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About Solartaxi

Welcome to the first world tour of a vehicle powered only by solar energy!

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Gottschalk Thomas

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Gottschalk Thomas
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technical supporter during the whole trip
Age:
25
Country:
Germany
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The world needs renewable energies.

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A Tank Full of Cooking Oil17.01.2008

Tags: New Zealand       Comments: 0

At last, a night of peace and quiet without any splashing and swaying. After four weeks on the high seas, Louis Palmer has arrived with the Solar Taxi in New Zealand, where he meets local bio diesel pioneer Ulrich Schmid.

Welcome back to the so-called ‘First World’. Although we’re now back on land, the ground still rocks slightly under my feet. Apparently this is normal when you’ve been at sea for four weeks, but for me nothing is normal any more. I thought the seasickness would be over in four days, but it lasted four weeks. Now I’m exhausted and four kilos lighter

NEW ZEALAND: PIONEERS IN BIO DIESEL SUVS

We tied up in Whangarei on the northern tip of the North Island on Friday and straight away encountered the New Zealand authorities. Two officials from the quarantine authority came aboard. Not a single piece of dirt is allowed to stick to the Solar Taxi. Nothing seems to terrify these guys more than the prospect of introduced seeds and insects or unroadworthy vehicles.

We go straight to the government offices. This is the first time we’ve had to have the Solar Taxi checked when entering a country. Luckily Ulrich Schmid, a Swiss who emigrated 40 years ago, has been following our trip on SPIEGEL ONLINE since we left and invites us to his house on the tip of a peninsula. His home is high on a mountain with spectacular views over the ocean and the bay. The house is majestically enthroned like a castle in the middle of a bird sanctuary where the Kiwi, New Zealand’s emblematic bird, has a refuge.

Schmid invites us “castaways” to spend our first night in New Zealand at his house. There’s an old Bedford truck with a bed in it in his garden. Thomas falls asleep in the tower, exhausted, and I turn in in the truck – my first night of peace and quiet without being surrounded by bubbling, gurgling and splashing water in four weeks.

Our first impression of New Zealand is overwhelming. Ulrich takes us for a drive the next morning among towering ferns, past lush green cow paddocks, wild turkeys and road signs saying “Caution at night – Kiwis”.

21 Tonnes of Diesel out of Restaurants

Ulrich explains to us that his Toyota Landcruiser is completely climate-neutral and shows us the huge machine in his garage that he uses to make bio diesel out of old cooking oils and fats, which he collects from restaurants. Ulrich Schmid is New Zealand’s bio diesel pioneer. Over the past five years he has already made 21 tonnes of it for himself and his friend Garry, who runs a smaller Toyota on it.

Ulrich smiles. “Everyone else pays about one Euro a litre for petrol, but I pay about 20 cents for the cooking oil.” Ulrich’s brother Klaus, who emigrated to live on an island near Vancouver, is also visiting. He’s preparing to present a light hydrogen turbine at the next International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva. “The whole world’s talking about fuel cells but there are much more efficient methods of converting hydrogen into electricity. Fuel cells well under 40 percent efficient are in practice but I get 61 percent efficiency with my turbine."

We’re astounded. We’ve only just arrived but it’s straight back to reality! Once again we’re surrounded by inventors and helpful, interested people who want to travel in the Solar Taxi or just to help us. But as much as we’d like to stay, we have to keep moving, first of all across New Zealand. We want to get back to Australia and to the route we originally planned as soon as we can.

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