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TECHNOLOGICAL WATCH

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Clean2Antartica to drive solar powered 3D printed plastic vehicle to the South Pole

Nov 6, 2018 | By Thomas

Liesbeth and Edwin ter Velde of are preparing to drive the Solar Voyager, an electric vehicle built from upcycled, 3D-printed plastic components and powered entirely by solar power, all the way to the South Pole.

The project is part of the Dutch couple’s support for a zero waste lifestyle. They will drive from their base camp on the southernmost continent to one of the coldest places on Earth — Antarctica. The expedition is expected to take 30 days and will kick off in less than a month on Nov. 28, 2018.

As they explained: “Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s ice and belongs to no one. It is zero waste by law, making it the perfect destination for a zero waste adventure. We can learn from Antarctica and make sure it stays that way. We also want to raise awareness for the Antarctic treaty. If not extended in 2048, the continent will be opened for commercial exploitation.”

The Solar Voyager weighs 1,485 kg (3,274 lb) and measures 16 m (52 ft) long. To build the Solar Voyager out of plastic waste, the couple designed a new hexagonal building block known as a HexCore using recycled materials. "We shredded pieces and melted it into the filament that feeds 3D printers," stated the team. "Then we took it to the next level and did it on industrial scale, using recycled pellets from a waste plant. With forty 3D printers we printed 4000 HexCores. A building block inspired by the honeycomb, designed to be light and strong.” Around 200kg of recycled plastic was used for the chassis alone. Those building blocks were then combined to form the structure of their electric vehicle.

The Solar Voyager is powered by the sun by ten solar panels to ensure the journey is sustainable. It moves along at a blistering 8 km/h (5 mph). That slow speed maximizes efficiency of the power generated by the solar panels.

The Solar Voyager consists of a cab large enough for two people and two trailers on eight special soft tires which feature reinforcement nets to enable more floatation. The trailers supports 10 bifacial solar panels and also carry enough food for 47 days. Each panel measures nearly 19 square feet and weighs about 25 kilograms. In case of emergencies, the vehicle will be equipped with two 60-kilogram batteries with a total power of 10 kWh. The team isn’t lugging along heavy water though. The couple has also included acuum solar tubes that melt snow for drinking water. Infrared windows are also installed in the cab, which help to absorb sunlight and keep the cab warm.

The expedition starts in November. The explorers will make a journey of 2,400 kilometres across an icy desert to the South Pole and back.

“If driving to the South Pole on solar power was our ultimate goal, we would still be proud of our mission because no one has ever done it before and the technology we developed can become a prototype for Antarctic research drones,” the couple said. “However, it’s not about technology but about starting experiments and discovering what’s possible with waste. To reach a circular society, we need to start doing things differently. Our expedition is an example how far you can get when you simply start doing things differently instead of talking about abstract solutions.”

The Solar Voyager will be followed by a support group of 3 people who will film and only intervene in case of an emergency.

 

 

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, technological development and demonstration (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [606572].

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