Tuesday, July 26, 2005

On encouraging progress

This is precisely the type of new idea that governments should be encouraging on the road to sustainable development:
All Marcelo da Luz wants is to drive his solar car across the country.

His dream car, designed and built with the help of a few professionals over the last six years. The one he mortgaged his house for and spent $200,000 on; the one that proves -- to himself anyway -- that any goal is attainable...

Mr. da Luz...has taken the last two years off work to complete the "Power of One'' solar car, a low-riding, flying-saucer-like vehicle powered by the 893 solar cells that cover most of its surface. It's five metres long by 1.8 metres wide and 90 centimetres deep. It can reach speeds of up to 120 kilometres an hour on the same amount of energy that powers a toaster.

The problem is that Ontario refuses to license the car, and other jurisdictions (with the exceptions of Saskatchewan and the Yukon, both of whom have granted permits) are following its lead.

The explanation is that a student was killed in a traffic accident as part of a solar car tour. The article doesn't mention whether there were differences in engineering between the different types of solar cars, and there's no indication at all that Ontario has made an effort to determine what could make da Luz' car fit to be licensed. Instead the (already stringent) conditions previously set on solar vehicles are under review.

For now, a great idea sits idle simply because it isn't the norm. With any luck, the public attention will force Ontario to look at how to let da Luz go forward; if not, then we'll have been told all definitively that Ontario isn't willing to do its part to help its citizens innovate.

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