The Other Cross-U.S. Solar Plane Trek

In July, the Solar Impulse completed a cross-country photovoltaic flight. Eric Raymond and his Sunseeker did it more than 20 years ago

8 min read
The Other Cross-U.S. Solar Plane Trek
Steering the Sunseeker: Eric Raymond piloted the Sunseeker across the United States in 1990.
Photo: Solar Flight

Last month, the photovoltaic-powered plane Solar Impulse completed its six-stage, two-month journey across the United States. It wasn’t quite Armstrong on the moon or Lindbergh in Paris, but it was still a rather significant aeronautical achievement.

What’s often forgotten is that the Solar Impulse wasn’t the first solar plane to cross the United States. In the summer of 1990, 23 years ago, the Sunseeker performed a similar feat. Designed and flown by Eric Raymond, then a 33-year-old California engineer, Sunseeker flew across the country, making 21 stops over the course of a summer, spending 121 hours in the air.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images
Green

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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