By Matthias Bank
What auto race blasts its way around the world in eighty days without leaving a trace of emissions in its wake? And, almost as astonishingly, inspires crowds to come out and cheer on a rainy weekend in Southern California?
The answer is a group of 21st century hot rods Jules Verne would have loved called the Zero Emissions Race, an international group of solar powered electric vehicles that have been driving about 11,000 miles since leaving the United Nations in Geneva. Their aim: to prove a point that instead of dreaming about 100 percent renewable energy powered vehicles for someday, we should be living that dream today.
The mastermind of the race, Louis Palmer, made a pit stop in Malibu two years ago during his Solar Taxi tour, the first circumnavigation of the globe by a solar powered car. On that trip, celebrities greeted him everywhere he went, including James Cameron, Larry Hagman, and Brian Grazer in Malibu.
Far from fretting like a Hollywood starlet past his prime, Mr. Palmer is celebrating the shift as success. He revels in the fact that people are so quickly becoming the change he hoped to inspire.
And the glittery set has not exactly cast him aside. Those checking out the Zero Race on their adventure through coastal L.A. included German mega star Thomas Gottschalk, composer and former Oingo Bongo band member Richard Gibbs, and “Who Killed the Electric Car?” filmmaker Chris Paine.
Matthias Bank is Media and Marketing Director for Renewables 100 Policy Institute, one of the event sponsors for Zero Emissions Race in Southern California. Renewables 100 Policy Institute will be re-joining Zero Emissions Race at the World Climate Conference in Cancun, where both will be advocating for a 100% renewable energy by mid-century target.
Photo caption 1."Who Killed The Electric Car?" Filmmaker Chris Paine and Plug-In America's Paul Scott welcome Zero Emissions Race to Southern California at Santa Monica Pier 2. Zero Emissions Race Founder Louis Palmer greets Southern California at Santa Monica Pier.
> On 3 July 2007 I set off on my first journey around the world with a solar powered vehicle. The solar taxi…should show that every single one of us can take a step towards preserving our planet.” Louis Palmer, SolarTaxi Instigator
Larry Hagman (of Who Shot J.R. fame) is a big believer in solar power. “Before I installed solar panels on my roof in 2005, my electricity bill was $37,000. The next year, 2006, my entire electric bill was $13.00. I went off-grid,” Hagman told Greening Hollywood at the bbq in Malibu Colony.
According to Erik Schmitt, SolarTaxi videographer and Thomas Gottschalk, team mechanic, China has proved so far to be the most receptive country to the SolarTaxi and the concept of solar-powered vehicles. China is cornering the market on cheap silicon production which is what’s used to manufacture solar cells. Silicon is made from sand.
Also mentioned by the solar sojourners was that Japan did not allow them entry, due to some archaic law about Swiss license plates still on the books. India has 80,000 deaths from traffic accidents each year. And Saudi Arabia finally issued them visas, from the King himself, to allow them to drive across the country albeit with a police escort the entire way!
How It Works
The Solartaxi proves it’s possible to drive 15,000 km a year powered by 9 square yards of solar cells on a rooftop.
The Solartaxi is a lightweight vehicle, about the size of a SmartCar.