What started off as the dream of a Swiss teacher over a year ago was finally realized when Louis Palmer drove to the Poznan, Poland, UN climate change hearings in his solar-powered car. Palmer took the long way to Poland, driving 52,086 km (32,365 mi) through 38 countries, effectively circumnavigating the majority of the globe.
The first time a solar-powered car has made it around the world, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, was Palmer's final passenger onboard the solartaxi. Palmer's other co-pilots have included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, film director James Cameron, Prince Albert of Monaco, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Palmer created the solartaxi project to demonstrate the continued advancement in technologies available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Amongst other environmental and sustainabity advantages, Palmer believes full investment in non-fossil fuel energies will also create new jobs, something that may be even more important in today's economic situation.
His solartaxi has six square meters of solar cells on the roof of a trailer it drags. The trailer itself contains all the vehicles batteries, which provide enough power to run the car 15,000 km (9,320 mi) per year. The car has a top speed of 90 km/h (56 mph), and a range of 400 km (248 mi). Palmer also points out that his solar-powered car burns the equivalent energy of less than 1 liter /100 km (235 US mpg) of petrol. Combined weight of the car and its trailer is 750 kg (1,653 lbs).
Although development of the prototype was expensive, Palmer claims mass production of his vehicle would only cost manufacturers around €10,000, plus €4,000 for solar panels. His car is also more reliable than you might think. It only broke down twice on its around-the-world adventure.
Palmer still has to get the solartaxi to its home in Switzerland, nearly 2,000 km (1243 mi) from the climate hearings. The visionary project leader expects to arrive home at noon on 18 December.