Mobility Planet Care

225: Race for Water


Some planet-protecting solutions are unique marathon ambassadors which inspire others to find solutions.


In 2004, Raphaël Domjan of Lausanne, Switzerland had the idea of circumnavigating the world at speed in a boat uniquely powered by solar energy so as to demonstrate the potential of sustainable energy. Between 2010 and 2014, the 101ft (31m) MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, her deck covered by 5,780 ft² (537 meters²) of solar panels rated at 93 kW, she cruised at an average 7.5 knots (14 kph) around the oceans of our Planet.

From 2015, having been transformed into a laboratory to present on board plastic waste-upcycling solution demonstrators, the renamed  Race for Water, again embarked on a five-year program (2017-2021), serving as an as educational platform, itinerant laboratory and demonstration of support for the promotion of Clean-tech innovations.

These include her 25 hydrogen tanks at 350 bars, two 30 kW fuel cells of, two 5 kW electrolysers complete the 5,330 ft² (500 m²) of solar panels and the 4 li-ion batteries (754 kWh). The whole hydrogen system allows storage of 2800 kWh so gaining up to 6 days of autonomy, with a mass balance that is very advantageous: the hydrogen storage is 10 times lighter than the storage in battery.

Simon Bernard of Marseilles, former container and cruise liner merchant officer, having witnessed the extent of plastic pollution poisoning oceans, ecosystems, and mankind, started up the Plastic Odyssey Expedition. The Victor-Hensen, an 80 ft (25 m) long former oceanographic vessel has been refitted to use pyrolysis to convert salvaged plastic waste into 8 to 10 gallons (30 to 40 li.) of green fuel per hour.

From 2021 and for the next three years, Plastic Odyssey is circumnavigating the Planet to promote plastic recycling and reduction, sailing along the most polluted coasts (Africa, South America, and South-East Asia) to build at each stopover small modular recycling plants that will meet different needs.

Plastic Odyssey is sponsored by the Occitania Region in Provence, Clarins, Matmut, Crédit Agricole and Veolia. Simon Bernard and his team are developing low-tech and open-source technologies to valorize plastic waste. Blueprints will be available online so that everyone can have free access to them. (

In 2016, 23 students at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), the Netherlands, made an 80-day, 14,300 mi (23,000 km.) round-the-world journey on two self-built electric motorbikes.

They called their mounts STORM Wave. They designed and built special li-ion battery packs giving a promising range of 236 mi. (380 km.) between charges; each honeycomb-shaped modular pack comprised 24 separate cartridges shaped into the body of the motorcycle and lays on 28.5 kWh of energy. It was possible to change a full battery pack within seven minutes.

Despite some minor setbacks, the team had taken it in turns to ride through 16 countries, visited 65 cities covering a total of close to 14,300 miles  (23,000 km.) The publicity generated inspired others.

Between 2015 and 2016, the world watched while Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg of Switzerland flew around the world in Solar Impulse 2. With a length of 73.5 ft (22.4 m.) and a wingspan of 236 ft (71.9 m), and a weight of only 5,000 lb (2,268 kg), the solar-electric airplane carried 17,248 monocrystalline silicon solar cells, 135µ thick and mounted on the wings, fuselage and horizontal tail plane.

They completed 23 days of flight and 26,744 mi. (43,041 km). Taking it in turns, they travelled in a 17-leg journey, with 4 continents, 3 seas, and 2 oceans crossed, proving that clean technologies can achieve the impossible.

In November 2016, the Solar Impulse Foundation launched the World Alliance for Clean Technologies during COP22 at Marrakech, as a legacy to the first ever solar flight around the world. Its goal is to federate the main actors in the field of clean technologies, in order to create synergies, promote profitable solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental and health challenges, and give credible advice to governments.

With a target of 1,000 solutions, by May 2020 the portfolio had reached 419 solutions, with 25 from the United States, all third-party validated for both profitability and environmental protection. (

Between 2016 and 2019, Wiebe Wakker of the Netherlands drove across 33 countries, including Turkey, Iran, India, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia, with the route determined by the offers he received on his website totalling 59,000 mi. (95,000 km.) in his electric Volkswagen Mark V Golf Wagon The Blue Bandit. On his arrival in Sydney, Australia, Wakker was escorted into Sydney by a fleet of nearly 50 electric vehicles. His event became worldwide news.

Although such vehicles can be criticised as expensive one-offs, they may inspire many people to do their little bit.

Discover Solution 226: recycling lithium ion batteries

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