United Arab Emirates (UAE) inventor Haidar Taleb has today set out from Fujairah on a journey that will take him across all seven of the emirates that make up the UAE. The journey is expected to finish in Abu Dhabi in 11 days time on the UAE National Day, but its not the route or the timing that is attracting attention, it's the means of transport. Taleb won’t be making the trip by train, car or even camel – he’ll be riding a solar-powered wheelchair.
It was only earlier this month that Taleb set a Guinness World Record for the longest distance ever covered in one day with a wheelchair powered by solar panels when he traveled the 141.7km (88 miles) from Masdar City to Sharjah in 14 hours without stopping. Although there was no previous record to beat, the Guinness judges gave him a minimum target of 100km (60 miles) to complete. The accomplishment made Taleb a celebrity in his home country and helped achieve his aim of raising awareness of disability and sustainability.
The adulation looks set to continue with his latest challenge taking him through schools, malls and social clubs in every emirate. For the journey, Taleb’s wheelchair is equipped with four 20W batteries that are charged by solar panels that hang over the chair and provide Taleb with some welcome shade.
The wheelchair, developed in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company, Masdar, has a maximum speed of 15–20 km/h (9–12 mph) and the batteries can power the chair for up to six hours in cloudy weather.
The wheelchair is an updated version of a design Taleb presented to the Young Future Energy Leaders (YFEL), a Masdar Institute initiative, at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in January. Unlike Taleb’s first version, which used last year to travel 170 km (106 miles) over a period of three days, the current wheelchair is smaller and is able to charge on the go.
Masdar donated around 100,000 UAE Dirham (approx. US$27,250) to sponsor the journey and develop the updated wheelchair. Taleb hopes to bring the solar-powered wheelchair to market saying it will offer both comfort and assistance to people with reduced mobility as they will no longer have to wait for hours to charge the batteries as it will just roll ahead when exposed to the sun.
“Masdar’s support has been invaluable,” Taleb said. “We have a common goal of driving innovation in the field of renewable energy – particularly in solar power – to create tools that can improve lives, save energy and protect the environment.”
You can keep an eye on Taleb’s progress here. We wish him well.