Back in late 2008, SolarWorld, then an ambitious, ten-year-old German company, shocked the automobile world. They attempted to buy German automaker Opel from General Motors. SolarWorld offered 1 billion euros, 250 million to paid in cash and 750 million to paid in bank credits.
It was an astounding David vs. Goliath gambit based on SolarWorld’s desire to recast and rebuild Opel as the world’s first electric original equipment automobile manufacturer. Unfortunately for SolarWorld, GM wasn’t having it. Back in Detroit, the then-ailing automaker rejected the bid outright saying that Opel was not for sale and claims otherwise were “pure speculation.”
Four years later, SolarWorld—whose U.S. division is the country’s largest solar panel maker—still hasn’t been able to shake its green car bug. The company recently launched the U.S. leg of a 21,000-mile quest to circle the globe, propelled only by sun’s rays.
The SolarWorld Gran Turismo (GT), a collaboration between SolarWorld and Bochum University of Applied Sciences in Germany, is a two-seat sports car powered by roof-integrated solar cells. If they are successful, the GT’s circumnavigation of the planet, a first for a sustainable automobile, will set a Guinness Book of World Records record for the longest distance covered by a solar car.
The SolarWorld GT set out across the U.S. from Half Moon Bay, Calif. The crew, college students who developed and designed the SolarWorld GT, estimate the 3,774 mile journey (with plenty of PR stops factored in) will take 49 days before they reach their goal in South Carolina.
The SolarWorld GT began its trans-world journey in Australia and New Zealand in October 2011, covering more than 3,100 miles before shipping to the United States in December. Following the U.S. leg, the vehicle and its crew will travel through Europe, Africa and Asia before finishing in Australia in late 2012.
As for Opel, these days, you can’t buy an one in the United States. Instead, GM markets the autos under names such as the Buick Regal (an Opel Insignia). However, in 2010 Opel announced that it will invest around 11 billion euros in the next five years. One billion of that is designated solely for the development of innovative and fuel-saving engines and transmissions.