The Solar Taxi made a road stop at Georgetown on Tuesday in its attempt to be the first vehicle to drive around the world fueled entirely by the sun.

The compact car was displayed in front of New South during the afternoon for students and faculty to see. In addition, Louis Palmer, the creator and driver of the car, made a presentation the same afternoon on the future of renewable energy in McShain Lounge.

The one-year-old Solar Taxi has already traveled 32,000 miles and visited 27 countries including Austria, China and Lebanon after its journey began in July of 2007.

The 1,100-pound car is a bit smaller than a Mini Cooper, but pulls with it a 550-pound solar panel that provides 50 percent of the car’s energy. The other 50 percent of power comes from the battery, which takes one day to fully charge. On a completely charged battery, the Solar Taxi can travel 200 miles and reaches a top speed of 55 miles per hour.

“It was pretty impressive except that it was so small it was not very practical, just because the driving part was small yet the solar panel that you need to lug around was so big,” said Shawn Hobby (COL ’11). “The fact that it can travel without gas at all is pretty cool.”

Palmer first had the idea of a solar vehicle in 1986 at the age of 14 and became project leader of the Solar Taxi in 2004. It wasn’t until June of 2005 that Palmer, in partnership with four Swiss universities, was able to start building a solar car. In 2007, Palmer decided to take the car on the road to demonstrate the potential of alternative energy.

On his Web site, which tracks the Solar Taxi’s tour, Palmer writes that he hopes the car will show that every person can contribute to preserving our plant.

“Admittedly, as a regular citizen, I cannot change the world,” he said. “But I can demonstrate to the world just how dire the global climate situation has become and how many sophisticated solutions to lower the greenhouse gases already exist.”

Eventually, Palmer hopes the Solar Taxi will travel to 40 countries on five continents in only 18 months. The car has made its way eastward from the West Coast, and is working its way up the coast and through to Canada.

Campus Climate Challenge and Eco-Action, co-sponsors of the event along with the Embassy of Switzerland and the Georgetown Energy and Sustainability Advisory Committee, were glad to see Georgetown University supporting alternative energy sources.

“Solving our energy crisis is not an important issue, it’s the important issue. Expanding solar, electric and hybrid car use and production in America is a great way to start combating the crisis. It’s not the solution, but it’s certainly the beginning of one,” said Michael Durante (MSB ’10), president of Campus Climate Challenge.

Jonathan Cohn (MSB ’10), co-president of Eco-Action, said that the club hopes to sustain the interest in alternative energy resources generated by the Solar Taxi exhibit. “The issue of alternative energy will become the most important one of our generation, especially as it is so fundamentally linked to the economy,” he said.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.