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Woman completes solar-powered bike ride across U.S.

August 30, 2015 at 1:35 PM EDT
Last week 34-year-old Marissa Muller completed a solo, cross country bicycle ride in 80 days. Her custom bike was powered in part by solar energy, and the impetus for her trip was to show Americans the possibilities of solar power. NewsHour’s Saskia de Melker has the story.

SASKIA DE MELKER: Marissa Muller pedaled across America with a 10 pound solar panel converting sunlight to electricity.

MARISSA MULLER: The real purpose was to expose solar to everybody. There are some early adopters who have applied to their rooftops and seen the benefits. But I really wanted to get out there, get out in the streets, and engage everybody and really show them how solar works.

SASKIA DE MELKER: This solar panel charges a battery, which charges the motor here on the rear wheel. The motor provides 40 percent of the pedal power which made it easier for Muller to average 17 miles an hour and cover 70 miles a day.

MARISSA MULLER: It was a beautiful way to see the country. Slow and steady and full focus on what was ahead.

SASKIA DE MELKER: On the road, the custom made bike was a conversation starter and that was the point.

MARISSA MULLER: I’d say on average, five people a day would come over and inquire.

SASKIA DE MELKER: Muller’s journey took her from her home in San Francisco through National parks and across the famed Route 66. She rode past the Jefferson Memorial and, finally, over the George Washington Bridge into New York City.

Along the way, she did stop to smell the roses, and take days off.

MARISSA MULLER: I would take breaks in cities I felt some connection with. So, in Santa Fe, I was really curious about the whole arts scene, Georgia O’Keefe, took some art classes there

SASKIA DE MELKER: Having worked in the solar industry, Muller sees more possibilities for using solar energy.

MARISSA MULLER: I don’t see everybody schlepping a solar panel. It is quite cumbersome. I see an upgrade from traditional bikes to electric bikes and the evolution from a traditional bike rack to a solar docking station. So you could zip to work, dock your bike, gives you a lock and a charge. At the end of the day, hop back on with some speed and power and get back home.