Solar Voyager forced to abandon mission

Weather stops plastic waste car reaching South Pole

A car made from waste plastic has been forced to abort its mission to the South Pole because of bad weather.

Solar Voyager was set to be the first solar-powered expedition to reach the world’s most southernmost point.

But despite it being Antarctica’s summer, unexpected heavy snow has meant progress has been slow, and now the team have had to turn around.

The team from Holland say they’ve still achieved their main mission: to prove plastic waste can be put to good use, though they’d rather people avoided using single-use plastic altogether.

A vehicle built from plastic waste, powered by the sun. Source: Clean2Antarctica



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Brad Blase
December 19, 2018 10:05 am

Unfortunately, they tried to drive it where the sun don’t shine (all of the time)…

Bryan A
Reply to  Brad Blase
December 19, 2018 10:19 am

And here it was I thought that they were purposefully driving as to keep the solar panels aimed at the sun (in circles)

Harry Passfield
Reply to  Bryan A
December 19, 2018 10:48 am

Disappearing up their own a…

Reply to  Harry Passfield
December 19, 2018 11:12 am

. . . they’d have been much better off sticking with their sets and props.

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  Wrusssr
December 19, 2018 6:00 pm

This confirms that travelling by foot is still superior to solar pv travel.

Bryan A
Reply to  Wrusssr
December 20, 2018 9:55 am

Well…Solar only stands a chance of functioning 1 day per year in Antarctica

Reply to  Brad Blase
December 19, 2018 12:24 pm

In the Antarctic summer, the sun does shine all the time. But it doesn’t shine much and when it’s snowing, nearly none at all.

Reply to  DHR
December 19, 2018 2:44 pm

But who would have expected heavy snow in Antarctica! It is summer! And there is global warming!

Reply to  Brad Blase
December 19, 2018 5:13 pm

And what about the katabatic winds down there – they would probably catch the solar panels and blow the lightweight plastic trailers to hell.
I wonder where the hundreds of thousands of $ for this loopy ‘research’ project came from. Oh – the taxpayers of course.

Ian Macdonald
Reply to  Brad Blase
December 19, 2018 9:31 pm

“..but the seller told us that these ‘new, super’ solar panels STILL GIVE SIGNIFICANT OUTPUT IN CLOUDY CONDITIONS!!”

Significant, as in a significant digit less?

Dave Ward
Reply to  Ian Macdonald
December 20, 2018 3:11 am

I once used a small panel to (try and) keep some batteries charged, and installed a simple digital amp-meter to monitor the output. On a bright summers day a single cumulus cloud would reduce the output by 30-40%, and an overcast summers day would be more like a 50-60% reduction. As for a gloomy winter day – 10% of the nominal output, if I was lucky…

Reply to  Ian Macdonald
December 20, 2018 9:24 am

I don’t think they had a inclination of thought!

Reply to  Brad Blase
December 19, 2018 10:46 pm

I think it has been less than 48 hours since I noted that if they are unlucky, they may have close to zero help from solar power, since cloudy weather is more the rule than the exception down there.
I winder how the wind was in those snow storms they hit?
200 mph would seem to make headway difficult in a vehicle like that.

Reply to  Menicholas
December 20, 2018 9:22 am

Given the size of the sails, I mean solar panels, 200mph from the side should be enough to flip the whole thing over.

December 19, 2018 10:07 am

Oh dear. What a shame. Never mind🤮

John Robertson
December 19, 2018 10:07 am

That was quick.
Survival rate of these projects is diminishing at an exponential rate?

Curious George
Reply to  John Robertson
December 19, 2018 10:58 am

They gave up. Mission accomplished.

Will the motor and the drive train made from waste plastic be shown in a museum?

Reply to  Curious George
December 20, 2018 9:08 am

No, it’ll end up floating in the Pacific. 🙂

Bruce Hall
Reply to  John Robertson
December 19, 2018 11:14 am

This could be considered “proof of concept”, but it also demonstrates that considerably more is required to make the concept into something feasible for mass consumption. Recycling plastic is not a new effort and nothing was proven by that; solar panels are not a new product and the only thing that was demonstrated was their limitations. This is similar to the solar car races in Australia where large, ungainly vehicles seating one person race across the desert using solar power to charge batteries to run a motor to turn the wheels. That’s a long way from a truck with a 1,000 lb. payload in its bed.

Bob Hoye
December 19, 2018 10:09 am

It seems they got the vehicle out of there.

Reply to  Bob Hoye
December 19, 2018 11:08 am

By using fossil-fueled vehicles of course

M__ S__
December 19, 2018 10:12 am

It’s tough to design equipment for polar conditions, not just cold, but the winds and the hazardous terrain—snow chasms.

December 19, 2018 10:12 am

Of course, someone will blame the heavy snow on AGW.

Andrew Burnette
December 19, 2018 10:13 am

“…when it’s possible on Antarctica, it’s also possible at your own home.”
She tries to equate going solar-only in the desert of Antarctica to going solar-only at home? She only made it for 30-days! That’s pathetic (both the performance and the quote).

M Courtney
Reply to  Andrew Burnette
December 19, 2018 1:23 pm

Especially when you have nights in the Netherlands but perpetual daytime in Antarctica at this time of year.

James Clarke
December 19, 2018 10:13 am

I am not impressed. Decades ago, Andy Griffith went to the moon and back for profit! He used junk and his own money to make it happen. Virtue signalling wasn’t even a thing back then! Oh…the good ole days.

Bob boder
Reply to  James Clarke
December 19, 2018 10:53 am

i used to watch that show forgot all about it

Reply to  James Clarke
December 19, 2018 11:44 pm

Watching that made me want to go play Kerbal Space Program.


December 19, 2018 10:14 am

Now clean up the mess!! Pack your trash out.

Thomas Homer
December 19, 2018 10:14 am

In the video they claim that since they were able to drive around in a solar powered car in Antarctica for 30 days that anyone can power their lives with solar power.

Why are we still shipping oil to Antarctica?

Neil Jordan
Reply to  Thomas Homer
December 19, 2018 10:48 am

Because the nuclear power station there was decommissioned.
Only a milli\sarc on this reply. At least the reactor operated for ten years instead of just a month for the solar panels.

Reply to  Thomas Homer
December 19, 2018 12:27 pm

Unfortunately current human lifespans are greater than 30 days, but they are working on that.
BTW there is a BIG difference between surviving and thriving.

Reply to  Thomas Homer
December 19, 2018 1:41 pm

Some details from their blog are missing but in the 9 December report, that had only traveled 40 kilometers.

Dog sleds would have been several times more efficient. Essentially, they proved that hope, change and idealism are no match for inconvenient truths like; low power density, savage cold, and misconceived notions.

But hey; as true deniers, their nonsensical attempt is billed as a success. Meanwhile, back on Earth, real people search for solutions to plastic waste problems.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  RobR
December 19, 2018 2:45 pm

Unless you are running the Iditarod, you are going to do about 45 km tops with a dog team, considering camp set up and breakdown, and the care the dogs require.

Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
December 19, 2018 3:31 pm

That’s a remarkable pace. Amundsen did it with dogs and low-tech clothing in 1912.

Dave Fair
Reply to  RobR
December 19, 2018 3:39 pm

“Meanwhile, back on Earth, real people search for solutions to plastic waste problems.”

Such as severely punishing the Asian countries that are dumping most of it into our oceans.

But noooo … we ban straws in places that don’t dump them. There are plenty of holes in the ground looking for some good plastic fill.

Reply to  Dave Fair
December 19, 2018 8:38 pm

Chemistry and biochemistry will solve this problem.

Reply to  RobR
December 20, 2018 3:07 pm

Pardon me if I’m intruding but didn’t Scott survive for some time eating the dogs? I don’t think eating recycled plastic is particularly nourishing. Just an observation of some of the issues in surviving one of the most inhospitable locations on earth. Maybe I need the /sarc tag here.

Reply to  RetiredEE
December 20, 2018 4:15 pm

No, Scott starved because he didn’t use dogs. He used ponies which were totally unsuited to the weather and died, and he ended up man-hauling.

Amundsen, on the other hand, trained with the Inuit on sled dogs and used 5em well. He did deliberately plan on eating about half the dogs on the way back to save on hauling dog rations. (He also deliberately let them access the latrine. Dogs will eat and can extract nourishment from human feces).

son of mulder
December 19, 2018 10:15 am

You’d think it would have caterpillar tracks if it was a serious attempt.

[You should fix typo in your email~mod]

Richard Patton
Reply to  son of mulder
December 19, 2018 12:20 pm

Maybe he meant it exactly as he wrote. LOL

December 19, 2018 10:17 am

Global warming causes science projects (virtue signaling) to fail.

December 19, 2018 10:20 am

These people keep telling us global warming will produce more snow. Don’t they read their own propaganda?

Garland Lowe
Reply to  Oldseadog
December 19, 2018 10:41 am

That was after they told us “snow will become a thing of the past”.
Climate theologians can have their cake and eat it too.

Peter Morris
December 19, 2018 10:24 am

So they just thought Mother Nature would be amenable to their virtue signaling?

This is so anti-science it makes my head hurt.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 19, 2018 10:27 am

The should have consulted with Hyundai. They re-created the failed Shackleton expedition with modified Santa Fe’s and staffed by descendents of the original expedition members. It was really smart PR and the best part was: just like the original, nobody died.

There are a bunch of write-ups; one sample is here.

There also youtube videos. If I get the HTML right, one will be below:

[Santa Fe’s? .mod]

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 19, 2018 10:36 am

Found a better youtube video:

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 19, 2018 10:43 am

Damn; I can’t get the embed code right. Try this:

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
December 19, 2018 10:56 am

Looks like Hyundai is trying to sell cars to all the Antarctica climate scientists.

December 19, 2018 10:30 am

Imagine, snow in Antarctica…..

December 19, 2018 10:30 am

great, shame it wasn’t a ship full of more Darwin award candidates…

NO SUN, what a suprise, hey we don’t use any fossil fuel except to have people who do get us out of the sh..t!
I’m still curious who pays to get such people out of the Kaka, akademik shokalskiy and all the other dreamers to come.

Dave Bufalo
December 19, 2018 10:31 am

This was predictable. These people failed to do their homework on how to traverse the Antarctic terrain and the usual norm of bad weather. A good read is “Mawson’s Will” , which is how he survived a failed quest to reach the South Pole.

Reply to  Dave Bufalo
December 19, 2018 11:17 am

It was actually a survey trip along the coast towards the east.

David Hood
December 19, 2018 10:34 am

Solar powered huh?
Hmmm…maybe with the size of those panels, it drove around from wind power!!

Kevin Butler
December 19, 2018 10:34 am

“We don’t use any fossil fuels” – except the fossil fuels to get to Antarctica and back. And the fossil fuels to process that waste plastic into a car. And the fossil fuels to produce, process, and ship the food they ate. And…

Reply to  Kevin Butler
December 19, 2018 10:50 am

And the fossil fuels to rescue them..

