December 4, 2008 / 5:09 PM / in 11 years

Solar-powered car completes round-the-world trip

POZNAN, Poland (Reuters) - A Swiss teacher completed the first round-the-world trip in a solar-powered car on Thursday and said he hoped the 52,000-km (32,000-mile) odyssey would inspire carmakers to make greener models.

A solar-powered vehicle breaks through a foamed polystyrene wall with the distance of 52,000 km (32,311 miles) written on it in front of the buildings where the UN climate change conference is being held in Poznan December 4, 2008. The solar taxi driven by Louis Palmer has been travelling through 38 different countries, covering a distance of about 52,000 km, to raise awareness in an effort to stop global warming. The aim of Palmer's project is to show the solutions to combat global warming are available. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Louis Palmer smashed his “solar taxi” through a wall of polystyrene blocks marking the end of the 17-month trip outside the venue of U.N. climate talks in Poland with Yvo de Boer, the U.N.’s top climate change official, in the passenger seat.

“I think it’s great — he’s driven around the world in this thing so that’s a world record,” de Boer said after clambering out of the blue and white three-wheeled car, which tows a flat-topped trailer with 6 sq meters of solar panels.

“The car ran like a Swiss clock,” said Palmer, 36, after the trip through 38 nations during which he said he lost just two days to repairs since leaving Lucerne in July 2007.

He said he got an enthusiastic welcome everywhere on a trip that took him through Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and North America, with some stretches by ferry. Only Japan, which bans cars with Swiss license plates, refused entry.

“People love this idea of a solar car,” he said. “I hope that the car industry hears ....and makes electric cars in future.”

Passengers included U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Monaco’s Prince Albert, Hollywood filmmaker James Cameron, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, he said.

The car runs on solar power but Palmer also had a battery for travel at night or in less sunny nations, such as winter-time Poland, that he recharged from local electricity.

Palmer says the car cost as much as two Ferraris to build and has a top speed of 90 km (55 miles) per hour. If mass produced, he said it could cost 10,000 euros ($12,620), with an extra 4,000 euros for solar panels.

Palmer said he would now return home. “I promised my mother to be back before Christmas,” he said.

Next year, he said he hoped to arrange a trip with six vehicles around the world in 80 days drawing power from sources such as hydro, geothermal and wind energy.

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Editing by Janet Lawrence

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