Back in 1999 Bertrand Piccard, along with Brian Jones, was the first to set off on a non-stop balloon flight around the globe and now he wants to do it again, but this time the plan is to circumnavigate the globe using an EV airplane powered only by solar power!
The first test flight of the new EV prototype (dubbed Solar Impulse) was conducted at the Dubendorf Airfield (December 3rd, 2009) in Switzerland, by flight test pilot Markus Scherdel and was deemed a complete success. The test flight was one for the record books as never before has an aircraft so large flown using so little energy. The recent high speed test flight is a prelude to high-altitude tests that will be conducted in the Spring of 2010.
Video of first Flea Hop of the Solar Impulse
The purpose of this particular EV aircraft (HB-SIA) is to demonstrate the feasibility of a night flight making sole use of solar energy. It is the prototype EV for the HB-SIB, which will be used to circumnavigate around the globe. Editor’s Note: Around the EV.com office the HB-SIA and the HB-SIB and those solar powered EV aircraft soon to be created that have the ability to operate indefinitely in similar fashion have been nicknamed PFMs (Perpetual Flying Machines or EVs powered by Pure Freaking Magic).
Piccard wants to prove “it is possible, through invention, innovation and creative engineering, to propel aircraft in a completely clean and toxin-free manner”. Even his record-breaking around-the-world balloon flight had consumed more than four tons of propane gas and released that amount of toxic pollution into the atmosphere.
The Solar Impulse has a wingspan of a 747, but weighs only as much as a car and yet should have many more times the range without using a single drop of fuel!
This EV is powered solely by light from the sun falling on photovoltaic cells attached to the upper surface of the wings. It can gather enough energy for its lithium batteries during the eight hours when the sun is more or less directly overhead to keep the propellers turning throughout the night until the cycle can be repeated the following day…in theory this could continue almost indefinitely.
Some Interesting Stats:
Crew: Two pilot
Wing Span: 211 ft 5 in (64.9 m)
Weight: 394,100 lbs (178,800 kg)
Range “up to” 8400 miles (13,400 km)
Solar Impulse HB-SIA
Crew: Two pilot
Wing Span: 208 feet (63.4 meters)
Weight: 3,527 lbs (1,600kg)
Range: “at least” Piccard’s current world record of 28,430 miles (45,755 km)
The recent high speed test flight by the Solar Impulse wasn’t much farther in distance than the longest flight on the first day flown by Orville Wright over a hundred years when he flew the world’s first successful airplane and made the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903. The good news is that Bertrand Piccard and the Solar Impulse are on track to attempt their around-the-world flight record flight.
EV of the Year Judge at EV.com, independent green journalist, photographer, author and sustainability activist that has published over 1000 articles. Mr Burridge’s travels have taken him to over 30 countries and 300+ major cities. He is originally from the USA, but has been residing in Australia for the last seven years. Connect to Ken Burridge on: Twitter, facebook, Google+, Linked in or website