People and companies are embracing alternative energy all over the world. In some instances rising gas prices, overpopulation and a scarcity of fossil fuels are making it an absolute necessity. In other places it is a concerted effort to transform the world, trimming our reliance on non-renewable energy with the hopes of staving off climate change and coming up with a workable strategy to help the human race survive through the twenty-first century. You would not expect a world record involving solar power to come out of the UAE, basically the capital of the world’s fossil fuel supply. But that’s exactly what has happened, as 47-year-old Haidar Taleb just secured such a record for distance traversed in a solar powered wheelchair.
Taleb has been confined to a wheelchair since a very early age, a victim of polio’s devastating effects. But while he may not be able to stand up, he has certainly not accepted his limitations sitting down. Instead of remaining complacent on the complicated issues of energy and disability he partnered with Masdar, a Middle Eastern alternative energy company, to design his own completely solar powered wheelchair. And that wheelchair isn’t just some sort of museum piece or curiosity. Taleb actually used it to get himself into The Guinness Book of World Records for the longest journey in a solar powered wheelchair ever recorded. His first attempt, which set that new record, was an 80-mile trip over 14 hours. Taleb drove from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah, and reached an average speed of 12 miles per hour. Then he bested his own record by driving over 200 additional miles in the very same wheelchair.
That alone is an incredible accomplishment, but it’s not the real reason Taleb went to the efforts of creating the solar powered wheelchair. Along the way Taleb made a point of stopping to speak at universities, schools, and health centers that rehabilitate those with disabilities. His goal is to show those struggling with disabilities as well as the regularly-abled that nothing is ever out of your reach, regardless of what may stand in your way. While an individual’s mobility may be impacted, his or her ability to think through a problem can never be taken away. According to a statement that Taleb released, he firmly believes that those with disabilities can perform miracles, and should never expect anything less from themselves.
In fact, the true miracle may be the statement Taleb has made in the world of alternative energy. At a time when energy is scarce and all options must be considered, the distance he was able to traverse only aided by solar power is striking. Hopefully it can inspire others to continue the research he started, developing further applications for solar power. And if you consider the millions of people who must use a wheelchair to get around, if some percentage of those people who need automated chairs would go with solar power instead, a significant amount of electricity would be saved. Just look at all of the options sold through 1800wheelchair.com. If even one quarter of those chairs was adjusted to leave zero carbon footprint, a very real difference would be made in the fight for environmental sustainability.