Solar car driver determined to reach Canada's land of midnight sun
A Toronto man hopes to set a new world record by driving his solar-powered car all the way north to Inuvik, N.W.T., where the sun doesn't set at this time of year.
Marcelo da Luz and his low, saucer-shaped vehicle departed Buffalo, N.Y., June 12 on a 16,000-kilometre journey to the Arctic community.
His $1-million solar-powered car can drive more than 400 kilometres a day, breezing past gas stations — but not when it's cloudy outside.
Da Luz, who made a stop in Winnipeg Wednesday, told CBC News that his biggest concern is the Dempster Highway, the notoriously bumpy road he will have to drive on in order to reach Inuvik.
"Inuvik represents the greatest challenge for any solar car in the world," da Luz said.
"The sun is low in the horizon, so it's not good sunlight for solar cars. And then you have the road, the Dempster Highway, that's 750 kilometres of gravel."
From Winnipeg, da Luz is expected to drive through Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Whitehorse and then Dawson City, where he'll get on the Dempster Highway to Inuvik.
Da Luz had intended to arrive in Inuvik June 21 — the longest day of the year — but now hopes to get there in about 10 days, weather permitting.
Back in Toronto, Seneca College teacher Ken Ellis and his students are tracking da Luz's progress with a keen interest. That's because they spent the last two years building the metal parts for his solar car.
Ellis said he is confident da Luz and his solar vehicle will make it up the Dempster.
"[It'll depend on] how bad it is and how fast he's going when he hits the bumps," Ellis said. "Certainly, I'm very interested as he progresses to see how well he does."
Da Luz, a former flight attendant, said he wants 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.
But da Luz, who describes himself as a "part-time tree hugger," said he also wants to set an example with his trip.
"We are a bunch of hypocrites," he said. "We're all waiting for the government, someone or something, to save the planet for us. And it's not going to happen unless we do something about it."