The man who drove the SOLARTAXI around the world ten years ago thinks that renewables aren’t gaining ground quickly enough.
On December 18, 2008, former Swiss schoolteacher Louis Palmerexternal link enjoyed a hero’s welcome when he drove his SOLARTAXI back to Lucerne – 18 months, 38 countries and 53,451 kilometres after setting out in the blue-and-white car powered solely by solar energy.
What’s changed since that day?
“On the one hand, there have been some big changes – like the growing popularity of electric cars. There’s been more investment in renewables and clean tech, and there’s more awareness of global warming than ever before,” Palmer told swissinfo.ch. “But at the same time there’s also more pollution than ever before.”
Just days after 190 nations agreed on the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement, Palmer is dissatisfied with climate action.
“It’s great that so many countries were talking at COP24, but we need more immediate action. What we need to do is ban cutting down forests, to tax carbon and air travel, to shut down coal plants. In Switzerland we’re shutting off nuclear, but in countries like Germany, South Africa and Australia, for example, the coal-powered plants have to be shut down,” insists Palmer.
Energy production in Switzerland can be broken down as follows: 59% hydropower; 33% nuclear; 5% other renewables, including solar; and 3% fossil fuels. Solar electricity production increased by nearly 60% between 2008 and 2017.
Worldwide, the share of renewable energy consumption is also on the rise. For example, the use of solar rose by 26% between 2008 and 2016, according to a report from Our World in Dataexternal link.
According to Palmer, non-renewables remain popular on account of greed. “There are a few people making a lot of money who are to blame. I wish governments and industry would crack down and do more.”
After his SOLARTAXI tour, Palmer initiated a new project, the WAVETROPHYexternal link. The “World Advanced Vehicle Expedition” is an electric vehicle rally that promotes e-vehicles. More recently, he was also behind the giant postcard positioned on the Aletsch glacier last month.
And what has become of the SOLARTAXI vehicle?
“I still drive it on nice weekends!” laughs Palmer, joking that it’s his version of a fancy sports car.