Although the Solartaxi sounds like a contraption from a 19th century Jules Verne novel, it is entirely modern: The Solartaxi will be the first completely solar-powered car to drive around the world. It’s the creation of Louis Palmer, a Swiss educator and adventurer whose goal is not to make it in 80 days, but to raise awareness that global warming can be stopped and that solutions exist to lower greenhouse gas emissions .
The Solartaxi would have once been science fiction. It looks like a low-riding, sawed-off sports car towing an oversized airfoil. But the trailer actually carries the solar panels that power the car. That’s right; the car is exclusively solar electric--as in, no gas. That should sound fantastic to Americans now pumping $3.80-a-gallon fossil fuels into their tanks.
The Solartaxi began its journey at the Sustainable Energy Forum in Lucerne, Switzerland on July 3, 2007. Since then, it’s crossed the Middle East, India, Indonesia, Bali, and Australia. It’s currently zipping through the American Heartland and will end its North American trek in Montreal in September. You can track its route on solartaxi.com. It could be that the solar taxi will be quietly crossing your path. That’s another advantage of solar-electric power—no noise pollution.
The Solartaxi is powered by a new ZEBRA battery fueled by the highly efficient solar cells that trail the vehicle. The car can hit a top speed of 56 mph and the panels provide enough juice for it to travel 62 miles a day. But the taxi can cruise up to 250 miles per day without recharging. Additional energy is stored in the battery by plugging the car into a standard electrical outlet. To maintain its solar self-propelled standard, the Solartaxi team has installed solar panels on the roof of one of its sponsors, Swisscom. Any energy going into the taxi is theoretically being added to the grid in Switzerland.
One can follow the Solartaxi’s quest on its website. Solartaxi.com offers a progress-tracking map, a traditional blog, and a video blog. The humor that colors the writing and video is a real bonus. There’s no chance these clips will be confused with the slide shows you were subjected to in fifth grade science class.
As of today, the car’s condition is listed as “needs some love.” It shouldn’t be too hard to help the Solartaxi team out with that one.