Louis Palmer Has a Mission


You can't certainly accuse Louis Palmer of having a boring life. After cycling over 10,000 kilometers in Africa, flying across South America in the smallest plane ever, and crossing Afghanistan by car (in 2002!!), he decided three years ago to drive around the world in a solar car (the SolarTaxi), an event that made the news all over the world.

I still remember the SolarTaxi, and the fact that solar was a relative term; unlike the ultra efficient racers at the World Solar Challenge, the taxi was topped up regularly from the grid. In theory, they had a solar power plant on a rooftop in Berne (Switzerland), from where the electricity was fed into the grid, offsetting electricity generated by using fossil fuels. Ok, I believe it, but I can't help but think that solar means powered only by the sun...in any case, it was a long drive in a pure battery powered vehicle, an amazing feat in itself.

While keeping the same offsetting trick (which allows them to get a four hours recharge in between two daily driving stints) the concept has been expanded this year to turn it into the Zero Race. Three of the four initial participants stopped by in Santa Monica a few days ago, on their way to Phoenix, Cancun, Lisbon and eventually Geneva. All in all, 30,000 kilometers in 80 days, which is more than 200 miles a day, in electric vehicles. Not bad.

Some guy from the Swiss consulate gave an unprepared speech, Chris Paine promised (again) that The Revenge of the Electric Car is almost done and the trailer is coming, and the drivers did their best to seem interested in telling the lines they had obviously repeated at every stop along the way. Event organizer Louis Palmer on the other hand was enthusiastic, passionate and engaging; this is his baby, and it was easy to see. When he declared that his dream was to have not four but one hundred and sixty nine teams in the coming years (one for each flag represented at the UN mission in Geneva, where the race started), it was obvious it was his new mission. This is someone who has found a way to mix his passion for adventure with a sense of purpose, a combination that can move mountains (or take you many times around the world).


In the wonderful film 24 Hour Party People, the Sex Pistols are performing their first concert ever in Manchester. Only forty two people attended but after the concert they were, in the words of Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan), inspired to go out and perform wondrous deeds. There was a little bit of that feeling floating in the air, amongst the thirty people or so who attended this Santa monica event, in a weirdly cold and cloudy Friday morning.

Or maybe it's just wishful thinking.


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This is a $7,500 numberplate. Purchased at the border, it is the only legal way to drive a vehicle in China (no matter from which country), even when crossing as a tourist.