Solar Impulse 2 is more fossil than solar

The BBC reports that the much hyped, Swiss Solar Impulse 2 is crossing India on its way to Myanmar:

BBCThe solar-powered plane attempting to fly around the world is in the air again, crossing India and hoping to make it to Myanmar on Thursday. Solar Impulse, with Andre Borschberg at the controls, took off from Ahmedabad at 07:18 local time (01:48 GMT).

It is heading to Varanasi in India’s Uttar Pradesh region, where it will make a short “pit stop” before pushing on over the Bay of Bengal. The leg to Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) will be flown by Bertrand Piccard. The two pilots are taking it in turns to guide Solar Impulse on its circumnavigation of the globe.

So far, they have covered about 2,000km in two segments since beginning the adventure in Abu Dhabi. It will likely be another five months before they return to the United Arab Emirates, having crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the process.

It is surely a challenging piloting exercise but it is worth noting, as Pierre Gosselin points out, that some tens of thousands of litres of aviation fuel will be burned to keep Solar Impulse 2 in the air. For safety reasons the batteries on board will probably be fully charged at each take-off. It is not clear as to what extent the batteries will be topped up by using electrical power (which will be predominantly fossil fuel based) at each of the stops.

NoTricksZoneAccording to an audio report by SRF Swiss Radio and Television the Solar Impulse 2 mission involves the substitute pilot, a technical ground crew “of dozens of people” and tonnes of equipment and logistical supplies that have to be flown behind using conventional charter flights. The “fossil fuel-free” Solar Impulse 2 journey is in fact being made possible only with the use of tens of thousands of litres of aviation fuel. This is a fact that is being almost entirely ignored by the media.

The SRF reporter tells listeners:

“It is so that the entire group, the team members, are multiple dozens of men and women, have to fly behind in charter planes. This naturally is the less sustainable aspect of the entire project, but it just isn’t possible any other way. This involves one cargo plane for transporting all the equipment, and a small passenger plane on which the entire group travels to the destinations.”

A promotion video here shows how the aircraft was transported from Europe to its start point in Abu Dhabi earlier this year: With a Boeing 747!

Global map

source Solar Impulse via BBC

Five months, no cargo and no luggage beside the 2 pilots, a large support staff and a great deal of fossil energy somehow seems much less impressive than Jules Verne’s story (published in 1873) envisaging Phileas Fogg and Passepartout circumnavigating the world, with all their luggage and later an Indian princess, in just 80 days.

Green has become the colour of deception.


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