Home » Inspiring climate action: Cycling duo complete 13,000 km solar-powered trip 

Inspiring climate action: Cycling duo complete 13,000 km solar-powered trip 

by Madaline Dunn

Having travelled 13,000 km over 106 days on a solar-powered quadricycle, two friends, Yousef El Haouass and Salim Rhandi, arrived in Dubai yesterday, completing their expedition at the Veolia Biogas-to-Energy Plant at the Wasan Sewage Treatment Plant.

El Haouass and Rhandi explained that in their journey from Laayoune, Morocco, across some eleven countries, they highlighted the importance of harnessing renewable energy in climate action at each stop they rode through.

“Given the strong ties that bind Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, I thought of the challenge that links the city of Laayoune to Dubai, passing through several cities where previous COPs were held,” said El Haouass.

Powered by solar

The trip, powered only by solar and muscle, was supported by Veolia in Morocco and led by the Wamda Association for Innovation and Creativity. 

The quadricycle, dubbed the Ibn Battuta Solar Bike and now in its second iteration, was both designed and developed by El Haouass, President of the Wamda Association.

“This is the second version of this prototype, the first was a three-wheeler, which I used in 2018.” On this first prototype, El Haouass travelled from Tangiers to China. 

He explained that the roof of the vehicle, halfway between a car and a bike, is fitted with five solar panels to capture energy, which is then stored in a battery and transferred to the electric motor.

The solar energy, Rhandi shared, provided almost 90 per cent of the energy needed to move the quadricycle.

Underlining the importance of preserving our resources 

Reaching the Veolia plant, the duo were welcomed by the Veolia team, who underlined the significance of the feat they had achieved and what it represents. 

Philippe Bourdeaux, Director of the Africa & Middle-East Zone, Veolia, said: “Very much in line with various efforts to promote the energy transition and decarbonisation, this unique expedition underlines the importance of preserving our resources and exploiting the potential of renewable energy.”

Commenting on the journey, Rhandi said: “This is a big dream for me, and I will never forget the people we met on the road. It’s also a message for everybody to use green energy, protect the environment and save the world.”

Embracing circularity

The Biogas-to-Energy Plant, where the duo were received, in partnership with Dubai Municipality, is where biogas from Dubai’s main wastewater treatment plant is recycled to produce local decarbonised energy, to “close the loop,” as Bourdeaux explained. 

The plant, equipped with solar panels on the roof, has the potential to produce 45,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity annually through the conversion of biogas recovered from the digestion of sludge, a byproduct of wastewater treatment. 

“To produce 45 gigawatts of energy from the sludge is really something that we would not have thought possible 15 years ago,” Pascal Grante, Chief Executive Officer, Veolia Middle East, told ESG Mena. 

The plant currently provides 70 per cent of the wastewater plant’s power requirements. 

“Our job is to show the government, the industry, and local authorities that we are able to find a source of green energy almost everywhere, from the waste, from the sludge, from the water,” said Grante.

Further, speaking about the overarching theme that guides Veolia’s work, Grante explained that with each project the company undertakes, the objective is to come up with a sustainable solution, whether that’s reducing energy consumption or promoting the valorisation of waste materials, with the aim of sustaining the environment, the economy and protecting the planet. 

COP28 begins today, and renewable energy will be in the spotlight. Indeed, the UAE recently joined a global call to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030, a big ambition that requires significant action and investment across the board to be realised. 

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