The Solar Impulse is currently attempting the first ever solar powered flight around the world. It began in March 2015 in Abu Dhabi headed East, and has currently made its way back around to Cairo, Egypt, nearly completing its record-breaking trip.
But is this commercially viable? The co-pilots and founders of Solar Impulse seem to think that yes, it will be soon.
“This is the beginning of a new cycle,” co-pilot Bertrand Piccard told the Bloomberg New Energy Finance publication Clean Energy and Carbon Brief in an interview this week. He predicted a “new paradigm” of planes flying with no fuel, but being powered by batteries that are charged by solar power.
“Before 10 years’ time, we will have short-haul electric airplanes for 50 people,” Piccard said in the interview.
But the 4600-pound prototypical solar plane isn't without its shortfalls. The flight was delayed last year after a leg from Japan to Hawaii when it was experiencing battery storage issues.
It also has an unusual way of coping with power loss when the sun isn't shining-- the plane slowly loses altitude at night, while the solar-charged batteries power its electric motor, and regains its altitude during the day, while the motor is being actively powered by the sun's photons.
As such, the Solar Impulse crew is realistic about the limitations of this mode of transportation; they don't seem to think that Southwest Airlines will be adopting completely solar powered aircraft anytime soon.
Still, they remain optimistic about what this could mean for the future of the industry. Says Piccard, “Solar Impulse has shown what is possible. The industry now needs to take over… it will be interesting to see who does it first."
Source: RenewEconomy.com-- http://quicksolar.link/solarbc14