Washington, August 3 : A Swiss schoolteacher is traveling around the world in a 50,000-kilometer drive in an eco-friendly "solar taxi", to draw international attention to the present-day potential of alternative energy sources.
According to a report in ENN (Environmental New Network), Louis Palmer, the adventurer in question, launched his journey in July 2007 from his hometown of Lucerne, Switzerland.
Palmer's vehicle - the "solar taxi" is a low-slung two-seater that has the look and feel of a sports car, though its top speed is only about 55 miles per hour. What's more, it tows a flatbed trailer-sized panel of solar cells that sucks up sun power.
These limitations aside, the car is quite eco friendly.
"I have not paid a single cent for gasoline after driving two-thirds around the world so far!" said Palmer.
Palmer, who teaches math, French and German to young students in Switzerland, took his rudimentary ideas for a solar car to four Swiss universities: University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Lucerne; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich; University of Applied Sciences, Aargau; and University of Applied Sciences, Berne.
Faculty and students at all four institutions spent two years designing, building and testing the vehicle.
While the Solartaxi uses electricity from 100% renewable energy and releases no emissions into the atmosphere, Palmer notes it's able to draw only half of its power from its trailer of high-efficiency Q-Cells solar cells.
For the other 50%, solar cells on top of Palmer's home in Switzerland collect power that's eventually fed into an international power grid. In exchange, Palmer can plug into power sockets along his route to take as much as he contributes to the grid.
"A solar car is a perfect way of transportation," said Palmer, noting that even today's hybrid cars cut gasoline use by 20%, while solar cars are 100% gasoline-free.
According to Palmer, so far, he has driven across Europe, the Middle East, India, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia - all virtually problem-free.
Palmer began the North American leg of the journey earlier this month in Vancouver, British Columbia, traveling south to L.A.
If Palmer can successfully cross the US and the Atlantic, then return to Switzerland over the next five months, he will set a world record as the first motor vehicle not powered by fossil fuels to drive around the world on ordinary roads.