Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch.com) – Eight people, 11 wheels, four countries, 80 days and unmeasurable amounts of sunlight: add it up and you arrive at Zero, the name of the solar race around the world that left Geneva early Monday afternoon 16 August.
The group includes a jeep, a three-wheeled electric car, a motorbike and a scooter, all of which could be mass-marketed cheaply, say their teams of drivers.
Getting that point across to manufacturers in order to cut back sharply on motor pollution around the world is part of the rationale behind the race.
Louis Palmer, Swiss pioneer of green technology who in 2007-08 drove a solar-powered car 54,000 km across 38 countries, was at the UN in Geneva to send off three of the four teams from South Korea, Australia, Switzerland and Germany.
The fourth crew, the Korean team, joined the others in Lausanne, after it had technical problems in the Swiss Alps over the weekend.
Palmer, who organized the race, told journalists that the race “is about showing realistic ways towards a cleaner and greener future for the planet and its people.” The drivers will be cooperating rather than competing: the race is against time rather than each other, to see if they can make it through 16 countries around the globe in 80 days.
Driving on $5 a day, around the world
The drivers will need to recharge their vehicles every 250 km, at a cost of about $5 a day, but they have already compensated for this by generating clean energy (solar, wind, tide-powerd) and putting it into their local power grids.
The two-person teams will be back in Geneva in January 2011 after covering 30,000 km.
Their journey will take them Geneva to Lausanne, Brussels, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, then across Kazakhstan and Central Asia to Shanghai.
From China they will ship out to Vancouver, Canada.
The next leg of the journey will take them down the west coast of the US, across Mexico to Cancun, arriving on time for a United Nations climate change conference in late November 29.
From Mexico they will cross to Portugal and continue on through southern Europe.
Working with nature to balance the fuel budget
A petrol-powered backup vehicle will accompany them. It, too, has compensated for its fuel use, as have other fuel “costs”: emissions for bringing the cars to Geneva, shipping them overseas twice, putting the drivers up in hotels. Julianne Priskin, who is the race coordinator and environmental adviser, says she will be running daily tallies of these expenditures to ensure these energy costs are covered.