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Solar Impulse Aircraft Needs €20 Million To Continue

by John White |

solar impulse aircraftMaking an around the world flight in the Solar Impulse aircraft is proving to be a bit more expensive than originally thought. Flying around the world in any aircraft is a challenge in itself, but doing it in a solar powered aircraft is physically, emotionally, technologically and financially an immense undertaking for anyone, let alone a large company. After completing their flight from Japan to Hawaii in 4 days, 21 hours and 52 minutes (Whew....!) the team found that the aircraft must now replace it's overheated batteries before being able to continue on.

Lithium Polymer Batteries

During the day the solar impulse aircraft solar cells collect energy from the sun and stores it in 4 70 liter lithium polymer batteries whose energy density is optimized to 260 Watt Hours per 2.2 pounds. The total weight of these 4 batteries is 1400 pounds, or just over 1/4 of the aircraft's total weight. These batteries operate at a high voltage of 300 volts, and can hold a maximum capacity of 38.5 killowatt hours. In addition there is also a smaller low voltage battery (28v) to run essential cockpit instrumentation.

Battery Damage

It has now been determined that the solar impulse aircraft battery system has suffered irreversible damage to parts of the battery system during the 5 day journey from Japan to Hawaii. During the solar impulse aircraft's initial climb out from Nagoya, Japan the batteries became overheated not due to a technical failure or the technology; rather, the flight managers had incorrectly miscalculated the temperature increases the aircraft would experience. In addition, the amount of insulation installed was incorrect for the tropical climate experienced on the climb out. The repairs and testing will now push the next opportunity for the flight from Hawaii to Arizona until late April or May of 2016. Bummer!

Why €20 Million To Continue

A project of this magnitude requires an immense staff of 150 people, many of whom need to travel to both launch and recover the aircraft on it's flights. Both Piccard and Borschberg have returned to Europe and are seeking additional investments to keep the project going and complete the around the world flight without using one drop of fuel. You can read more about this historic attempt to circumnavigate the world using solar power alone at: SOLARIMPULSE Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!

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