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‘Solartaxi’ Drives Home Solar Power’s Perks

10 Feb, 2012 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Since childhood, Louis Palmer dreamt of driving around the world by solar-powered car. In 2007, the Swiss schoolteacher fulfilled that dream, traveling to 40 countries and promulgating the benefits of solar energy via his homemade “solar taxi.”

Palmer’s nearly two-year, 53,451-km (33,212 miles) road trip is chronicled in Solartaxi. PBS Distribution releases the documentary, narrated by actor Ted Levine, on DVD ($24.99) March 27.

Solar-powered vehicles are four times more efficient than regular petrol-powered cars, and it’s Palmer’s mission to make facts like this known.

In his travels, he found receptive audiences in places such as Austria, Syria, India, Bali, China and the United States, the latter two among the world’s top polluters. Palmer also won the support of many politicians; dignitaries such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations’ climate change panel; and celebrities, including director James Cameron, comedian Jay Leno and “Dallas” star Larry Hagman.

Meeting with United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, however, was the highlight of his worldwide tour.

“[It] was really important because he said exactly what I think: We have to be creative,” Palmer said in the film. “We have to be practical to stop global warming, like the solar taxi. That’s what he said to the world press, and that message went out all over in the world and was received everywhere.”

Surprisingly, Palmer and his solar taxi were not well received in Australia, a continent with an abundance of sun. Perhaps, it’s because the region has a wealth of natural resources, such as coal and natural gas. According to Solartaxi, Australia has enough coal to produce energy for a couple hundred years.

“I was expecting something else,” Palmer said. “We need much cheaper solar energy, solar cells that are producing electricity cheaper than coal power plants. And, in my opinion, Australia has so much sunshine, they should develop this technology but it doesn’t happen. Even worse, they are ignoring that technology in the news.”

Palmer continues to educate people around the planet on the fact that cars powered by renewable energy are a viable solution to global warming. He believes there’s no time to waste, but it starts with individuals.

“What we have to change is ... the mindset of the people,” Palmer said in Solartaxi.

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