Antarctic desert.
During the recent test runs in Iceland, however, Edwin and Liesbeth discovered a handful of mechanical issues with the Sun Voyager. “Failing is okay because you can learn from it, and that’s what we did,” reads a blog post on their website. “But it’s a different thing still to turn your learnings into results. We have a real challenge in front of us. That’s confronting and uncomfortable, exactly what we’re about.”
Edwin and Liesbeth consulted with Emil Grimsson, the CEO of Iceland’s Arctic Trucks, on their vehicle and the changes that they’ve made to it. The company has since become an official partner of the ‘Clean2Antartica’ venture. “Naturally, it’s much more complicated than people realize when they get started on something like this with such enthusiasm. So we’ve taken on this expedition and are responsible for it. And we’re sending vehicles along with them for support,” he said.
The Sun Voyager can drive at a maximum speed of 8.5 km/hour, although Liesbeth explained that it is most efficient to drive it at about 4 or 5 km/hr. At that speed, it will take the couple 42 days to complete their journey. They expect to reach the South Pole by December 10th or 11th. You can read more about the project on the Clean2Antartica website, here.