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Marcelo da Luz tests the limits of his solar car

By Marcelo Vital – photo by Lydia Perr

His name means “from light” in Portuguese, so what could be more fitting than for this 43-year-old Brazilian from Sao Paulo to create a car powered by sunlight? The Power of One is the effort of an international team orchestrated by one man with a dream: Marcelo da Luz.

While not an engineer or scientist by trade, Marcelo reached out to volunteers all over the world to build his dream, a solar-powered three-wheeler out of his own design called the Power of One, or “X of 1.” Seeing the car in action is surreal and exhilarating; a UFO-like structure gliding over the road, making no noise. No wonder some people in its course have run away from the car in fear.

In 2004, an accident with a solar car resulted in a moratorium on solar-powered vehicles in the province of Ontario, halting research in the field and preventing Marcelo from driving his car in the province where he lives. Now, after 12 years of development, driving on the treacherous Ice Roads of Northern Canada and being the first solar car to reach the Arctic Circle, the X of 1 faces what may be its greatest challenge yet: politics.

Discover Brazil – What gave you the idea to build a solar-powered car?

Marcelo da Luz – When I was growing up, São Paulo’s two main rivers, Tietê and Pinheiros, were dead, they had became an open sewer. Pollution from oil refineries was so bad that the Atlantic Forest in their vicinity was dying. I grew up with it, it bothered me and I wanted to do something about it. I just didn’t know what to do. Then I was watching the news one day and it was about a solar car race in Australia. I thought, “How cool is that? Race cars powered by light! That’s the future – I want to be part of it.”

DB – How did you go about building a solar car when you had no engineering or scientific background?

ML – I started by looking up at the rules and regulations of the World Solar Challenge, a solar car race in Australia. There were guidelines for designing and building a car. I had a few sketches of the car and I started looking for people who knew computer graphics and asked for their help. I think that’s the most beautiful part of this project. This car was built by flight attendants, nurses, homemakers, students, teachers and also engineers. What I have done is the result of a collective effort.

“My objective is to build a dream
and inspire others to build their dreams”

DB – In April, you pulled your solar car yourself on foot during a 12-day trek from Niagara Falls to Toronto in protest to the current policy of the Ministry of Transportation on solar cars in Ontario. Did any developments come from it?

ML-I met with the Minister (Kathleen Wynne) recently and at the end I felt even more frustrated. They came up with rules and regulations which make it impossible to apply for a permit successfully. I can drive the car anywhere in the world, but not in Ontario.

DB – What is the future for you and the X of 1?

ML – The car has become a fantastic way to promote sustainability. I want to drive the car from the Arctic to Brazil and I’m looking for volunteers. I also want to go to poorer countries, schools, universities, and do presentations, share the technology of the car, inspire them to learn about clean and sustainable energy. My objective is to build a dream and inspire others to build their dreams.

More information about Marcelo da Luz’s solar car can be found at

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