Earlier his week, I delivered
my LETS Presentation to members of Talente Tauschring Braunfels (TTB)
and guests from the local German-Anglo Society. It was held in a large
classroom at Hessen Kolleg (a college in Wetzlar, 10 km east of Braunfels)
who are also a member of the Tauschring group. Needless to say, the
room hire was paid with 'talents', the local Tauschring currency.
The meeting started at 6pm
and stretched out to 9.30pm after a lively Question and Answer session
with the audience. In fact, the night seemed to have been cut too
short for some of the audience, who invited Wolfgang (my LETS host)
and myself to join them for a drink at a local restaurant. I don't
have a reputation for refusing a drink, and neither does Wolfgang,
so we were happy to agree.
But let me give you a little
background to TTB and Wolfgang �
Wolfgang Gerster is one
of TTB's founding members. He was involved in starting the group 4-5
years ago, and it's survived in a small town of only about 6,000 people
(11,500 including surrounding districts). Currently its membership
is about 40, but they are a forward-thinking and lively group of people.
Now let me tell you more
about Wolfgang �
Wolfgang is, beyond doubt,
the greenest Braunfelser in the district. Apart from the fact that
he's Braunfel's local Green Party Representative for Parliament (which
retained power as part of the coalition government in last month's
general elections), he's got more than a green thumb when it comes
He's recently erected a
second solar panel in the back of his house. This now copes with 50%
of his household energy needs. Wolfgang is particularly pleased with
his latest addition, because this solar panel is a revolving one,
and is smart enough to spin itself around and direct itself towards
the brightest source of light, in order to draw the maximum amount
of energy from the sun's rays.
A novel little appliance,
which I found fascinating, was his solar powered/crank-up radio. A
few turns of the cranking handle, and it would fill my comfortable
room with peaceful classical music, which was my permanent radio setting.
Then I'd strategically place it in the sunniest spot in the room,
ensuring the solar panel was in direct sunlight, and it would keep
playing indefinitely. I'm sure that this would've been a hot item
on Gilligan's Island!
But his pride and joy was
The TWIKEmobile (made by
TWIKE), is a 3-wheeled electric car. Almost the perfect mode of transport
for a through-and-through Greeny � but it's painted blue (maybe this
will change in the future?)
My experience with the TWIKEmobile
was both exciting and frightening. It's a beautifully designed fibreglass
machine with simple controls, all of which are placed on the steering
shaft. There is no steering wheel, and you only drive with one arm,
swinging it left or right in the direction you want to go. The handle
grip is at the end of this steering shaft, and there you find switches
for the accelerator (2 speeds), decelerator (2 speeds) and indicators,
which made the noisiest sound, much like a car horn which has got
stuck and sounds off repeatedly.
Nevertheless, it was a great
head-turner with pedestrians and motorists alike, many of them craning
their necks to catch a glimpse of us as we cruised quietly along the
road. So quiet, in fact, that on a couple of occasions we came precariously
close to unwitting pedestrians who were walking along the road, only
to be shocked, at the last second, to find a "baby-blue tadpole on
wheels" sneaking up behind them!
There's also a computer
screen perched in front of the driver giving crucial information regarding
the amount of power left in the batteries and the estimated distance
which could be travelled. Which leads me into the following story
On our way from Braunfels
to Wetzlar (where the LETS Presentation was due to be held), Wolfgang
found, to his dismay, that the batteries were draining fairly rapidly.
This could've been due to the fact that he'd unknowingly switched
the headlights on and also just driven up a small hill (both big energy
drainers). But I think it was mainly due to the extra 90 kg of body
weight that I was responsible for (I'm currently on a diet, so it'll
be less of a problem in the future).