Solar Plane Passes 24-hour Endurance Test

Stores enough sunlight to stay aloft overnight

1 min read
Solar Plane Passes 24-hour Endurance Test

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Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/Reuters
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This sleek aircraft, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA, remained aloft for an entire day in July, completing the first-ever night flight for a solar plane. During the day, the 11 628 monocrystalline silicon solar panels blanketing its wings—63 meters from tip to tip—generated enough electricity to power its four 7.46-kilowatt motors and top up its 70 polymer lithium batteries. The batteries' 96-kilowatt-hour total capacity was enough to keep the plane cruising along at an average of 70 kilometers per hour between dusk and dawn. Designers are working on a version with lighter batteries that will circle the globe without touching down.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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