Ron Long
December 19, 2018 10:34 am

I hope the polar bears don’t eat them before they can be rescued.

David Hood
Reply to  Ron Long
December 19, 2018 10:38 am

Ummm…polar bears???

Reply to  David Hood
December 19, 2018 10:43 am

The winged black version….

Reply to  Krishna Gans
December 19, 2018 11:03 am

Don’t be too hard on Ron L — he was just suffering some momentary cognitive failure, due to the SURGING levels of CO2.

In his right mind, at CO2 levels at the starvation level for plants, he would have correctly realized the real danger to solar drivers in the South Pole — rabid penguins turned into vampires by attacking space aliens.

My cognition is a bit sharper, because I have large numbers of Venus fly traps surrounding me, to which I feed morsels of climate alarmists, as a supplement to their normal fly cuisine.

Off to find something more constructive to say on the next go ’round. (^_^)

Reply to  David Hood
December 19, 2018 10:51 am

Well, David, how about ravenous killer penguins…the raptors of Antarctica, which have evolved that way due to climate change?

Ooh, this could be fun. Guess what their primary food source would be!

Regards and Happy Holidays,

Bob boder
Reply to  Bob Tisdale
December 19, 2018 10:56 am

No bears down south, No penguins up north, i wonder if they have a peace treaty and have divided the world up.

Reply to  Bob boder
December 19, 2018 5:04 pm

I shall blame the Russian bears for meddling in the Arctic-Antiarctic division of the world between those cute white fuzzy cuddly polar bares and the mean screeching waddle-footed winged vegetarian-wanna-be-fish-eating oily-fossil-fueled penguins.

Reply to  Bob Tisdale
December 19, 2018 11:20 am

The only predators that far south are the skuas, which will happily eat just about anything, but won’t attack living prey larger than penguin hatchlings.

Reply to  tty
December 19, 2018 12:34 pm

Leopard seals and orcas patrol those waters, but they won’t attack terrestrial vehicles.
BTW according to accounts from Shackleton’s expeditions penguins are not very tasty.

David Hood
Reply to  Bob Tisdale
December 19, 2018 11:36 am

Well, we could always be un-charitable at this time of year and make the scathing comment that the killer penguins might be eco warriors and be vegetarians – because there ARE a lot of GREENS down in the Antarctic after-all, and we all know its better for the earth if GREENS are consumed!!!

Oh dear – I do have a sick mind.
Now I know what to ask for for Xmas and my resolution on New Years eve.

All the best – for the season, to EVERYONE, even I must say, those which would wish us otherwise – like Prof Todd May.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Bob Tisdale
December 19, 2018 1:57 pm

There were terror birds in South America. Fossils have been found.
They had to come from somewhere. Maybe “terror penguins”?
No fossils of terror penguins have been found because they’re still down there?
(Maybe they took out the South-Polar Bears?)

Reply to  Gunga Din
December 20, 2018 8:21 am

There actually were “Terror-birds” in Antarctica too back in the Eocene, when the continents were connected, but they are only very distantly related to penguins (which already existed back then).

David Guy-Johnson
Reply to  Ron Long
December 19, 2018 10:46 am

Polar bears? Surely you mean the penguins

Timo Soren
Reply to  Ron Long
December 19, 2018 10:48 am

Arktos means bear, (as in the constellations) Hence the origin of Arctic. (not 100% sure on this but I read it someplace.)

Ant-arctic seems to mean (not the arctic) so you can use that to remember.

Antarctic = no bears (literally)
Arctic = bears (literally)

Reply to  Timo Soren
December 19, 2018 11:05 am

Not reall. It comes from greek ἀντι- ‘against, opposite’. So antarctic means opposite to the arctic which it is.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Ron Long
December 19, 2018 10:52 am

Just remember, Penguin down under, no one else can ‘bear’ it!

Reply to  Ron Long
December 19, 2018 12:01 pm

Polar bears? Meh.

Leopard Seals, Killer Whales, maddedned penguins, CAGW0-induced “scientists”?

Which is the most dangerous to life, liberty, and the pursuit of hoppiness?

(Aren’t Penguins the ultimate vegetarians? After all, they eat fish, not “real” meat. /s

Ron Long
Reply to  Ron Long
December 19, 2018 12:07 pm

We’ve been down this road before, with you deniers. I have a refrigerator magnet from Seaworld in Orlando with polar bears and penguins co-existing. Who do you believe, a bunch of amateur scientists/deniers or a refrigerator magnet?

Petit Barde
Reply to  Ron Long
December 19, 2018 1:13 pm

They didn’t even had the chance to encounter THE THING.

Reply to  Ron Long
December 19, 2018 1:23 pm

Ah! I see I’m not the only mad scientist who wants to transplant a polar bear colony to the south pole and a penguin colony to the north!

Kevin Butler
Reply to  Ron Long
December 19, 2018 1:58 pm

While I think Ron Long was “drolling”, he also seems to have succeeded in trolling a bunch of readers.

Ron Long
Reply to  Kevin Butler
December 19, 2018 4:57 pm

That’s right Kevin, I’m bad (and according to my wife getting worse). The magnet from Seaworld is for real and the saleslady told me if was for Antarctica because she was sure there were no penguins at the northpole. She had a pin on her blouse that said “Bryn Mar”, which sounds to me like one of those Scottish secret drinking sociaties.

Reply to  Ron Long
December 20, 2018 2:32 am

Bryn Mar sounds more Welsh to me.
As for the Scottish secret drinking societies, have you been looking into my lounge window from across the river? Shame on you.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Ron Long
December 19, 2018 2:58 pm

Giant Albino Penguins maybe?

