Bolivia's first solar-powered vehicle is turning heads on the streets of El Alto - and the quiet car's designers are driving costs down too.
A new-look set of wheels on the streets of one of Bolivia's highest cities, El Alto. Powered by the sun's rays, what it lacks in speed, it makes up for in efficiency. This is the Public University of Alto's Alt-Kaltari solar car. Its eight solar panels provide enough energy to propel it to speeds of up 70 km per hour. Student Ivan Lopez is one of the developers. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING STUDENT, IVAN LOPEZ, SAYING: "The most special feature of this project is that we capture solar energy and store it in a lithium battery that has a lot of power, it reaches 72 volts. The power that is generated through the battery continues to feed off the solar panels. This means that by using the sun's light we can store energy continuously." The student team put their car on the road for an impressive 15,000 dollars. Team member Fernando Valeria says they brought costs down by testing the design virtually before investing in expensive materials . (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ENGINEERING STUDENT, FERNANDO VALERIA, SAYING "We designed it beforehand, we did virtual tests and if it didn't work we changed the design." And unlike El Alto's other autos, the Alt-Katari glides through the streets in silence. Willy Aricagua takes the wheel of the futuristic car. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ENGINEERING STUDENT AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITY OF EL ALTO, WILLY ARICAGUA, SAYING: "It's equipped with a brushless motor that allows the car to function in silence - it's small and for this reason it's not noisy. It's not like the gas or fuel motors that work with pistons and combustion." The Alt-Katari is Bolivia's first solar powered vehicle. With 20 km already on the clock, its developers hope this is just the beginning of a long road trip.