I was lucky enough to attend the unveiling of Solar Impulse 2 in Switzerland last year, and interview co-founders and pilots Bertrand Piccard & André Borschberg at that event. Again, I was lucky in that I got to attend a few Solar Impulse events in Abu Dhabi during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, and again was granted the opportunity to interview André and Bertrand.
This time around, I was most curious to hear about the relationship between André and Bertrand, and how that relationship propels this Solar Impulse initiative on (no pun intended). It is very clear from the events I’ve attended, that their friendship and support for each other has been critical to the success of their work.
Additionally, Bertrand is just so passionate at all of these events that I was curious to hear him speak a bit about which part of the Solar Impulse work he enjoys the most. Flying the plane with such spectacular views and on the quiet hum of solar-powered electric motors seems the most obvious answer, but he clearly revels in the social side of this work.
I was also curious to hear more about what André and Bertrand are trying to accomplish with Solar Impulse. Some “very serious people” in the cleantech industry have written off these flights as being more or less pointless attention-grabbers, since solar airplanes are far away from commercial viability (if they will ever get there). I think such people greatly miss the point. But I’ll let Bertrand speak more to that before I back them up:
Very simply, Solar Impulse is not about setting flight records. It is about inspiring and educating people, helping them to realize that solar power and various energy-efficient technologies are commercially competitive today. You can buy them at an affordable price, and even save a great deal of money by doing so.