Article Type: Movie review
Subject: Motion pictures (Movie reviews)
Author: Batorsky, Roberta
Pub Date: 02/01/2012
Publication: Name: The American Biology Teacher Publisher: National Association of Biology Teachers Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences; Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 National Association of Biology Teachers ISSN: 0002-7685
Issue: Date: Feb, 2012 Source Volume: 74 Source Issue: 2
Topic: NamedWork: Solartaxi (Motion picture)
Persons: Reviewee: Schmitt, Erik
Accession Number: 278881927
Full Text: Solartaxi (to be shown on PBS in spring 2012 and released as a DVD after that; a Non Square Pigs Films production, directed by Erik Schmitt; 75 minutes)

Twenty-seven years ago, a Swiss schoolboy named Louis Palmer imagined a car that ran completely on solar power. In his fantasy, he circumnavigated the globe without using a drop of petrol, as gas is known in Europe. By 2004, the solartaxi was a reality, with Palmer, now a schoolteacher, as designer and director, aided by the donation of special batteries by a Swiss company. Starting in 2007, the fully solar-powered car, driven by Palmer and accompanied by a mechanic, support vehicle, and crew, covered 54,000 miles across 38 countries in 18 months: a remarkable accomplishment that students will not fail to appreciate. Eric Schmitt has directed a rollicking, informative, vastly entertaining, and relevant documentary about Palmer, who was honored with the 2009 European Solar Prize for his achievements. Since Solartaxi, the intrepid Palmer has driven around the world in 80 days as part of the ZERO Race, along with three other 100% electric vehicles running on renewable energies.

Could it be possible for the childhood dreams of a schoolteacher to presage the future of the internal combustion engine? Palmer predicts that eventually (sooner, rather than later) there will be an international solar bank, which will bank solar energy instead of cash. People living in solar-paneled houses, as depositors of solar energy into the local power grid, could withdraw energy from a solar bank just as they withdraw cash from a traditional bank. As this technology matures, Palmer predicts that we will meet the world's energy needs by collecting solar from desert power plants.

Palmer is righteous with the idea that we can't destroy the world and enjoy it too. He tests a brakeless, rickety solartaxi at 90 km per hour: 4 months and thousands of solar miles later, the smoother, slower solartaxi ferries 200 diplomats, world leaders, and other eminences from their hotels to the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, where Palmer addresses the assembly.

I recommend that high schools, community colleges, and universities make Solartaxi required viewing when it airs in 2012, and obtain the DVD for use in future environmental science classes, or any biology courses exploring the damaging effects of fossil fuels on the environment, or investigating alternative energy sources. Besides the above topics, this informative film could springboard interesting discussions about individual responsibility, heroism, and pursuit of one's dreams in the face of obstacles.

DOI: 10.1525/abt.2012.74.2.15


ROBERTA BATORSKY, an experienced high school and college biology teacher, is adjunct faculty at Middlesex county college and Brookdale community college. Roberta has a B.S. and an M.S. in biology. Her address is 25 Hinkle Drive, Bordentown, NJ 08505; e-mail: roberta.batorsky@ Roberta welcomes submissions of classroom media for review in ABT.
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