Record-setting solar-powered car visits USF

In what began as a dream 12 years ago, Marcelo da Luz stopped by USF on Tuesday to showcase his eco-friendly car that runs on sunlight energy and has never been plugged in.

The presentation was hosted by USF’s SMART (Students for the Marketing and Advancement of Renewable Technology) Club. The car was shown at the USF Research Park.

Da Luz was inspired to make a positive impact by a news broadcast about being environmentally friendly.

“A light went off, but I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it,” he said.

Da Luz carried his dream through college in Brazil, where he received a degree in marketing, then in 2001 he left his 10-year flight attendant career with Air Canada.

He said he spent more than half a million dollars building the car by spending all his savings, taking out house mortgages and loans and using credit cards.

After two years of research and three and a half years of requesting permits from the government, he spent almost three years building the car.

“The most difficult thing was believing I could do it,” he said.

The top of the car detaches from the bottom so da Luz can lie down before he closes the hatch-like top. Mirrors on the car were avoided to reduce drag, so da Luz wears glasses with cameras on the sides that allow him to see behind and along the sides of the car.

On June 12, 2008, he started driving around the Great Lakes and reached the Arctic Circle 46 days later. He set a new world record of 15,000 miles — the longest distance a solar-powered car has traveled.

His car also became the first to reach the Arctic Circle and operate below freezing temperatures.

While da Luz wants to promote clear air, he also carries a message hoping to inspire others.

“You learn, you try, you also make mistakes along the way,” he said. “I’m not special, I don’t have special talents. If I can do this then anybody can.”