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Solar-Powered Car Circumnavigates the Globe

Support provided by standards for solar panels and electric cars

New York, Dec 09, 2008

Fluctuating gas prices and concerns for the environment have people around the world showing an increased interest in solar and electric-powered vehicles. A Swiss schoolteacher named Louis Palmer recently became the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a solar-powered car, a feat accomplished with the help of standards for solar devices and electric vehicles.

The earth-friendly car is a three-wheeled vehicle called the “Solar Taxi.” Designed by Swiss scientists and Palmer himself, the roadster seats two and can reach a speed of 55 miles per hour. A fully electric vehicle that requires no gasoline, the car gets its power from solar cells. Electricity generated from the solar cells is stored in a molten salt battery, allowing the car to run smoothly at any time of day or night.

International standards are in place to guide the development, functioning, and assessment of solar devices such as the cells on the Solar Taxi. IEC 60904-2 Ed. 2.0 b:2007, Photovoltaic devices - Part 2: Requirements for reference solar devices, gives requirements for the classification, selection, packaging, marking, calibration and care of reference solar devices. Guidelines found within the document apply to solar reference devices used to determine the electrical performance of solar cells, modules, and arrays under natural and simulated sunlight.

This standard was developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Technical Committee 82, Solar photovoltaic energy systems. The U.S. holds the secretariat for TC 82, with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) member Sunset Technology acting as the United States National Committee (USNC)-approved U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Administrator.

Another document developed by the IEC provides guidelines specifically for electric vehicles. IEC/TR 60784 Ed. 1.0 b:1984, Instrumentation for electric road vehicles, is a technical report that defines the type of instruments and signaling devices that could be installed in electric road vehicles such as the Solar Taxi. Specifications for how these instruments should be fitted and treated are also included.

IEC/TR 60784 was developed by TC 69, Electric road vehicles and electric industrial trucks. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is the USNC-approved TAG Administrator for this committee.

The Solar Taxi relied on standards-based technology to travel through 38 countries in 17 months. To read more about this incredible journey and the technology behind it, visit

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