Carried on the wheels of a futuristic, solar-powered vehicle, a team of motorists stopped in Isla Vista this week near the end of their record-breaking road trip through the Arctic Circle and down the coast of California.
Driver-creator Marcelo da Luz – who deemed his car “XOF1”, or Power of One – drove the car over 11,000 miles from Buffalo, N.Y., through the Arctic Circle and down the West Coast, successfully surpassing the previous record of 9,000 miles.
The one-man solar-powered vehicle was designed by da Luz as part of the “Power of One” solar car project, which set out to break the world record for miles traveled by a solar-powered vehicle.
According to da Luz, the mileage was the easy part; location proved the big challenge. The roads to the Arctic Circle were almost all gravel with poor sunlight even in the summer. But that, Marcelo said, was all part of the adventure.
“I wanted to take on the greatest challenge for a solar car,” da Luz said. “For me, the greatest challenge was the Arctic.”
The teardrop-shaped, one-man “lab-on-wheels” runs on an electric engine fueled by batteries that collect their charge from sunlight. The car is covered in 893 solar cells, generating roughly 900 watts of energy.
“A toaster consumes about 1000 watts, so with less energy than a toaster takes we can drive a car,” da Luz said.
On a full battery, the car is capable of traveling 130 miles at night. On a sunny day, it can take on around 300 miles. The car’s top speed is 75 mph, and it can go from zero to 50 in six seconds.
All together, the vehicle is the result of over 50,000 man-hours from a dedicated team based in the Northeast and Canada.
Due to lack of funding and sponsorship, the team will be forced to end their trip in Los Angeles this Friday, where the Canadian Consulate is holding a reception in honor of da Luz’s achievement.
World records aside, da Luz said he also hopes to set an example for others by demonstrating the abilities of sustainable energy vehicles.
“The goal is to promote the use of clean, sustainable energy,” he said.
However, da Luz added that the technology has a long ways to go before it becomes totally realistic.
“I don’t want to say that a solar car is the answer to our transportation needs,” da Luz said. “It’s not always practical.”