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Solar-powered Sun Trip cyclists set off across Europe from Brussels
The Sun Trip, an initiative in which participants with solar e-bikes cycle across Europe, officially started in Brussels on Wednesday. The 10,000km bike tour travels from Brussels towards Latvia, Romania, Italy, Spain and Portugal before finally finishing in Lyon, France.
The Sun Trip is a project supported by the European Commission under the European Green Deal. The aim of the competition is to raise awareness of climate change among the people of Europe, and in particular the younger generations.
The 50 participants arrived in blazing sunshine on the esplanade outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels around midday and were greeted by Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission and responsible for the Green Deal. He chatted with riders and got a closer look at the converted bikes with their solar panels, designed to give the participants an extra boost of power.
"The Sun Trip Europe is an inspiring adventure that demonstrates the need for smart, sustainable mobility and the benefits of clean energy,” said Timmermans. “Cycling is already on the rise in Europe, and this adventure will make even more people realise that cycling is the future of European mobility."
After meeting Ixelles mayor Christos Doulkeridis and Brussels state secretary for economic transition Barbara Trachte, the participants officially set off from Place Fernand Cocq at 14.00 and headed in the direction of Leuven.
Participant Dirk Huyghe of Innoviris, the Brussels Capital Region’s innovation support department, was riding a bike with a trailer fitted with two large solar panels which charge the bicycle’s battery while riding. It still takes some effort, he told reporters.
"The rule is that we never charge the battery via the power grid,” Huyghe said. “We can only use solar energy." Huyghe estimates that he has to use 60% of his own physical strength and can count on solar energy for 40%, depending on the strength of the sun.
The improvised solar panels fitted on the bicycles on the tour are at an early stage of development. As a result, the panels are still very large, and every bike looks completely different. "It's wonderful to see what people innovate and put together,” Huyghe added.
Huyghe hopes solar-powered cycling becomes a viable solution to traffic problems in the future, especially when smaller solar panels can be created. "It is a solution to mobility problems and traffic jams can be avoided with it,” he said. “The bike can stand in the sun all day and be recharged in the evening."
For those interested in following the progress of the riders on the tour, an interactive map is available.