Toronto man going far with his green dream
By Phil Wieland NWI Times | Tuesday, June
VALPARAISO | It might be easier to be green
than some people think, but it's still not
Marcelo da Luz, of Toronto, Canada, has
spent the past year driving around North
America, from Buffalo, N.Y., to the Arctic
Circle and back and several other places in
between, in a home-made solar-powered car to
demonstrate the feasibility of green
technology over dependence on fossil fuels.
For him, it's living a dream he's had for
more than 20 years, but it hasn't been easy.
"I always wanted to do my share for the
environment," da Luz said while waiting for
the sun to "refuel" his car during a stop at
the Bob Evans over the weekend.
The heavy overcast meant it took longer than
on a sunny day, but it was still possible.
"We are all hypocrites waiting for the
government or someone else to save the
planet for us. There is clean technology
available for us today."
As a child, he asked his teacher why people
pollute. The teacher told him it was the
price of progress.
"That's far from the truth," he said. "In
fact, it's quite the contrary."
His love of solar technology originated with
a news story in 1987 about an international
race for such cars.
"I thought 'How cool is that? That's the
future, and I want to be a part of it.' Then
reality set in."
With no money and no one to sponsor such a
project, the idea remained an idea for the
next 12 years. Finally, his roommate became
tired of hearing da Luz talk about solar
powered cars and gathered a bunch of
information from the Internet showing it
would take about 50,000 man hours to build a
Instead of deterring da Luz, it motivated
Using the rules on the design requirements
from the 1999 race and with the assistance
of volunteers from all walks of life, he
spent 2 1/2 years building his dream car. He
estimated the total cost at $500,000. He
financed it by using up all his savings,
mortgaging his house twice and then, when he
finally began his cross-country tours, his
He lost his job as a flight attendant two
years ago, but it hasn't stopped him from
spending the past year on the road with the
help of volunteers and donations whenever he
can get them. He's covered almost 18,000
miles in the three-wheeled vehicle, which he
says is twice the previous distance record
for a solar-powered car, and he's still
The foam and Fiberglass vehicle weighs only
470 pounds and can go from 0 to 50 m.p.h. in
six seconds. It has a top speed of 70 m.p.h.
and can travel up to 300 miles at night on
its batteries. The down side is that it
doesn't have a heater or air conditioner.
Traveling through the mountains on his way
to the Arctic Circle, he had to wrap himself
in a sleeping bag to keep warm.
He's been featured on the Discovery Channel
several times and is doing a documentary of
his travels. He often visits schools during
his travels to make presentations to the
students and would like to try a journey
from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego
at the southern tip of South America.
"I'd like to keep driving as long as I can
get support for it," he said. "It will be a
challenge going through Central and South
America because they have not heard of
something like this. So, it could open doors
and inspire people and change the world.
That's what I'm trying to do." Anyone
wanting to follow the adventures of Marcelo
da Luz and his solar powered car or donate
money to support his tours can go to his Web