Solar Impulse completes US flight

Solar Impulse takes off for the final leg of the Coast-to-Coast Across America flights © Solar Impulse / Ackermann / Rezo.ch

Photo credit: Solar Impulse takes off for the final leg of the Coast-to-Coast Across America flights © Solar Impulse / Ackermann / Rezo.ch

It might have been a little late for July 4 celebrations, but the solar energy powered Solar Impulse aircraft touched down at the end of its coast-to-coast flight three hours ahead of schedule, at 11.09 Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday. This final leg of the aircraft’s journey was from Washington DC to J.F. Kennedy airport and took 18 hours and 23 minutes.
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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.