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ABB and Solar Impulse in technology alliance for round-the-world flight powered by the sun

ABB and Solar Impulse have formed a technology alliance under which ABB will support Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg in their attempt to fly around the world in a solar-powered airplane in 2015. The two have already demonstrated the first flight through the night with a solar airplane as well as record-breaking missions across Europe, the Mediterranean Sea and the United States. (Earlier post.)

The carbon fiber airplane has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 (63.4m / 208 ft) and the weight of a small car (1,600kg / 3,527 lb). It is the result of seven years of intense work, calculations, simulations and tests by a team of about 80 people and 100 partners and advisors. A plane so big and light has never been built before. The 12,000 solar cells built into the wing provide four 10 hp electric motors with renewable energy. By day the solar cells recharge the 400kg / 881 lb lithium batteries which allow the plane to fly at night.

The Solar Impulse team will unveil their new airplane which will be used to attempt the round-the-world flight in 2015 on 9 April.

Solar Impulse and ABB are technology innovators and pioneers. 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.

—Andre Borschberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Solar Impulse

Switzerland-based ABB is a global leader in renewables, sustainable transportation and energy efficiency. The company is the world’s second-largest supplier of solar inverters and one of the largest suppliers to the wind-power industry. In March 2014, ABB announced that it would be building the world’s largest network of new-generation, fast chargers for electric cars in China. ABB improves energy efficiency across the entire value chain from exploration to consumption. Its installed base of drives for motors alone saved around 400 TWh in electricity in 2013, equivalent to the annual power consumption of 100 million European households.

ABB invested more than $1.5 billion in research and development in 2013 and has 8,500 technologists worldwide.



A hand to ABB for their involvement with electric airplane builders.

Future electric planes with 2X more efficient solar cells, up to 5X lighter batteries and improved ABB associated control systems will do much better.

It is not exaggerated to believe than small e-planes will eventually be used for training and for unmanned flights and/or drones.

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