Reply to  Craig from Oz
December 20, 2018 8:22 am

A Lovecraft fan I presume?

December 19, 2018 10:39 am

I read, I laughed, and then this.
When I looked at the first pictures with the deep ruts in the snow, I knew they were doomed. There is a reason why virtually all vehicles used in the snow are tracked.
Only truly stupid people would not research the conditions and realize that fact. Being highly educated does not protect you from being stupid. Arrogance is the main symptom. How many more stupid people with virtually no experience, or thinking ability will put themselves and many others at risk?

Roger Knights
Reply to  Doug
December 19, 2018 3:12 pm

Tracked vehicles have higher rolling resistance than pumped-up tires. Solar power wouldn’t have been able to turn tracks as easily.

Russ Wood
Reply to  Doug
December 21, 2018 7:31 am

And, as far as I could see from the photo, the solar panels weren’t STEERABLE! Even in the polar regions, the Sun still moves across the sky! So, seeing as the trailers had fore-and-aft solar panel direction – were they going to point them due North? Which, of course means that they would be going around in a constant-latitude circle…

John Bell
December 19, 2018 10:43 am

I just knew they would not make it, what a silly notion.

Timo Soren
December 19, 2018 10:45 am

People gave gobs of money to fly/ship people and things to Antartica to have a 4 wheel cab apparently pull two trailers across snow on snow-chained wheels.

If it wasn’t built with tracks they are quickly stuck. Note the video does show them trying to shovel the thing out of a drift.

Won’t surprise me if it is abandoned as well (the vehicle). Glad they abandoned the craziness early enough that it didn’t end in fatalities.

Hard for me to believe the heater in that was solar only. 30 days of travel and heat would surprise me. I am not sure that is possible unless they had a bank of 100’s of large deep cycle batteries that were already fully charged when began.

December 19, 2018 10:46 am

“A car made from waste plastic has been forced to abort its mission to the South Pole because of bad weather.”
Bad weather ? …In the Antarctic? And they couldn’t foresee this ? Guess they didn’t use the right “climate Model”…..,D’OH !

December 19, 2018 10:46 am

Betcha didn’t know; The current drought in California is 62 percent more severe than it would have been without human-caused climate change.*

kinda funny, eh?

December 19, 2018 10:48 am

Should have been wind powered … just like in the 1400’s ! PROGRESS!!!

December 19, 2018 10:52 am

Too much snow??? LOL

Bob boder
Reply to  Latitude
December 19, 2018 10:57 am

Not enough global warming you mean

Flight Level
December 19, 2018 10:53 am

Call for sponsors: -Polar expedition on solar quadcopter (when available, if available) entirely made from recycled solar panels model 3 Tesla’s.
Donations of less than 6 figures need not apply.

December 19, 2018 10:58 am

And last summer some idiot tried to sail a solar powered boat through the Northwest Passage. Of course it ended up wrecked on a beach long before even reaching the difficult part. Not that it would have made much difference if it had. Only 2 out of more than 40 yachts and ships made it through this year.

comment image

And now Hurtigrutten (a Norwegian cruise company) claims that they will have a “hybrid electric” cruise ship ready for the NW Passage in 2020. In reality I suppose that it will have ordinary diesel-electric propulsion which is known to be very suitable for ice-breaking vessels, but “hybrid electric” sounds more PC. Though 2020 will have to be a better ice year than 2018, for not a single cruise ship got through this year. One didn’t even make it to the starting-point of the cruise in Resolute.

David Hood
Reply to  tty
December 19, 2018 11:21 am

Oh come on – this is too easy – the diesel engines power the electric generator which charge the batteries which power the electric motors which turn the propellers – so yep – electric cruise ships.

Non Nomen
December 19, 2018 11:08 am

Scientific doomsday.
Will they return their vehicle to base and dispose of it properly or leave it as recycled trash somewhere on the hard antarctic shoulder?

Tom in Florida
December 19, 2018 11:08 am

But it is summer down there. Who knew it would be cold and snowy instead of sunny and pleasant.

December 19, 2018 11:08 am

Also in the museum of epic failures is the world’s slowest circumnavigation: 584 days, using a ship powered by solar photovoltaic cells. .

Reply to  SuffolkBoy
December 19, 2018 11:36 am

Now don’t exaggerate. Magellan was slower.

Reply to  tty
December 19, 2018 11:57 am

Not only that, but he didn’t make it.

Mariano Marini
December 19, 2018 11:33 am

I know it’s OT but did you herd about try to change earth climate through CaCO3 (Calcium Carbonate I suppose).

[As a collective body, the mods will not be stampeded into believing everything they’ve herd about any imagined or real solution to real or imagined counter-CAGW schemes. mod]

E J Zuiderwijk
December 19, 2018 11:41 am

Anyone for a solar powered canoo expedition to the North Pole next summer?

Reply to  E J Zuiderwijk
December 20, 2018 8:25 am

Some idiot actually tried just that through the Northwest Passage last summer. Guess how it went?

December 19, 2018 11:52 am

So how far did they go? No place on earth gets as much sunlight as the south pole in December–546W/m^2 TOA average as I recall. And it’s the the driest desert, 2 miles high, hardly ever snows–takes a million years to get 3km of ice. It’s hard to believe a snow storm did them in. –AGF

Reply to  AGFoster
December 19, 2018 5:31 pm

The South Pole station is obviously at -90 (south) latitude, but it’s significantly lower the Russian’s Vokhotsk Station over at latitude -78.5 south.

