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The Future starts Today

The challenges the small Mathis Neupert will face in later life depend on us. Today he is mobile in his pedelec-drawn trailer. How will he move around when he's a grown-up? Solar pioneers Hans Tholstrup and Detlef Schmitz shared their visions with the ExtraEnergy team.

Early on Day 4 of the Test, all test bikes not out on the test track, were available to visitors for non-official test rides. 

Pedelec Excursion to former Border
In the afternoon a pedelec trip to Mödlareuth stood on the program. In the former German border town one can still look at parts of the wall which divided the small town for 41 years and a watch tower.

Three bikes were fitted out with measuring instruments for the 28-kilometer trip to Mödlareuth and back to Tanna and the trip data recorded. Among the bikes on the trip, were the Helkama TE2800 test bike with trailer carrying 2-year old Mathis Neupert. On the return trip papa Hannes Neupert of ExtraEnergy struggled up the last incline on the final approach to Tanna with a flat battery. But, riders, trailer passenger and bikes all made it back safely to the ExtraEnergy premises in Tanna to report on an enjoyable trip through green fields and beautiful vistas.

Later in the evening, the Test team and guests recounted the day's events in the "ExtraEnergy Pub", as the testers baptized their recreation room.

The Pioneers of Solar Mobility

Hans Tholstrup and Detlef Schmitz, the fathers of solar mobility, entertained the group with their visions of the future, renewable energies, natural resources and shifts in thinking required in society.

The adventurer Hans Tholstrup is a pioneer in many areas: In 1982 he was the first one to cross Australia from Perth to Sydney with a sun-driven vehicle. Apart from a few other "firsts", he established the solar race known as the World Solar Challenge, which ran from Darwin to Adelaide. Born in Denmark, he discovered the Australian continent for himself when he was 18 years old. Today he grows eucalyptus trees in his adopted country.

He remembers Hannes Neupert as "the crazy German", who started an air race in Australia in the 1980s with a remote controlled airship called Lotte. The airship later crashed into a tree, when a radio frequency conflict between the airship and a military base forced the airship into a decent. The end of Lotte was the beginning of a friendship between the two leading thinkers Tholstrup and Neupert.

Detlef Schmitz has participated in trans-Australia races for the past 20 years. In 2007 he drove 2,517 kilometer in his home-made solar car. He realized his dreams without the benefit of big budgets, or infrastructural support. But, he always caught the eye with adventurous mobile constructions and a smile. 

The Future starts Now
Hans Tholstrup pointed to the small Mathis Neupert and said: "There lies the future." Our children will need a world in which they can live and breathe and we must take care to leave their "Lebensraum" intact. Meaning, we should use the remaining oil reserves to build the technologies for a new energy economy. "Politicians think as far into the future as the next election and the majority of the human race will party until the last beer has been drunk. Therefore, it is over to the individual to change things," he said.

What exactly will happen in the future, no-one really knows, said Frieder Herb, who works at Daimler in the division future mobility. But, one thing is certain already today, namely that the natural resources are limited. Therefore, energy must be used more efficiently, it must come from renewable sources and the utilized technologies must be recyclable.

„Everyone looks at sun energy," said Detlef Schmitz, „but it cannot solve the problem on its own - even though it has many pros". For instance, the sun cannot fall victim to exploitation and solar cells have long lives (30+ years), even though they are expensive. They are made out of silizium (which in turn comes from sand, of which there is plenty) aluminum and glass - all recyclable components. And, a 0,3 square meter solar panel produces enough energy for an electric bicycle to ride 5,000 kilometers.

One big windmill generates 2,5 MW electricity - enough energy for 10,000 electric bikes. A lot of energy could be saved, if the electric bike was the vehicle of mass mobility, rather than the automobile.

To the question what his vision was for pedelec infrastructure in future, Hans Tholstrup said: „They will go on the streets“. Clogged-up roads are a temporary phenomenon. Once the oil wells dry up, the cars will also disappear and there will be more than enough space for pedelecs, he said. 


Copy: Susanne Bruesch
Translation: Christoffel Volschenk
Photos: Patrick Knappick and Susanne Bruesch

2 May 2009



7 - 12 September 2021, IAA, Munich, Testtrack

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