Swiss inventor Louis Palmer had what many referred to as an impossible dream when he said that one day, many of the world’s cars would not only be electric but powered by the sun as well. Palmer’s dreams are now on their way to becoming reality with his “Solar Taxi” concept of making a car that is not only zero emissions but fueled by solar energy when he launched his first test car model in Zurich in 2006. Since then, his concept models which consist of a lightweight two seater vehicle with a solar paneled “trailer”: behind it, has not only been involved in zero emission EV car rallies all over Europe but has even gone around the world.
Palmer and taxi on tour
Born in Budapest in 1971, and “exported” to Switzerland at age 16 months, Louis had a dream that something had to be done to help reduce the carbon footprint and CO2 emissions that have now resulted in what is known as global warming. Says Palmer:
“When I was just 14 years old – I dreamed of driving around the world with a car one day, which doesn’t destroy the earth at the same time – with a solar car! Between 1994 and 2001, I traveled through five continents and experienced the first signs of global warming in front of my eyes. In Africa, there were droughts like never seen before. In South America the rain was falling at an all-time high. In Afghanistan, dryness and hunger prevailed like at no time before.”
The technology involved in Palmer’s car is not earthshaking: it involves a lightweight 500 kg vehicle, a small electric motor, a “zebra” specially designed salt-ceramic-nickel battery, and a “trailer” that incorporates the photovoltaic solar panels needed to supply the energy needed to recharge the car’s batteries.
Palmer and his Solar Taxi were featured recently on a CNN Earth Matters environmental program, which also included a project to bring solar powered lighting to poor countries like Bangladesh.
Palmer’s idea of using solar energy to power electric cars is not unique by any means. A version of a solar powered electric car was made in Hebron Palestine by students of the Hebron Polytechnic College as a school project.
Palestinian solar car
Although a bit simpler than Palmer’s model, the car which incorporates solar panels to recharge the car’s batteries does work and was test driven on the streets of Hebron in the West Bank.
As the idea becomes more perfected, it may be one day possible to incorporate the solar panels into the roof and front bonnet of the car. This would enable a car to be able to continue charging its batteries as long as the sun shines, with an electric “plug in” option for recharging the car at night.
“The solar powered “Q-cell” car is necessary so that we can have a better world and a more secure future. The solar taxi should rekindle hope and a zest for life, set an example to counteract resignation and stimulate reflection. And most important, to show that every single one of us can take a step towards preserving our plan,” Palmer says.
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