Normally, you’d be correct in assuming the beam direct normal irradiation (BDNI) sunlight at the South Pole is higher than anywhere else because the maximum solar TOA radiation is 1410 watts/m^2 in Jan 5 near the southern Solstice on Dec 22, and the North Pole TOA is much lower on July 5 (close to the northern solstice on June 22) at only 1315 watts/m^2. “Average” yearly values of 1/4 these amounts are useless in comparing day-by-totals.

Careful! Beam Horizontal irradiation is what lands on a horizontal sq meter on the earth’s surface at that latiude, elevation and day-of-year. BDNI is only important if your solar panel is rotated up perpendicular to the sun, constantly changing its angle and its vertical axis to track the sun perfectly as the earth rotates. (As if you could continuously control your “radar receiver” to do this on a earth-bound motor vehicle bouncing through snow drifts on an ice highway as the road turns and the earth revolves and the solar elevation angle changes. The hydraulics and antenna arms and turret alone would take substantial weight and power that can’t be used for propulsion….)

So anyway, the sun gradually increases a little bit in power at TOA between 22 Dec and 5 January, but the solar angles each hour decrease. The result is a back-and-forth competition between the South Pole and Vostok station for “most sunlight on earth” over those days. Those rooting for highest sunburn index (“flat power” on a horizontal surface need to look at BHI total for each day. Radar operator turntable and tilt fans should use BDNI. And the North Pole and Greenland icecap at 3000 meters ASL fail far, far behind.

But the Vostok station is at 3489 meters above sea level, substantially higher that the South Pole’s 2835 meters. (And, of course, way above the North mere “sea level” elevation of 1.0) Higher elevation = less atmospheric attenuation. But being away from the pole means slightly lower daily radiation totals, but not very much.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
December 19, 2018 6:42 pm

Long story “sunnary” table follows.

South Pole, Lat = -90, Elev = 2835 meters
DOY   Date    TOA          BDNI-24      BHI-24  
354    20 Dec  1405         22954           9099 
356    22 Dec  1406         22996           9142
358    24 Dec  1407         22999           9139
360    26 Dec   1407        22990           9121
362     28 Dec  1407        22970           9086
364     30 Dec  1408        22937           9034
002     02 Jan   1408       22892           8967
004     04 Jan   1408       22800           8835
006     06 Jan   1408       22718           8726

Vostok,  Lat = -78.5, Elev = 3500 meters
DOY   Date    TOA          BDNI-24        BHI-24  
354    20 Dec   1405       22721           9245
356    22 Dec   1406       22737           9258
358    24 Dec   1407       22740           9256
360    26 Dec   1407       22728           9238
362    28 Dec   1407       22701           9204
364    30 Dec   1408       22660           9155
002    02 Jan   1408       22573           9053
004    04 Jan   1408       22489           8963
006    06 Jan   1408       22389           8858
Bruce Cobb
December 19, 2018 11:54 am

So, to review, they proved:
1) That really cool things can be made from recycled plastic. Yeh, we knew that. You can pretty much make anything you want out of recycled materials. So what? The point is, is it worth it?
2) That solar power works, and can be useful. Sure, we knew that too. But the conditions have to be right, i.e. the sun does in fact need to be shining, with few or no clouds. And again, cost-effectiveness seems not to even be considered, though for the Antarctic, due to the enormous expense and practical difficulties of transporting and hauling fuel, I suppose an argument could be made for the usefulness of solar. But elsewhere, not so much. And it sounds like this thing didn’t have a lot of power, crawling along at 4 mph. One wonders how warm the cabin was (or wasn’t) as well.
3) That Mother Nature can and will thwart man’s grandiose plans, especially those which are ill-considered like this one was.

A G Foster
December 19, 2018 12:10 pm

So what’s the real reason for failure? Probably not a snowstorm in the Antarctic desert of the high plateau, where the sun shines 24 hours a day this time of year–average December TOA insolation is the highest in the world, any month, any place, higher than the north pole by about 20W/m^2 (closer to the sun). And at 3km high not too much is lost in the air. This machine must not have got very high. –AGF

A G Foster
December 19, 2018 12:12 pm

(I thought the internet ate my first comment.)

John F. Hultquist
December 19, 2018 12:16 pm

Much of the new Apple MacBook and Mac mini are recycled materials, including plastic and aluminum.

So, “ their main mission: to prove plastic waste can be put to good use,…” was a total waste of time, money, and effort.
Quite a cost with no benefit.

December 19, 2018 12:30 pm

Instead of making the solar panels bi-faced, why not just design them so they can be flipped over?

Reply to  MarkW
December 19, 2018 1:37 pm

That seems to me to be a design flaw where at best 50% of your panels are of some marginal use. I guess weight and wasted resources didn’t factor in as a design spec.

Reply to  AWG
December 19, 2018 3:44 pm

Giving them a HUGE benefit of the doubt, perhaps the panels on the other side were expected to collect some of the energy being reflected off the snow.

Reply to  MarkW
December 19, 2018 7:50 pm


Remember, they MUST drive “straight” towards the south pole.

From their perspective, the sun is revolving around their PV-vehicle.

SO, from their perspective, they can either mount their solar cells on a revolving tray and support to continuously track the sun,
or mount their (single) solar PV panel on a revolving tray and manually travel around the vehicle as it bounces and drives along the “straight” road towards the south pole,
or they can mount two cells vertically (one on each side of the vehicle) and reduce PC panel weight and mounting complexity and “hope” the sun will shine on one side at a time as it rotates around them in its 24-hour “day” down there,
or they can mount 4x panel vertically and try to get “some” usable power from each quadrant as the sun rotates around them each hour of each day, regardless of which directly they are traveling that minute or which angle the sun is at that hour and that day.

