Battery key to solar-powered plane

Across America – Golden Gate Flight © Solar Impulse / J. Revillard

Photo: Across America – Golden Gate Flight, © Solar Impulse / J. Revillard

Press reports of the Solar Impulse sun-powered aircraft’s nighttime touchdown at Washington DC underscored the key role batteries play in putting solar power to work. According to the Solar Impulse web site, though, the plane, which is currently crossing America, does not rely on bog-standard battery technology. Instead, Korean manufacturer Kokam is said to have cooked up a lithium polymer battery pack which is “two years ahead of the industry.”

While the project team may be understandably reluctant to reveal details of the technology, it is good at least to see this example of energy storage innovation flying high.

Energy storage in the air – Boeing’s SUGAR volt

SUGAR stands for ‘Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research’, and the SUAGAR Volt is Boeing’s concept hybrid propulsion plane that would be powered in part by rechargeable batteries.

A report in Phys.org says that although the days of a battery powered plane could be a long way off -somewhere between 2030 and 2050, and very much depend on how much batteries improve in the coming years – several airlines are looking into providing hybrid power for taxing aircraft.