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Love, Peace and a Broken Shaft20.07.2008

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The Solartaxi conquers the hippie-city of San Francisco: Louis Palmer zooms across the mighty Golden Gate Bridge. But not before a push is in order. A glitch plays havoc with the time plan.
It happened after a strenuous 300-kilometer day: Suddenly a loud crack, the trailer has broken free. We roll our eyes in disbelief. The broken end of the tow-shaft has gouged the back tire. There's a huge hole and the tire is flat.

Luckily our new friends, Eugen Dunlap and Bruce Hartsough from UC Davis, are already under way. The have no idea that together with my mechanic, Heinz, they will work half way through the night. But they both stay cool and take us first to the welcoming party: we push the Solartaxi the remaining 200 meters to our destination. An elaborate buffet awaits us along with a terrific troop of Americans, florists and professors alike, who simply want to say hello to us here in the university town of Davis.
The next day we find ourselves at the only shop on the entire west coast that has our tire in stock: eleven miles away in Sacramento. A lucky star presides over our journey. We shudder to think what would have happened had we lost the trailer at full speed or, worse still, in the middle of nowhere going 70. We were blessed. The next morning with tired eyes we showed off the Solartaxi at the farmers market in Davis and until evening Heinz and two local helpers screwed everything together again so that we would be available for the local ABC television station and be able to take a spin with the cameraman later on in Sacramento.
Old hippies und cold fog
And it's off to San Francisco. Our film maker Erik joins us again and is doing his best to get some good shots for our documentary film. Our cameraman wants to know why I'm actually taking this trip. The answer becomes clear in San Francisco: "We bring love, peace and happiness - and solar energy." Old hippies are as much a part of the cityscape as the old trolleys, the Golden Gate Bridge and the cold fog. We shiver as we drive over the bridge and the frosty wind almost blows us out of our lane. But the shots of the hill above are unrivalled and well worth the trouble.
At Berkeley we meet professor Steve Beck. He invites us right into his villa high above Berkeley with a view of the bay that stretches to the Golden Gate Bridge. A couple of docile deer sprint across his garden while we're served a large portion of spaghetti and chicken off the barbeque. His flat screen displays yesterday's sun setting directly behind the Golden Gate Bridge that was photographed from his roof terrace. "Until recently Berkeley still had no fast-food restaurant. Almost everyone here eats only natural products. Berkeley is so un-American." Sure enough, we have seen no other place in world with so many hybrid cars on the streets.
A lively drive in the electro-sports-car
The actual revolution in the automobile world is being played out further south in Silicon Valley, in San Carlos. Here resides the world-famous car company Tesla Motors. World-famous? Considering its small workshop it's hard to believe what a stir this company has created. Tesla represents a breakthrough for electric cars. Based on a Lotus sports car, electric bobsleds are forged here that can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds. There's hardly a magazine in the world that has not yet written about this revolution. "We already have 1200 orders" says one visibly satisfied employee. "And each with a price tag of 100,000 dollars." Our mechanic Frank is allowed to drive a test model and as the bolide disappears around the corner, we're left behind feeling quite jealous.




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