Solar Impulse Becomes First Plane to Go Around the World Without Fuel

Image: Solar Impulse
Image: Solar Impulse

The question on everyone’s mind: What’s going on with Solar Impulse?

For any nerd who isn’t aware, Solar Impulse is an airplane. The twist? She’s run using solar power. Chris Mills writes for Gizmodo,

Over 17,000 solar cells line its wings, supplying a series of electric motors and charging four on-board lithium batteries. It’s designed to be entirely solar-powered, and, thanks to those batteries, able to fly through day and night.

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Solar Impulse’s journey started in March of last year, and this baby has hit all the hottest airports like Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley International Airport and Dayton, Ohio, managing to make two stops in Arizona. No wonder the journey took a mere 505 days. (FWIW, the plane also traveled at the speed of a car.)

Solar Impulse celebrated on Twitter, tagging celebs like Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake in a tweet revealing the news:

In pilot André Borschberg’s tweet, he gives a shoutout to LeBron James’ fan club’s account and Mashable.

Big news for solar energy advocates and a gentle reminder of the power of the sun.

Eve Peyser was the night editor at Gizmodo.

DISCUSSION

I’m a pilot, and I’ve also met and had an extended conversation with Bertrand Picard, literally standing under the wing of Solar Impulse. This is an amazing technical and aviation accomplishment, and the entire team is to be congratulated.

That said, the “zero fuel” claim ignores the many thousands of gallons of fossil fuel used by the ground support teams. It also ignores the environmental impact of manufacturing the batteries and solar cells. While it’s true of course that the plane itself used no fuel, the entire process had a large carbon footprint.