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About Project ECARUS
Is it possible to turn an old off-road truck into the world’s first solar-powered expedition vehicle?
That is the question at the heart of Project ECARUS™. But that’s not all. Once completed, ECARUS™ will be more than “just” a new sort of electric car. It will be a seriously capable off-road and overland vehicle, a camper van, a solar power plant and a mobile educational tool. To test the capabilities of this EV prototype, we will take it on a 7,000-kilometre overland journey across two continents. What’s the objective here? To see if this is even possible - yet.
In Greek mythology, Icarus attempts the impossible: to spread his wings and escape capture. Ultimately, he fails because he gets too close to the sun. ECARUS, however, can’t get too close to the sun – it is powered by it, with an array of solar panels providing much of the energy needed for the trip.
The aim: to maximise autonomy and minimise emissions.
Built on the basis of the 1983 Pinzgauer 712M seen below, ECARUS will have all the off-road capabilities of the original Pinzgauer, coupled with all the advantages of an electric drive train: more power, instant torque, easier handling, less noise and, yes, zero emissions.
Meet the Pinz
ECARUS is an electrified version of the magnificent Steyr-Puch Pinzgauer 712M, an incredibly capable 6x6 off-road vehicle that simply knows no boundaries.
The original vehicle has also been called a fuel leak on wheels with the aerodynamics of a garden shed. Converting this into an electric car and running it on energy from the sun - is this even possible?
Only one way to find out…
We believe electric vehicles are a technology whose time has come. We also know we have entered the golden age of solar power when we are producing the cheapest electricity from sunshine. Also, we love off-road expeditions – to start where the roads end and explore the unknown.
We also feel that innovation and technological progress is often much further than we know, or at least further than most people think.
So we want to do our bit in trying to push the boundaries, attempting something that may not (yet) be possible; something that is certain to be difficult.
So why not try to take an EV off-road AND off-grid? Why not venture beyond the beaten tracks and beyond the rapidly growing charging station infrastructure of cities and highways?
This challenge, including the very fact that it might not be possible, or just possible in part, is why we want to go electric and solar-powered. There is only one way to find out.
That is why we are building ECARUS.
Why A pinzgauer?
As far as we are concerned, this is the most capable off-roader for the kind of travel we love. Since 1971, this awe-inspiring piece of engineering has been used for civil defense and military applications throughout the world (including by the government of Oman, where our Pinzgauer was in action for over two decades). We want to give the Pinzgauer a new lease on life for the 21st century – and significantly enhance its capabilities in the process.
Check out our Progress Blog for more…
Our upcoming Electric overland challenge
In a nutshell, we’ll take ECARUS on an epic all-terrain expedition, covering over 7,000 kilometres on two continents. We'll hit gravel tracks, mud pits, mountain passes, desert dunes, river crossings and, yes, some roads, too. But, as a guiding principle, we want to stick to minor roads and backcountry routes wherever possible.
Thorough route planning and testing will be needed to ensure that the electric motor, battery system and solar panels perform well in different scenarios, given a variety of on- and off-road constraints. Once we’re ready to set off on this epic journey, we’ll be sharing updates from the road over on ElectricOverland.org.
Our conversion goal
The Pinzgauer 712M was designed as a compact all-terrain troop carrier for up to 12 people. It is deceptively small, about the length of an Audi Q8, but with a high load capacity and ultra-low maintenance requirements.
Project ECARUS™ uses this framework as a starting point, adding a fully equipped camper van kitted out for up to four passengers on an off-road and overland journey: there will be comfy beds, a kitchen, a bathroom, a dining area, air-conditioning, heating, water and electricity plus a whole lot of tech. This includes monitoring equipment for everything from battery levels to transfer-gearbox temperatures and solar yield. Also, plenty of safety and recovery gear.
The image above is of an epic Pinzgauer camper conversion that inspired us. There are amazing projects out there and we'll cover our favourites, including this one, over in the Inspiration section.
For the electric conversion and cabin build, we have teamed up with the technical specialists for extreme alpine vehicles – and fellow Steyr-Puch enthusiasts – at AVS (Alpine de Vehicules Speciaux) in France. To find out more about the people we work with, check out our Team and Advisory Team.
A big Thank You to our partners & supporters: