The SolarButterfly: A Self-Sustainable World Tour. Written by Rosie Bramwell
The self-sufficient SolarButterfly is making its world tour, and it visited our team at Cathedral Square on the 1st June 2022.
“It was only some time ago that somebody with wings ran down the hill and flew the first few metres. 100 years later, an airplane crosses the Atlantic with 250 people inside. So if you think of that, we are now with our wings and trying to run down the hill. What is in 100 years time, I don’t know.”Patrick Heini
The SolarButterfly is a sustainable project that started in Switzerland. The butterfly is making a world tour to raise awareness for environmental issues, such as rising CO2 levels and global warming. The goal of the tour is to arrive in Brazil by November 2025, ready for COP 30 United Nations World Climate Change Conference.
On the 1st June, our team had the pleasure of hosting the Butterfly at Cathedral Square (Worcester city centre). Here it was able to spread its wings and charge its battery using solar energy, ready to move onto the next stop of their tour. Meeting with the team touring the UK, we asked them to share their story and journey so far.
Talking with Patrick Heini: driver and technician on the SolarButterfly
One of SolarButterfly’s volunteers, Patrick Heini, spoke with us and explained the whole purpose of the world tour: to find 1000 environmental pioneers to present at the COP30 2025 conference for climate change. The world tour allows the project to meet new people who are also finding and creating solutions to combat environmental issues. SolarButterfly gives them a voice.
“It’s for finding 1000 environmental pioneers, so that we can present them at the COP 2025, and give 1000 technical solutions to the politicians and tell them ‘we have the solutions, just do it.’” Patrick Heini
The SolarButterfly runs solely on its volunteers who travel and stay inside the Butterfly. This usually consists of two drivers, one of which is generally a technician. There are also two people helping to run the media and promoting the tour while on the road, with space for two more volunteers to travel too.
Digital Creatives Mikulas Vinar and Rosie Bramwell, photographed with SolarButterfly crew member Patrick Heini.
How did the SolarButterfly project start up?
Louis Palmer, in 2007-2008, became the first man to travel around the world in the first electric-driven car, running only on the energy charged from the one solar panel on the back. In the words of Heini, “now he is trying to do the same, just on a much larger scale.”
This project initially began around the start of the Covid-19 virus, and after the delays of lockdowns and isolating, Palmer was able to gather support and funding from sponsors who helped to bring this project to reality. The main sponsor for this project is Longi, the world’s leading supplier of Solar PV Solutions.
“We are planning to visit more than 1000 projects in 4 years on 6 continents.” Louis PalmerInterview with Louis Palmer
The design of this project follows a very specific analogy of a ‘journey’. Butterflies start out their life journey as caterpillars who eat up everything and aren’t attractive to look at. This is much like a greedy society eating up fossil fuels and resources. The transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly allows for change and independence, becoming something beautiful. Much like the caterpillar, society has the opportunity to transform too!
“If we want to make it interesting, we need something that draws attention, something unique” Louis PalmerInterview with Louis Palmer
Using the butterfly design attracts attention from the public and from the press. The vehicle needed to be striking, and also fit to hold the solar panels needed to be sustainable. These panels create the wings of the butterfly. When the wings are spread out, there are between 80-100 square metres of panelling. The SolarButterfly can fully charge from 0 to 100 in just 6 hours, on a day with good weather. This is enough for a day of travelling in Europe where each stretch is around 80km, whereas in America each stretch would be around 250km a day.
So, what is COP 2025: United Nations World Climate Change Conference COP30?
COP is the Conference of the Parties. These are annual conferences where representatives of all states meet to review any legal instruments previously enforced, and to make decisions for future arrangements to help combat climate change. The SolarButterfly team will be attending this conference, bringing their 1000 environmental pioneers and solutions to say ‘here you can see what can be done, please do it’.
This conference in 2025 will be hosted in Brazil and will be the final stop for the SolarButterfly tour.
The start and the rest of the SolarButterfly tour
So far, the SolarButterfly has almost completed its 2023 European part of the tour. Once they arrive in Liverpool, they will travel across to America, through the States and down through Mexico towards Panama.
After Panama, they start again in Europe and travel through Asia before moving on to Australia. In Australia, they will drive along the South Coast before moving across to South Africa (Durban), before travelling from Cape Town to South America.
South Africa is the final part of the tour where it will end in Brazil, ready for the 2025 conference.
You can volunteer to travel with the SolarButterfly!
The SolarButterfly looks for around 20 people per year to travel as part of the crew, bringing a range of different skills to the team. Check out the ‘Apply Now’ page on their website!
Roles they look for: Drivers & Mechanics, Social Media Crew and Video Journalists (VJ).
From the SolarButterfly, your travel expenses, travel insurance and food will be covered. They will provide you with sufficient training and the right travel equipment for the journey.
To join you need to be over 18, fluent in English and have at least 4 weeks available for travelling. Touring with the Butterfly is not a holiday so volunteers need to be in good physical and mental shape, have sufficient travel experience and also share a passion for new technologies and solutions to stop global warming. Volunteers will be consistently working as a team and will be touring and living inside the SolarButterfly.
The SolarButterfly Social Medias
Instagram – @solarbutterflytour
Youtube – @solarbutterflytour
Director of Sustainability, Katy Boom, photographed with the four SolarButterfly volunteers in Worcester
Check out our previous post about Driving for Sustainability with Electric Vehicles for more information on sustainable travel!