A Toronto man has become the first to drive a solar-powered car up Canada's most northerly highway beyond the Arctic Circle, arriving just outside Inuvik, N.W.T., on Wednesday.
Marcelo da Luz's solar vehicle, which looks like a low-slung flying saucer on wheels, has travelled since June 12 from Buffalo, N.Y., driving across Western Canada and up into the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
The car spent the last six days on the 735-kilometre Dempster Highway — a surprising feat to northerners who know the unpaved, muddy, pothole-ridden road.
"The locals, they were saying it was crazy to try it," da Luz told CBC News on Wednesday.
"They look at the car and they look at me and said, 'You're kidding, right?'"
But da Luz came prepared for the rigours of the Dempster, packing 75 spare tires into his support team's truck. In the end, he said, he needed only four.
Heavy rain and wind forced da Luz and his team to stop at a lodge just one kilometre from Inuvik on Wednesday morning, as they waited out the storm.
A journal entry from his website said the rain had let up by late afternoon, allowing da Luz to recharge his car's batteries with the sunlight that became available.
Da Luz and his Power of One team plan to drive the car into Inuvik on Thursday, weather permitting.
Da Luz, a former flight attendant, said he mortgaged his house and maxed out his credit cards to build the $1-million solar car over the past decade.
He is trying to break a world record for driving the longest distance in a solar car. An Australian team drove around that continent in January 2002, setting a distance record of about 13,000 kilometres.
After he stops in Inuvik, da Luz will have to turn around and drive back to Buffalo in order to complete his 16,000-kilometre journey and secure the distance record.
In addition to setting a record, da Luz said he also wants to send people a message about alternative energy sources and the need to protect the environment.
"I believe I can change the world. But I cannot change the world by myself," he said.
"What I can do is inspire people and then together we can change the world. I mean, we have to develop a balanced coexistence with nature."