1st solar plane to fly around the world unveiled today in Switzerland (exclusive videos)

Solar Impulse 2 at unveiling
CC BY-SA 3.0 Zachary Shahan

You've probably heard of the Solar Impulse. It's a solar-powered airplane that flew across the United States last year. It broke numerous aviation records along the way as well as during flights in Europe and Africa beforehand. However, the Solar Impulse was just a prototype. The Solar Impulse 2 is the real deal, and it was just unveiled earlier today in a remote corner of Switzerland. Thanks to one of its main partners, ABB, I was able to attend the unveiling. Furthermore, I was provided an exclusive interview with Solar Impulse co-founders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg. The interview with Bertrand is below. The interview with André is on an ABB camera and I'll have to wait to share that.

First, however, here are two great videos from the Solar Impulse team about the new solar-powered airplane:

Luckily, I had more time than most with Bertrand Piccard, who was booked much of the day, running from one interviewer to another. Below are two videos of questions I pitched to Bertrand, as well as his answers. I think they're very interesting, but I guess I'm biased.

I loved what Bertrand had to say. Much of that was exactly what I try to communicate practically every day of the year. Solar power and electric vehicles are practical, competitive, high-performance technologies today that out-compete their dirtier counterparts on many levels, not just environmentally. The aren't just greener products; they are better products. The #1 barrier to their adoption, in my expert opinion, is simply lack of awareness. The Solar Impulse crew is doing a tremendous job bringing more awareness to these points while inspiring people, breaking records, creating new categories of records, and advancing clean technologies that will be passed down to commercial technologies such as cars and conventional airplanes.

Zachary Shahan/CC BY-SA 3.0

It's no wonder that Google, Virgin founder Richard Branson, the US Department of Energy, ABB, and other global giants have taken notice and promoted the team. In many ways, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are like the Wright brothers of our generation. Except, in this case, they are pioneering clean technologies that will help to stop global warming and widespread pollution problems that the world is facing. They deserve all the press they are getting, and more.

To wrap up, here are a few videos and one more picture that I snapped of the Solar Impulse 2 before and after the unveiling:

Zachary Shahan/CC BY-SA 3.0

For more info, check out the Solar Impulse website and some previous TreeHugger coverage of the Solar Impulse:

  • Solar Impulse: Flying from San Francisco to New York City in a solar plane

  • Solar Impulse partners with Google, plans to fly around the world on solar energy in 2015

  • Solar Impulse completes historic sun-powered flight across USA by landing at JFK airport

  • Solar Impulse team doing Q&A on Reddit

  • Tags: Airplanes | Electric Vehicles | Solar Power | Solar Technology

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