maxon Story

An adventure with an ambitious goal

From greedy caterpillar to undemanding butterfly:  With his Solar Butterfly project, Louis Palmer uses this striking metaphor of sustainability to call attention to climate change. The solar-powered tiny house has been traveling for about a year, with alternating crews, visiting future‑oriented projects. What are its initial findings, and where is the butterfly’s journey taking it?

The Solar Butterfly is spending four years traveling by eco-friendly means to visit about a thousand sustainability projects around the world.  

Louis Palmer, the initiator of Solar Butterfly, believes that many intelligent and feasible solutions for the challenges of our time have already been developed. They now need to be made known and scaled up – and put into practice.  In 2022, Palmer and his crew launched their solar-powered tiny house on a tour all across Europe. Their goal was to bring much-needed attention to the numerous projects that are working toward greater sustainability.

Louis Palmer

Initiator von Solar Butterfly

Climate action means change, but not necessarily doing without.  Climate projects can be fun. And if  you think about the long term,  many of the proposed solutions are even profitable.


Eye-catching sustainability 

The butterfly-shaped caravan is built from a material made from oceanic waste, and accommodates a four-person crew. The folding wings are made of solar panels and supply both the Solar Butterfly and the Tesla that pulls the tiny house with the power they need. With water purification, a specially designed shower, and the biodegradable clothing of its inhabitants, the footprint of the Solar Butterfly and its passengers is reduced to a minimum.

On a journey around the globe

Due to the supply chain bottlenecks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Solar Butterfly very nearly did not make it out of its cocoon on time. But now the technology is working perfectly, with the last teething problems sorted out over the winter break. Louis Palmer has even more important concerns: “Everywhere we go, we encounter open ears, and discover exciting new solutions.” So the journey continues: In this year alone, the Solar Butterfly is being shipped from Liverpool to Canada, before voyaging through North and Central America. 2024 will take it across Asia, and one year later the journey will end by going through Australia and South America. The destination is Belém in Brazil, where the COP30 global climate conference is scheduled to take place in 2025.


  • 200,000 km is the distance that the Solar Butterfly will cover on its journey through 90 countries across 6 continents.
  • 120 m2 of solar panels provide about 120 kWh of power per day. This enables the Solar Butterfly to cover a distance of up to 220 km.
  • 60% less energy is used by the shower in the Solar Butterfly compared to a conventional shower.
  • 800 kg of PET bottles from the sea were used to build the caravan, its furniture, and its solar panels.
  • 4.3 kg per square meter instead of 16 kg is the weight of the solar panels of the Solar Butterfly. This low weight is due to innovative materials.
  • 100 volunteers are committed to the project for its entire duration.
  • 1 year for development and six months for construction were needed before the Solar Butterfly could unfold its wings.


Since 2022, the Solar Butterfly has been traveling across the entire world on a search for future-oriented sustainability projects. The final destination of its journey is the global climate conference in Belém in Brazil in 2025.

The Initiator 

Louis Palmer is experienced in climate projects. In 2008, the former teacher from central Switzerland became the first person to drive a solar taxi around the world, earning the accolade “Champion of the Earth” from the UN. That journey motivated the 51-year-old to embark on his  next adventure with the Solar Butterfly. When he’s not returning to his teaching roots by visiting schools with the Solar Butterfly, he works as a motivational speaker, raising awareness among decision‑makers for new solutions for dealing with climate change.

Louis Palmer’s three highlights

1. Heating houses with sand

In the summer months, the sand is heated in a tank to 500 °C by solar energy. When it gets cold, the sand slowly gives off its heat again, heating an entire house. In this way, the energy collected in the summer can be stored until the winter in a very simple way.

2. A search engine with a green thumb

When you use the search engine Ecosia, you don’t just get answers to your questions, you’re also promoting biodiversity at the same time. This is because all the revenues from the search advertising go to environmental protection. The primary focus is on planting trees all over the world – and not monocultures, but rather native species adapted to each location.

3. Electricity from the earth

In Tuscany, geothermal power plants produce almost as much electricity as a nuclear power plant. Steam rising up from the earth’s interior is conveyed to steam turbines where it is transformed into electricity. After that, it condenses in cooling towers, and the water is injected back under the earth. The technology has stood the test of time, but is by no means gathering dust; on the contrary, it is very clean.


The Engagement from maxon

With its electric drive systems, maxon assists and supports hundreds of inventions. For the Solar Butterfly in particular, maxon contributed a motor to extend the butterfly’s head, along with technical expertise. In return, the company is hoping to gain new findings and business connections from the project.


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