The Future of Overland Travel

There have been a couple of good sci-fi stories that have come out in the last few years which at least touch on the idea of long distance, self-supported overland travel. For instance, in Tobias Buckell’s 2008 contribution to the collective effort META-tropolis near the end of Stochasti-city his hero leaves the city of Detroit headed west in a velomobile-like device as he searches for the woman who he believes is responsible for a positive transformation.

I love this idea, that humanity in a post-fossil fuel society, does not become insular and prosaic, stuck in place without the potential for travel. We have, at a glance, many technologies that earlier versions of mankind lacked completely in addition to the productive employment of our own two feet.

Today I found an example of what future overland travel might look like. Its not big and spacious, but its capable, independent, and given the right amount of care could take its crew a very long way.

A team of 22 students at the Eindhoven University of Technology have built a sedan (room for four passengers and a trunk) which is completely solar powered. They’re entering it in the World Solar Challenge as one of 10 or so entries in the new Michelin Cruiser Class.

I have, for years now, dreamt of planning some sort of long distance tour in nothing more audacious than a Twike. Owners of these human-electric hybrids have been touring parts of Europe for years. But this vehicle has a limited range and requires dedicated charging stations even with the addition of a pair of generator cranks for the pilot and navigator to turn along the way.

The examples of vehicles in the Michelin Cruiser Class may be template for those interested in this sort of feat to base future platforms and imaginary descriptions. Pretty amazing engineering, attention will need to be focused on light-weight solutions to make truly independent versions of this work over long distances.

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