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The little car that could

June 2013

On Saturday, April 10th, 2010 at 8:30 p.m., the Power of One (XOF1) solar car arrived in the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada. It had successfully traveled 187km (116 miles) from the town of Inuvik over one of the longest seasonal ice roads in the world - the frozen Arctic Ocean. The expedition took 9.5 hours from start to finish. The creative force behind the project, Marcelo da Luz, drove the three wheeled, non-heated solar car over terrain treacherous even for large semi-trucks.

Temperature at departure was -7°C and skies were sunny. Winds were from the south. Toward the beginning of the trip, the solar car reached speeds of 70 kmh traveling over smooth and wavy ice. Worsening conditions over the Arctic Ocean close to Tuktoyaktuk forced da Luz to slow to 30-40 kmh.

The team dealt with four flat tires when ice cracks several inches wide, running parallel with the road, swallowed the solar car’s wheels. Alarming spinouts came to be expected as da Luz alternated driving on ice and snow. The team had to weigh risks between slipping and hitting a snow covered crack. Temperature on the ice road dropped to -10°C. The solar car departed Inuvik with a complete charge and arrived to Tuktoyatuk “on solar fumes.”

The ice was approximately 1.5 - 2 meters (4.5 - 6 feet) thick and rated for loads not to exceed 60,000 kilos (66 tons). At the last section of the drive, a frozen pressure wave to the right indicated that the road was out in the open Arctic Ocean.

Three days after the team reached their final destination of Tuktoyaktuk, they turned around and drove back to Inuvik, after recharging the solar car batteries with the Arctic Sun. But given the sunny weather in-between and related uncertain road conditions, that’s another story.

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