That latter would be my choice. But it requires 4x panels. But carrying 2x vertical panels wastes absolutely 1/2 of your panels, 1/2 of your weight and load.

Yes, “some” energy is re-reflected from the sun off the snow and ice around your vehicle. But that is diffuse light, notoriously bad for PV power and concentrating cell PV panels. Far better to have 4x panels, get ALL the sun ALL 24 hours, regardless of the road direction or sun angle, and get TWICE the reflected solar power form the snow and ice around 360 degrees of the vehicle.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
December 19, 2018 8:31 pm

Antarctica has enough mountain ranges, that driving straight towards the pole all of the time gets difficult.

Reply to  MarkW
December 19, 2018 9:19 pm

Oh, so true. But let us pretend it can be done, starting Nov 30.

Date	DOY	Lat	Elev	TOA	BDNI	BHI	DHI	GHI    Diffuse DHI
of Trip	of Trip	at 2400	at 2400	w/m^2	w-hrs	w-hrs	w-hrs	w-hrs	w-hrs
30	334	77.83	10	1399	17,224	6819	1773	8592	4705
2	336	78.64	198	1400	17,856	7049	1848	8897	4864
4	338	79.45	387	1401	18,445	7274	1917	9192	5019
6	340	80.26	575	1401	18,988	7493	1981	9474	5170
8	342	81.07	763	1402	19,491	7702	2040	9741	5314
10	344	81.89	952	1403	19,957	7901	2094	9994	5451
12	346	82.70	1140	1404	20,385	8086	2142	10229	5579
14	348	83.51	1328	1404	20,779	8258	2187	10445	5698
16	350	84.32	1517	1405	21,143	8415	2228	10664	5807
18	352	85.13	1705	1405	21,476	8556	2266	10822	5904
20	354	85.94	1893	1406	21,781	8681	2300	10981	5990
22	356	86.75	2082	1406	22,061	8788	2332	11121	6064
24	358	87.56	2270	1407	22,315	8877	2362	11239	6125
26	360	88.37	2458	1407	22,525	8948	2389	11337	6174
28	362	89.19	2647	1408	22,753	9001	2414	11414	6211
30	364	90.00	2835	1408	22,937	9034	2436	11470	6334

Each day’s “total” radiation is the sum of each hour’s irradiation for that day’s latitude and day-of-year and elevation. Watt-hours. Elevation each day is in meters. every other day, starting Nov 30, DOY = 334, is assuming an equal distance distance traveled south (towards the pole) and “up” to the elevation of the South Pole.

Typical efficiency of a PV panel receiving direct beam normal radiation is 16 – 18%, typical efficiency of a solar panel receiving “diffuse” radiation is 10-12%. So 21,000 watt-hrs in 24 hours direct radiation = 21 kW-hrs/6 = 3.5 kW-hrs going to the motor or battery. IF (and ONLY IF) the panel is kept directly aimed at the sun ALL 24 hours!

Looking at the actual (pretend) numbers, the best thing they could have done is put vertical PV panels on all four sides of the “roof”. Those 4x panels would pick up the BDNI (beam direct normal irradiation) regardless of where the car is driving or the sun is.
Then, add a diffuse-capable FLAT 2 meter sq solar panel on the roof above the 4x vertical panels. This would collect ALL of the GHI (global horizontal irradiation) coming from above, again regardless of where the sun is or the car is heading. PLUS, it would a collect a portion of the diffuse horizontal radiation coming from ALL directions of the compass EVERY day, regardless of whether clouds or haze or clear sky were present.

But I’m just an engineer with a spreadsheet for latitude, elevation, and day-of-year.

Reply to  AWG
December 19, 2018 7:51 pm

AWG – See longer explanation below, in MarkW’s answer.
Bottom line? You’re right.

Non Nomen
Reply to  MarkW
December 19, 2018 2:11 pm

Wouldn’t they get an optimal yield with ball-shaped solar cells, or oval ones?

Reply to  Non Nomen
December 19, 2018 7:12 pm

Non Nomen

Nasty question. There are no “good” answers. Every oz (well, gram) of weight you add has to be pulled by the motor, adds friction, add wind resistance (if on a panel sticking up), and has to be :pulled uphill” to the end at the South Pole (elev 2835) from McMurdo (elev 10 meters, lat 77.833 south) .
A writer above claimed 1600 km, claims only 1353 km, if done in 30 days, that would be 45.1 km/day.
Let’s simply to 45 km/day, and somehow assume the drivers will be steadily going uphill the whole time, be able to go in a straight line, and “never” be in the shade or in a canyon trying to climb up ice hills, or be behind clouds. We will ignore the power needed to “lift” everything uphill that far, and ignore the efficiency of the solar cells and the motor and the tires as they skid and slip. Let’s try to find out how much solar energy is actually available to them.

