ABB joins Solar Impulse team for Globe-circling PV-powered Airplane

April 08, 2014 by Jeff Shepard

ABB Group it has formed a technology alliance with Solar Impulse, which is attempting the first round-the-world flight powered by the sun. Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg of Solar Impulse will attempt to fly around the world in a solar powered airplane in 2015. The first-ever flight through the night with a solar airplane as well as record-breaking missions across Europe, the Mediterranean Sea and the United States brought worldwide attention to Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg with their Solar Impulse endeavor, demonstrating the enormous potential of clean technologies and showing how a pioneering spirit can achieve the impossible.

The new Solar Impulse 2 improves upon the single-seat prototype that first took flight five years ago, and which has since demonstrated that a solar-powered plane can fly through the night, between two continents and across the United States. Unveiled at Payerne Air Force Base in Switzerland the Solar Impulse 2 has better Li-ion batteries for storing energy harvested by the 7,200 solar cells that cover it wings. At 72 meters (about 235 feet) its wingspan is eight meters longer than the first prototype (and longer than the wingspan jumbo jet) but weights only 2.3 metric tons (2.54 tons), about as much as a full-sized automobile.

Now the Solar Impulse team is preparing for the ultimate technological challenge: to circumnavigate the globe in a plane powered only by the sun’s energy. Scheduled to take place in 2015, the trip will take place in several stages, the aircraft's slow speed means it will have to stay in the air for several days in a row during the long transoceanic legs. The global trip will take about 20 flying days, spread over a period of several months.

“This partnership brings together two Swiss-based global leaders that are passionate about pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation to achieve a better world,” said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. “We believe in Bertrand’s vision, and we are convinced that by pioneering innovative technologies we will be able to decouple economic growth from energy consumption and environmental impact. Today, ABB is a global leader for solutions to enable energy efficiency, sustainable transportation and renewables and like Solar Impulse we are always challenging the boundaries of what is technologically possible.”

“It was my dream to have ABB as technology partner of Solar Impulse,” said Bertrand Piccard, initiator and chairman of Solar Impulse. “We have the same goal of improving the world by using energy more efficiently and conserving natural resources.”

“Solar Impulse and ABB are technology innovators and pioneers,” said Andre Borschberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Solar Impulse. “We both want to motivate people to use clean technologies; ABB and Solar Impulse will work together on key technologies like power electronics for our mutual benefit.”