Cruising the globe on solar power | AspenTimes.com

Cruising the globe on solar power

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Phillip Yates/Post IndependentLouis Palmer, 36, of Lucerne, Switzerland, drives his solar- and battery-powered vehicle on the streets of Carbondale Thursday. Palmer has been traveling across the world in the vehicle since July of last year. He expects to complete his trip back to Switzerland in about four months.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Louis Palmer started off from Switzerland in July 2007.

On Thursday he rolled through Glenwood Springs.

Since he left on his trek, he has traveled across Europe, waited at the border of Saudi Arabia for three weeks and even got sick on a Greenpeace boat from Bali to New Zealand.

He finally made it to San Diego and started his U.S. journey.

When he returns to Switzerland in five months, he will become the first person to circumnavigate the world in a vehicle powered by solar and battery energy, he said.

“My goal is to go around the world and show that there are solutions to stop global warming and that there are solutions available to be independent from fossil fuels,” said Palmer, 36, who is from Lucerne, Switzerland.

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So far, he has received nothing but positive feedback from the towns he has visited, he said.

“Everyone has given me a positive reaction,” Palmer said. “People are waiting for me in almost every city. They want to be apart of the adventure and to help me.”

Those people include members of the Grand Valley Fire Protection District in Parachute, where crews helped him find a place to stay for the night and let him charge up his battery for another long day of traveling.

His trip into Glenwood Springs on Thursday continued to Carbondale and to Old Snowmass so Palmer could visit the Rocky Mountain Institute, which is on the leading edge of various initiatives that encourage the efficient use of energy and resources.

Palmer dreamed up this trip and the vehicle to do it in while working as a school teacher in Switzerland, he said. Since he doesn’t have any engineering experience, Palmer sought the help of four Swiss universities to help design and craft his vehicle.

In the end, about 200 people helped in its creation, he said.

“They did a tremendous job,” said Palmer, adding that he has sponsors to help him pay for his adventure across the world. Those include Q-Cells, which is the world’s largest solar cell company.

Fifty percent of the energy to power his vehicle comes from 800 solar panels installed on a trailer that his vehicle pulls along the highway. The other 50 percent comes from a battery that takes energy from ordinary power sockets. That battery alone can take him almost 200 miles, Palmer said.

“I am absolutely independent of bad weather,” he said, adding that on his way into Parachute he ran into some showers and cloudy skies.

More than a year into his voyage, Palmer has had no major breakdowns. In fact, in his 13 months of traveling he has only lost two days of driving because of mechanical problems, he said.

“An electric car like this could be produced for $10,000,” Palmer said. “They could be in showrooms now. Solutions are available.”

The only real difficulties he has faced on his trip is enduring sea sickness for four weeks and having to wait for three weeks on the Saudi Arabia border. He waited on the Saudi government approving his visa to cross the country.

“Even in Saudi Arabia, petrol country No. 1, let us go,” he said.

Palmer’s vehicle may not be what Americans want to drive down the road, but that it is a metaphor “to help point us in a more ecological and renewable direction,” said Johnny Weiss, executive director of Solar Energy International, which teaches how to design, install and maintain solar renewable energy systems.

Weiss got an up-close look at Palmer’s vehicle in Carbondale on Thursday.

“It is about creating a whole new way of thinking about our transportation uses,” Weiss said of Palmer’s vehicle. “These guys are pushing the edge and challenging us to think what we really need to go down the road.”

For more information on Palmer and his trip around the world, go to solartaxi.com.

pyates@postindependent.com

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