In other words, a climatologists’ assumptions for PV power for the world, right? /sarchasm

77.8 latitude to 90 latitude = 12.2 degrees latitude, .4066 degrees per day.
Checking things, 1 deg latitude = 111.7 km at the poles (is north pole same as south pole? Earth is really an oblate spherois with different radii at both ends. I digress. They failed. Which is worse waste of money and time?) .40666 x 111.7 = 45.42 km/day. Close enough.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
December 19, 2018 7:39 pm

To continue, since I’m calculating this as we speak, this would be each “start of travel at 0600 each morning”, if the trip began at McMurdo on day 0, and continued until day 30 on Dec 30 this year.
Now remember, they MUST travel this far each day or they will fail.
They MUST go uphill this far every day, or they will fail.
Two things help them: The elevation increases, so the atmosphericc attentuation each hour reduces. More PV power!
The TOA radiation levels increase slightly each day (now – Going back to Mcurdo they will get much less TOA radiation!)
The sun is “revolving” around them as they drive straight. For PV cells, ONLY the single group of cells directly aimed at the sun will generate usable power! Every other cell is dead weight that must be dragged uphill, and dead weight that inceases tire drag, increase snow resistance, and which the PV-powered motor must pull uphill. And its wires, its frame, and its nuts and botls and connectors and fuses and panels…..

Day	DOY	Lat	Elev	TOA	BDNI-24	BHI-24
Trip		at 0600	at 0600	w/m^2   w-hrs	w-hrs
0	334	77.83	10	1399		
2	336	78.64	198	1400		
4	338	79.45	387	1401		
6	340	80.26	575	1401		
8	342	81.07	763	1402		
10	344	81.89	952	1403		
12	346	82.70	1140	1404		
14	348	83.51	1328	1404		
16	350	84.32	1517	1405		
18	352	85.13	1705	1405		
20	354	85.94	1893	1406		
22	356	86.75	2082	1406		
24	358	87.56	2270	1407		
26	360	88.37	2458	1407		
28	362	89.19	2647	1408		
30	364	90.00	2835	1408		

Non Nomen
Reply to  RACookPE1978
December 20, 2018 12:03 am

Thanks for your reply. From your data I can see that it was a really nasty question. Some additional thoughts are that during antarctic summer the sun shines almost 24h/d, unless there is cloud coverage. The yield ought to increase. Under the inclement conditions of the antarctic, the mechanical components of such a vehicle undergo quite a lot more of mechanical stress, so I assume. They have to be reinforced to ensure proper operations. Doesn’t that compensate?
Wind influence can be so strong that it is impossible to direct flat panels to a somewhat optimal sun position, altough it is possible by means of max/min detectors to optimize that. There seems to be no alternative but to do it as the ancient sailors did in their sailing ships, adapt to wx, wind and sun. That increases the duration of these trips.
It seems to me that this is a problem pretty hard to solve w/o compromises and adaptation.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Non Nomen
December 20, 2018 11:48 am

“… compromises and adaptation.” You are asking a lot from people who tend to do neither, Non Nomen.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
December 20, 2018 8:49 am

If they started from McMurdo they would be on the Ross shelf ice running horizontally on flat easy shelf ice without crevasses, almost at sea level for about 400 miles, then comes a difficult uphill haul about 7000 feet over 120 miles up the Beardmore glacier, fairly rugged glacier ice with crevasses. Then they are up on the plateau with only a very slight uphill slope for about another 400 miles, also fairly easy going, but not as easy as down on the shelf.

This is generally considered the optimal route and was used by Shackleton and Scott. Amundsen started further east which gave him a longer run on the shelf and a shorter one on the physically demanding plateau (colder, thin air), but at the cost of a much more difficult route up the Transantarctic Mountains. It has not been used since as far as I know.

December 19, 2018 12:30 pm

“The team from Holland say they’ve still achieved their main mission: to prove plastic waste can be put to good use, though they’d rather people avoided using single-use plastic altogether.”

Apparently these guys never heard of polar fleece, some (or a lot) of which is made from discarded plastic bottles. I’d bet a lot of them were wearing fleece to keep warm. Cheers –

December 19, 2018 12:35 pm

At the South Pole, the highest temperature ever recorded was −12.3 °C (9.9 °F) on 25 December 2011.
How did these plastic fools escape? Why in their diesel powered backup trucks.

December 19, 2018 1:06 pm

“The team from Holland say they’ve still achieved their main mission: to prove plastic waste can be put to good use”

I’m sorry, what good use would that be? To prove there is no end to means by which one can waste other people’s money? I don’t think they accomplished anything of any value to anyone.

December 19, 2018 1:15 pm

It looks like the design assumed only light breezes during the trip.

December 19, 2018 1:45 pm

So this latest attempt at virtue signalling failed because the weather was against them. Perhaps they can try wind power next time and get to the South Pole that way. They can use sheet plastic sails.

December 19, 2018 2:11 pm

It doesn’t burn any fossil fuel and it doesn’t work. Solar was a bad choice. I think nuclear would be a better choice.

December 19, 2018 2:27 pm

To most Dutch people any excuse for saving money, then telling others how much smarter they are than other people is seen as an art form.
Please don’t blame them for the exaggerations they have to make because they live in a predominantly desperately boring flat country, but are allowed to smoke as much weed as they like when they like.
This adventure was pure Dutch art at its finest,-

It probably started on one those weekend they had smoked so much of it, a crackpot adventure in some kool summer place (above sea level for a change) just sounded like a great inspirational idea, then you know what Euphoria comes with high altitude working…eh?

Craig from Oz
December 19, 2018 3:19 pm

Okay, bit worried here.

8kph max speed and food for 47 days.

Now my quick research suggests the quickest way to the south pole is the McMurdo–South Pole Highway which is 1601km long, which in return suggests a 3202km round trip. Assuming nothing goes wrong and they drive 24 hours a day at best speed (8kph) this will take just under 17 days, giving 30 days of food to binge on when they get back to the coast.

