Sustainable Transportation

This diagram shows the various pathways to sustainable (land) transportation

sponsored by
the International Institute of Sustainable Transportation

Our ancestors achieved high mobility using only the power of the sun (including the winds stirred by solar flux and of course the calories provided by photosynthesis). Can we escape the curse of fossil fuels and return to this ideal, creating mobility with solar power?

The International Institute of Sustainable Transportation was organized to accelerate the redevelopment of transportation powered by solar (renewable) energy. A registered non-profit, headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, INIST has already organized a number of international conferences to that end and has a number of bold projects in the works.

Here are some websites featuring many awesome forms of sustainable transportation, including sea-going vessels and flying machines. While what you see here are mostly sports vehicles and record-setting activities, take a close look to see the useful technologies and commercial potential emerging from these creative efforts.

Type of Transportation Project
Human powered vehicles Recumbent bicycles

the National Bicycle Greenway


The Chinese Wheelbarrow

For being such a seemingly ordinary vehicle, the wheelbarrow has a surprisingly exciting history. This is especially true in the East, where it became a universal means of transportation for both passengers and goods, even over long distances.

The Chinese wheelbarrow - which was driven by human labour, beasts of burden and wind power - was of a different design than its European counterpart. By placing a large wheel in the middle of the vehicle instead of a smaller wheel in front, one could easily carry three to six times as much weight than if using a European wheelbarrow.

Draft Animals Draft Horse Journal

Virginia Draft Horse and Mule Association

Solar powered vehicles Solar Utility Vehicle

an educational program for science and vocational skills training using an interdisciplinary project-centered lesson plan in combination with internet based distance learning.

Tonatiuh, the Mexican Solar Race Car

The 1996 World Solar Challenge

The Great Southern International Sunrace in Australia.

SunRayce '95, a race of university teams from the USA, Canada, and Mexico. • ParadeFlag-bearers runningAll togetherStart LineOn the RoadJorgePoster
SMUD has developed a solar charging station for electric vehicles. If the public utility has a black-out, plug your house into your car at night!
Solar Cycling. "With the combination of solar and human power, there is no limit to ... where [solar cycles] can take us. Both your pedaling and the sunshine propel solar/human powered vehicles... with an electric motor and solar electric panels (PV), coupled with storage batteries ...."

Commercially available Solar Bicycles.

Wind powered vehicles American Kitefliers Association North American Buggy Championships. Information about competitions.

Buggies pulled by kites. Check 'em out!

North American Land Sailing Association (NALSA)

Solar powered personal rapid transit Solar Skyways: Solar Powered Personal Rapid Transit

Mobility in a World Beyond Oil.

Solar powered trains Solar Ultralight Rail Solar-electric rail is a smokeless, noiseless rail transit system based on recent advances in solar racing car technology.
Sailing vessels

The 2003 America's Cup regattas brought the world's best and fastest high tech sailing ships to compete in New Zealand, but none more light and exotic than the yacht which flew a kite sail spinnaker designed by KiteShip USA during the Louis Vuitton Cup trials, to stun the yacht racing world. Here KiteShip USA is flying the OutLeader™ kite on the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand during a break in the 2003 Louis Vuitton Cup regatta.

Microship is the successor to Steve Robert's BEHEMOTH, the computerized, networked, teched-out recumbent bicycle. The Microship project is a high-tech multihull with an extensive network of embedded control systems, a satellite Internet link, console Macintosh, ham radio, 1080 watts of solar panels, deployable kayaks, self-trailering capability, on-board video production, and whole new levels of technomadic gizmology.
Solar Powered Boats Transatlantic21
Potential platforms for solar boats:
Planet Solar

The first trip around the world using solar energy.

In Spring 2004, the seed of an idea a little crazy germinates in the mind of Raphael Domjan. He is 39 years old and Swiss.... Like others, he feels that we rapidly need to find alternatives to our wild oil consumption but that, at the same time, the huge potential of renewable energy still need to be proven and promoted.

Raphael then imagines an extraordinary adventure inspired by his reading of Jules Verne's novels: Travelling around the world aboard a ship which is being propelled by solar energy only!

Sydney Solar Sailor. Now this is something to see! A combination of sails (rigid, like wings) covered with solar cells. (Original model at right.)
Solar Craft A very energy-efficient water craft developed in Hawaii.
Sol10 Sun Cruiser, a Solar-Powered Personal Boat

Solar powered lighter-than-air craft Solar Airships

Mike Walden has patented a number of "Lighter Than Air Solar" lenticular airship concepts which in turn have inspired others. One example:

The new Aquarian Airship as envisioned in TMP2 is a derivative of scientist/engineer Michael Walden's VTOL-capable LTAS (lighter-than-air-solar) concept and would employ an unusual flattened ovoid dirigible hull that features an integral photovoltaic skin on its top surface... Under solar power alone, the vessel is likely to support 50-60mph speeds with unlimited range and no fuel cost...

Walden's concepts are also featured on the X-Plane Forum.

Solar Ship
Solar powered sailplanes (winged aircraft)
Solar Impulse
Solar Impulse
The Pathfinder, a solar-powered flying wing developed by AeroVironment for NASA's Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program.

Other solar plane projects:
Solar Impulse (see image at right)
Solaire II
Helios Solar Plane
Helios Solar Plane (large photo)

sunseeker sunseeker Solar Flight.

The Solar Flight team is led by Eric Raymond. Eric crossed the USA with his solar powered glider in 1990.

The ultimate: Solar powered spacecraft Solar Sails

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updated 2012 April 14