Battling temperatures of -5° (23°F) has not stopped an electric car from setting a brand new Guinness World Records title.
The NIO ES8 and driver Chen Haiyi from China set a new record for the Highest altitude achieved in an electric car with a height of 5,715.28 m (18,751 ft) when it reached the Purog Kangri glacier on 24 September.
The record attempt was designed to show off the sport utility vehicle's (SUV) reliability and energy supply at high altitudes and in extremely cold areas, as well as the company’s problem-solving ability in extreme conditions.
NIO also aimed to show that electric vehicles can go as far as traditional petrol and diesel-powered cars. The support team studied the feasibility of installing charging points along the route as the company looks to encourage more drivers to use electric power.
A spokesman said: "We hope that in the future, all electric vehicle owners can go to Tibet to travel. As a result, it is also beneficial to our environment."
This was the first time an electric car has reached Purog Kangri, a 422-km2 glacier considered to be the third largest in the world which is only smaller than the Arctic and Antarctic and with an average height of 6,600 m above sea level.
The record for driving to the highest altitude by car is 6,688 m (21,942 ft), achieved by Chileans Gonzalo Bravo and Eduardo Canales in 2007. However they used a modified Suzuki Samurai (due to the for their ascent of the Ojos Del Salado volcano in Atacama, Chile.
Their car had to be modified as low air pressure causes problems for combustion engines which work by igniting a mixture of air and fuel. As the air gets thinner, the engine can't pull enough of it into the cylinders to react properly.
The NIO ES8 needed no modifications for its record-breaking journey as it draws its energy from a chemical battery and is unaffected by air pressure changes.
The technology behind the record
Guinness World Records' category executive for engineering records, Jason Fernandes, explains how the electric car can drive to such an altitude and avoid the difficulties faced by petrol-engined equivalents
Electric vehicles have advantages over combustion-based fuelled vehicles, most especially related to ambient air pressure. Air pressure reduces proportionally quickly with altitude.
Combustion vehicles cannot easily adjust its operating parameters to cope with the variations in the amount of air available for air/fuel combustion. A car will typically be designed to perform as best as it can for the usual market.
This can be at altitudes of only 1/5 of the altitude usually required for a record. It is worth noting that in some higher altitude places in the world, lower octane rated fuel is made available to try to partially negate the poorer combustion experience.
Another possible effect of lower air pressure is vapour lock – the fuel vaporising at lower-than-normal pressure.
Electric cars only have to ensure the heat produced through the chemical reactions in the battery is suitably safely expelled. However, the heat is far less than in a fuel-based vehicle.
The heat is substantially less than is needed to heat the car during icy weather. There are some minor maintenance issues which electric vehicles face. But generally it is otherwise unaffected by large climbs in altitude.