However if anything goes wrong, or they can’t drive 24 hours a day, or can’t make 8kph for extended periods…

Dunno, maybe they were planning to barter some fresh food along the way from the penguins.

December 19, 2018 3:33 pm

This summer brings some heavy warming to parts of Antarctica. This is also the reason for the heavy snowfall. Look at the temp change from those surface winds crossing deep into the continent. I have never seen it like this in 4 years of paying attention to the daily changes. …,-92.34,672/loc=-62.152,-83.819

Reply to  goldminor
December 20, 2018 8:56 am

What you are seeing is föhn, which is characterized by exceptionally low humidity, not snowfall:,-83.10,3000/loc=-38.647,-82.595

Reply to  tty
December 20, 2018 3:52 pm

Thanks for explaining that part.

Gerald Machnee
December 19, 2018 3:52 pm

And that shows exactly how solar would work here in the winter – we would freeze.

December 19, 2018 3:58 pm

‘But despite it being Antarctica’s summer, unexpected heavy snow has meant progress has been slow, and now the team have had to turn around.’

Are the solar panels facing the wrong direction now?

‘The team from Holland say they’ve still achieved their main mission: to prove plastic waste can be put to good use’

Wut? What good use?

Gotta hand it to BBC, though. At least they announced the failure. Usually, nothing is said when all the Green Fair plans don’t work out.

Reply to  Gamecock
December 19, 2018 8:35 pm

That plastic waste can be re-purposed has never been in doubt. Companies have been doing that for decades.
Whether large scale recovery and re-use is an economical idea is much still in doubt.

December 19, 2018 4:15 pm

I thought this was the space probe that is going to orbit the sun. I’m so easily confused.

Reply to  Tommyboy
December 19, 2018 6:24 pm

That was my first thought too.

Reply to  Tommyboy
December 20, 2018 9:57 am

Well, it might not be something in outer space, but it sure is something way out in left field.

Tony Price
December 19, 2018 4:53 pm

I hope they put the remains in the correct recycling bin. Collections every 10 years (on a Wednesday).

Jeff Alberts
December 19, 2018 6:49 pm

“most southernmost”


Eric Barnes
December 19, 2018 7:10 pm

Put 3 generators on that thing with an ample supply of diesel and that thing might actually be somewhat useful. What a waste.

December 19, 2018 8:10 pm

But the computer model guaranteed that it would work!

December 20, 2018 5:00 am

maybe they could put a waterhweel on it n try to get to the nth pole?
be a damned good laugh
as it is its been amusing, if brief.

Dr. Strangelove
December 20, 2018 7:31 am

What the Solar Voyager proved is they can go faster and farther if they threw away the solar panels and used the plastic waste as fuel. Gasification will convert it to syngas then to methanol, the fuel of Indy 500 cars. Voyager weighs 1.48 tonnes. One tonne of plastic produces about a tonne of methanol. At about half the heating value of gasoline and 30 mpg fuel consumption of gasoline car, one tonne of methanol can go 5,000 miles. Throw away the solar panels. They just add weight to the methanol car.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
December 20, 2018 7:16 pm

Pyrolysis and steam reforming of polyethylene to syngas:
(C2H4)n + 2n H2O = 2n CO + 4n H2

Recombination of syngas to methanol:
CO + 2 H2 = CH3OH

Hence, one mole of polyethylene (plastic) produces two moles of methanol. Multiplier effect is due to steam input. It essentially turns water into methanol fuel.

Gary Pearse
December 20, 2018 8:14 am

There is a cryptic remark with no explanation:

“rather people avoided using single use plastic..”

This is a ‘tell’. Something more fundamental failed and they dont want to talk about it. I would think you would want engineering plastics for such a hostile environment. My take: the plastic was brittle and cracked up.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 20, 2018 8:59 am

Very likely. Recycled plastic is usually a mixture of different polymers with unpredictable strength.

December 20, 2018 8:19 am

“The team from Holland say they’ve still achieved their main mission: to prove plastic waste can be put to good use…”
What’s so good about that “mission”?

December 20, 2018 9:12 am

They started from Union Glacier Camp, which is run by ANTARCTIC LOGISTICS & EXPEDITIONS (ALE), a private company that supports expeditions and provides trips to Mount Vinson (highest mountain on the continent) and the South Pole and other places.
The company lands large aircraft on wheels on a blue ice runway, hence how they got the Solar Voyager down to Antarctic in the first place. Union Glacier Camp is not on the coast. It is 1138 km from the South Pole so return trip would be 2276 km.

December 20, 2018 10:29 am

From following it mission, it doesn’t seem that getting enough power from the panels was the issue. They were reporting above expected numbers even on days with bad weather. The problem it seems was that the snow was slowing their progress so much that their supplies wouldn’t last long enough

December 20, 2018 12:05 pm

Assuming the contraption ever left the parking lot, whom do you call to tow it back ??

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  u.k.(us)
December 20, 2018 2:40 pm

They should have given it pedals so they could recycle the whole car.

Robert of Ottawa
December 20, 2018 2:39 pm

I bet the solar cells and electric motor(s) weren’t made from recycled plastic.

December 21, 2018 4:54 pm
December 23, 2018 10:41 am

Well done, everyone involved earned a participation ribbon! Results don’t matter, they meant well that’s what counts!

Johann Wundersamer
December 26, 2018 6:53 am

“But despite it being Antarctica’s summer, the heavy snow has meanwhile progressed, and now the team has had to turn around. ”

good practical experience anyway. Now they can recycle their plastic scrap truck with new knowledge to maybe see the South Pole at the next test run. In reality.

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