After successfully crossing the Pacific – the longest and most difficult leg of its Around-the-World flight, Solar Impulse has had to terminate its epic journey in Hawaii due to severe battery damage caused by overheating. It would take some months to repair or replace the damaged battery cells, which are custom-manufactured to specific requirements. In mid-August daylight hours reduce below the threshold required to enable Solar Impulse to continue to the US West Coast and complete the Around-the-World flight in 2015.
The battery damage occurred on day one of trans-Pacific flight from Nagoya to Hawaii, with battery temperatures increasing excessively due to over-insulation. The Mission Team in Monaco was fully aware of this and monitored the situation closely throughout the flight; however each daily cycle required an ascent to 28’000 feet followed by a descent for energy management issues. This made it impossible to reduce the battery temperatures sufficiently.
We have to recognize that this situation was brought about due to human error. Firstly the batteries were over-insulated which was appropriate for the first part of the Around-the-World flight, but not for the tropical weather over the Pacific. Secondly, the team did simply not anticipate that rapid ascent/descent cycles would lead to permanent overheating of the battery systems.
As a main partner of Solar Impulse, Schindler shares the disappointment of the Solar Impulse team. But setbacks are often part of bold innovations – it’s the cost of pushing limits to make great things happen. We should be proud and encouraged that Solar Impulse had already set major aviation records. Earlier this month, pilot Andre Borschberg flew nearly 4,500 miles in 118 hours powered only by the rays of the sun, and in so doing he broke the record in absolute distance and duration for solar aviation.
Solar Impulse has demonstrated that new technologies can enable a plane to fly day and night without fuel. This should inspire others to tap that clear potential for use in our daily lives, through energy savings and reduced CO2 emissions.
Solar Impulse began its Around-the-World Mission on 8th of March in Abu Dhabi. It completed eight legs, stopping in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Japan and the US (Hawaii), and covered nearly 18,000 km.
Schindler remains a main partner of Solar Impulse until the end of the Around-the-World flight. Our engineers will continue to work closely with the Solar Impulse team. By embedding our Schindler engineers in the Solar Impulse project, Schindler contributed and will continue to contribute to a unique scientific collaboration that has led to an intense cross-fertilization of ideas and technologies and generated innovations and discoveries of benefit to all.
Schindler is still convinced that Solar Impulse is one of the most important and inspiring clean-tech projects today, because it is not only about saving energy but also about conquering new technological ground. The Solar Impulse Around-the-World flight has inspired millions of people through its pioneering spirit and its unerring commitment to the adoption of clean technologies and renewable energy.
The University of Hawaii will host the Solar Impulse aircraft in its hanger at Kalaeloa airport over the winter months. We look forward to the continuation and completion of this epic journey in 2016, when we are sure that Solar Impulse will continue to inspire our employees, our customers and the general public with its pioneering spirit and mission to help improve the health of our planet.
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