Swiss Engineer Completes First World Tour in Solar-powered Car

He covered 33,213 miles over four continents

After more than 17 months on the road during which he crossed almost 40 countries, Louis Palmer, a Swiss engineer, completed the first ever round-the-world trip in a solar-powered car on Dec. 18.

Palmer, 36, arrived back in Lucerne in central Switzerland in his "solar taxi" after covering 33,213 miles over four continents. Since his departure on July 3, 2007, he travelled through eastern Europe, the Middle East and India before heading to New Zealand, Australia, southeast Asia and China and finally the United States. He finished his trip after a detour through France, England, Scandinavia and Germany.

"We have achieved our first world tour without using a single drop of oil," Palmer rejoiced at the end of his trip.

The three-wheeler solar taxi, which towed a trailer packed with batteries charged by the sun, reached speeds of 55 miles per hour. It had a battery for travel in the night and in cloudy conditions.

"One of my goals was to persuade as many people as possible that renewable energy is ecological, economical and reliable," Palmer said.

His vehicle only broke down twice during the tour, he said, and surmounted the extreme heat in the Middle East and the hazardous terrain in America's Rocky mountains.

The small blue-and-white vehicle carried around 1,000 passengers, including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Palmer has previously said the prototype for the solar taxi could be mass produced but that it would need serious modifications.

He said he plans to travel around the world in 80 days for his next challenge, but in a faster car.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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