Delivery van becomes solar-powered RV to cross the Americas

Believing solar vehicles were feasible beyond the lightweight Aptera and Lightyear One cars, Joel Gregory Hayes wanted to create an all-electric, solar-powered motorhome that despite its could travel the Pan-American Highway from the arctic circle in Alaska to the tip of Argentina.

With the help of Solarolla Electric Vehicles he converted an electric delivery truck (a 2010 International EStar) into an EV with 120KWHs of battery power that is capable of being charged on solar-only for a maximum range of 200 miles.

The 24,330W rooftop solar array can be deployed to track the sun. First, 2/3rds of the array that are normally hidden under the van's main roof for driving can be slid out using winches. Then winches work to track the sun by tilting the array up to a 45° angle. There are also satellite attached to the rear of the van that can be detached and manually maneuvered to track the sun.

The Route Del Sol vehicle requires developing a love of : it takes 20 hours to charge the array of flexible solar panels, which in places like Alaska during most of the year requires a few days of patience in one location. Hayes explains that this waiting is a part of the journey so the van is equipped with a nice kitchen – of course, fully electric and powered by the sun, including the 90-liter refrigerator and induction cooktop – and equipment like surfboards to turn waiting time into an adventure.

After spending a couple years the journey from the Arctic Circle to Mexico, Route del Sol experienced a setback when all the solar panels blew off the roof during a particularly windy stretch of road in the Desert, in Baja California, Mexico. “Our entire solar array was ripped off the roof of the van and thrown over the side of the highway”. Joel explains that he had forgotten to tighten a key screw which often isn't necessary, but under high winds is essential. Right now, the project is on pause as the team tries to raise money to repair the solar array and reassess how they want to proceed.

On *faircompanies


  1. So what do you do when your solar is out and a huge 50+ mph wind comes up? Can you get them in in time before they either break or your RV tips over? I think it would be neat if you could build a self retracting mechanism that works automatically in high winds. I have a solar array on the side of my RV that I raise to face the sun, but I always try to run outside and lower it if I believe the wind speed will top 40 mph. I’m a full time RVer in a big class A motorhome. I was at Lake Mead about 6 months ago when a 70+ mph wind came through and ripped my awning off, destroying the arms and roller mechanism too – and it was rolled up and secured against the side of my RV at the time. If I had a giant solar farm on my roof like you do, I’m afraid the results would have been disastrous.


  2. Thanks for opening up the adventure and living, doing, and showing another “can do” adventure. What’s the plan to get through the Darien Pass? Appreciate your innovation and sharing. Thanks, Kirsten.

  3. If the millions of gallons of diesel burned to extract lithium and rare earth minerals for your “green tech” was put to use with a small turbo-diesel engine, you’d go farther, and more comfortably. And then you wouldn’t have to dispose of extremely hazardous waste every two years when your expensive, high-tech batteries rapidly degrade. Also, you wouldn’t have the geo-political necessity of wars, and corporate hooliganism to extract these materials from third world countries without paying the populations, forbidding child labor or making public infactstructure there. It is all about fooling people into a goody goody trick to “save the earth” whilst making huge gains in profits and control. Real green is simple and natural as possible. It is anti-fragile and low tech. Enjoy your expensive fragile useless toys.

    • You have no clue. Life cycle emissions of electric cars are far lower than any gasoline or diesel car. If there is one resource that is very sensitive to geo-political issues it is oil. And guess who is the biggest consumer of cobalt? The oil industry.

  4. The EMF in that van is not healthy….do some readings and tell people how high the Voltage/emf and Frequencies are in that tin can. Nobody talks about that do they.

  5. Totally agree on the need to not rush everywhere mentality. I have had a sim idea, and often dreamed of doing this. I would love to do the coast of Europe and around Oz in something like this. Though I was thinking of something smaller, closer to a camper trike, since it’s just me. However, I don’t (yet) have the wherewithal, nor the electrical knowhow.

  6. This gotta be old, I know this guy crashed in Mexico like a year ago because of the solar panels and he was stranded there then for pretty long.

  7. I think very important to optimise the whole vehicle for electric drive and solar power. This van is way too heavy, big and boxy. The deadweight is too much, and lots of power consumed by just pushing the air, not too mention if there is a wind against us. The best option is building a very light, streamlined new vehicle instead of using a conventional vehicle. That would need much less batteries so we can loose lots of deadweight.

  8. I would have added a generator, but for the hard core challengers that of course would be cheating.

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