(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
The solar taxi designed by Louis Palmer, a teacher from Switzerland, arrived in the Ofer Forest on the Carmel this morning, where Palmer met students from schools in the vicinity of Haifa. Israel is the fortieth country Palmer is visiting, after driving 60,000 kilometers all around the world without using even one drop of fuel. KKL JNF helped organize Palmer’s visit to Israel, to promote the transition from fuel to solar energy for the sake of a greener environment.
“Since I was a child, I dreamed of going around the world, but when I got older I understood that I really didn't want to pollute it,” said Palmer to schoolchildren from the Almogim and the Amirim schools in Kiryat Yam. In order to realize his dream, Palmer created the first solar automobile. This special vehicle tows a wagon with solar panels that charge the battery. When the battery is fully charged, it can drive 300 kilometers. “You could almost get to Eilat from here," Palmer told the schoolchildren, who seemed more than ready to join him for the ride.
For anyone worried about the duration of the ride, the solar taxi, as we found out, can drive up to 90 kilometers per hour, so you can get to your destination safely without ever getting a speeding ticket.
Palmer described some of the advantages of his solar taxi to the young people. “Cars that run on gas pollute the environment, but my car is completely clean. Regular cars make a lot of noise, but my car is completely quiet. The world’s natural resources are limited, and gas will soon be so expensive we won’t be able to afford it. If you ask me how much it costs to drive a solar car, the answer is nothing. After all, the sun was given to everyone for free.”
Since the schools have solar power stations on the roofs of their buildings, the children were knowledgeable about solar energy, and they impressed Palmer with their intelligent questions. When asked by one of them what he does on a cloudy day, Palmer explained that he can use a charged battery until the sun comes out again, and at worst he can recharge the battery by plugging it into an electricity source. In his home in Switzerland, Palmer set up a solar power station to charge his car using solar energy whenever he is there.
Another student asked him if there was also a family-size solar car with room for more than two people. Palmer said that his small, lightweight car, made from aluminum and fiberglass, was constructed especially for his world tour. A heavier car would have been slower and more expensive, and it would have consumed more energy.
“Look around,” said Palmer, “and you will see that in many of the larger cars on the roads there is only one person—the driver, who is going to work or going home. Small cars are cheaper, more efficient, and easier to park.”
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When asked how much time he invested in developing the car, he said that the development process took about a year, building it took another year, and testing it before driving also took a year. Driving around the world took about a year and a half. Altogether it has been a lifework, “I was not alone in this project,” he said. “Over two hundred people helped me develop and build this car.”
Bringing the solar taxi to Israel was an initiative of Tzur Mishal, as part of the Ecolnoa Festival for environmental cinema, which is to open in Jerusalem on November 11 for a month. Films pertaining to the environment will be screened including The Solar Taxi, which is about Louis Palmer's unique journey. KKL JNF joined the project by assisting in bringing the solar taxi to Israel. KKL JNF is also participating in the Ecolnoa Festival with a film about its work for the environment and a booth with information about the contribution of KKL JNF forests towards carbon sequestration and combating global warming.
“If solar energy can be utilized in a country like Switzerland, then certainly a warm country like Israel should be taking advantage of the wonderful sunshine we have here,” Tzur Mishal said.
The fascinating meeting was one of the events that took place in honor of International Cleanup Day in Israel led by KKL JNF two days earlier, in which 280,000 volunteers all over Israel participated.
Eleven year old Ofir Ruemi said, “We went into the forest to help keep it clean and beautiful, and to learn about ecology. They explained to us at school about International Cleanup Day, that it takes place all over the world, and we were glad to take part in it.”
Michael Weinberger, KKL-JNF Regional Director, told the schoolchildren about rehabilitating the Carmel forest since the big fire. “We let nature do its work, and we get involved when necessary,” he said. He also told them about the recreation areas, hiking trails and bike paths KKL¬ JNF has been developing in Israel's forests to inspire the public to go out and enjoy nature. Activities took place in the Ataturk recreation area, which has a picnic area and walking and cycling trails, so the children got to see exactly what he was talking about.
Eleven year old Yasmin Promazon said she was very sorry when she heard about the Carmel fire. “Fortunately, this part of the forest was not burned, and people that come here can continue enjoying it. I think children like us have to teach our parents how important it is to recycle, to protect the environment, and not to litter.”
After the ceremony, KKL JNF National Service volunteers went to their activity stations, where they did activities with the children, focusing on issues such as forest fires, global warming and the importance of open spaces, and provided information about KKL JNF projects. A sudden downpour abruptly interrupted the activities, and the children pulled out their umbrellas and ran back to the buses. No one complained, since everyone knows how important rain is for the environment and for Israel’s water sources and reservoirs.
As for the solar taxi, it proved it was capable of driving in the rain, and Palmer drove away to continue his magical tour of Israel.
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