The Solar Impulse plane is an entirely sun-powered, single-seat airplane that is capable of flying for 36 hours consecutively. In late March we got our first glimpse of the Solar Impulse, and last week it completed its final test flight before embarking on the coast-to-coast flight. The amazing plane’s wingspan of 208 feet is as wide as that of a Boeing 747, and at just 3,500 pounds, it weighs about as much as a small car. The Solar Impulse is the first airplane ever to be able to fly both day and night using solar energy. Its wings are covered with 12,000 solar cells, which are used to charge the 881 pounds of lithium-ion batteries it carries. Once fully charged, those batteries enable the plane to fly all night.
Piccard and Borschberg will be taking off very early and landing very late on each flight in order to avoid commercial traffic and turbulence. “I went to bed very early; I was 9:00 in bed,” Piccard told the bleary-eyed press.
“It’s a fabulous way, I believe, to promote clean technologies, to show what our world could do if we’re really applying these technologies everywhere. We have to understand that the technologies that we have on board, if they were globally used everywhere — also on the ground — could help our world to divide by two its energy consumption and to provide half of the rest with renewable sources. That’s why thousands of people have signed up to support this Clean Generation initiative.”