© SolarButterfly
Around the World In...a Giant Solar-Powered Butterfly

Fun Innovations Friday: Around the World In...a Giant Solar-Powered Butterfly

June 16, 2023
The SolarButterfly, a tiny house trailer that charges the electric vehicle that tows it, is touring the world in a four-year journey to expose climate change solutions in the world's largest sustainability tour.

Fifteen years ago, Louis Palmer set out to be the first person to circle the world in a fully solar-powered car. The Swiss environmental activist built the solar taxi with the help of sponsors with the goal of clearly showing the benefits of renewable energy. After 17 months with over 33,000 miles (54,000 km) logged and traveling through 38 countries, Palmer's tour ended in Luzern, making it the first tour around the world in a solar-powered car. He was even awarded the European Solar Prize for his solar taxi in 2009 and was crowned the "Champion of the Earth" by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Now Palmer is onto his next adventure, the SolarButterfly—a 30-foot-long tiny house in the shape of a butterfly, which charges the electric vehicle that tows it. It features a uniquely designed large solar panel array that unfolds into giant butterfly wings. The tiny house includes a kitchen, bathroom, and living room and accommodates a crew of up to five people. With over 900 ft2 (84 m2) of solar panels, the vehicle produces enough energy to travel up to 150 miles (24 km) per day.

The residential trailer is the first vehicle in the world to be made from Ocean PET which are recycled PET bottles from the sea. With its highly efficient solar panels, enough energy can be generated to feed the electric vehicle that pulls the Solar Butterfly. Everything works without CO2.

The project is focused on reaching millions of people to alert them to the companies and individuals that are integral in transitioning societies away from fossil fuels toward clean energy technologies. The tour is currently on its four-year journey around the world with plans to identify, record, and publicize at least a thousand climate protection pioneers and their solutions.

So, why a butterfly?

Palmer says the symbol of the butterfly going through its transformation is a metaphor for his message: “While global warming is a big threat for the future of human beings, the solutions actually already exist. We want to show that lots of fantastic clean solutions are available which create jobs and save money! A transition of our society, like a butterfly, is very well possible!”

Since the start of the tour on May 23, 2022, in Geneva, the SolarButterfly has traveled more than 17,000 miles (27,000 km) and visited 27 European countries.

Nearly 140 projects have been reviewed so far, suggesting that global warming can be stopped. Some of these projects include California-based Aptera Motor's solar-powered vehicle that never needs to connect to the grid to charge its batteries; SSAB's fossil fuel-free steel plant in Sweden; and Ecosia's search engine, which already has millions of visitors, which lets users help to reforest our planet with every search they make.

After taking a winter break, the SolarButterfly restarted its journey from its hometown of Luzern, Switzerland on April 3, 2023, visiting known pioneers in the U.K.

Currently, the SolarButterfly is being shipped to Halifax, Canada where it will continue its travels starting July 1, 2023, traveling from there, across the United States and Central America to Panama by the end of 2023. You can see a list of planned tour stops for the U.S. here.

According to the planned route, the next phase of visits the SolarButterfly will make after its North and Central America tour includes five continents finishing in Paris on December 12, 2025, just in time for the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Paris climate agreement. 

The itinerary and time frame will be:

  • South America – Europe – Asia | March to October 2024
  • Australia – Africa – Paris | January to December 2025

A variety of companies are helping to fund the SolarButterfly project, including maxon, Brugg Group, ELMA, myclimate, 3A Composites Core Materials, Geser Fahrzeugbau, Komax, Kyburz, Luzern University of Applied Sciences and Arts, OPES Solutions, Schindler, 3A Composites Mobility, Luzern Business Development, and Jim&Jim. Other costs for the four-year journey will be raised through crowdfunding.

To learn more, visit https://solarbutterfly.org.

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