The Origins of Solar Impulse, & Its Actual Aims (Exclusive Video)

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As you eagerly await the first leg of what is likely to be the first round-the-world journey in a solar airplane (Solar Impulse 2), you may be wondering about the origins of Solar Impulse. During one of the Solar Impulse events I attended during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, I recorded a nice presentation on the origins of Solar Impulse. It’s actually quite fascinating, starting with the story of Bertrand Piccard’s world-first nonstop balloon flight around the globe (with Brian Jones). I highly recommend watching the video over reading some of my summary points below it, but if you don’t do video, just jump to those.


Bertrand was very, very… very close to not surviving his round-the-world balloon flight, as he nearly ran out of fuel. It resulted in Bertrand feeling “in his guts” how dangerous our dependence on fossil fuels.

That’s when Bertrand decided that, the next time he flew around the world, “it would be with no fuel at all.” However, at that time, it was just a wild dream to him… until the capsule of his record-breaking ballon was brought to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. That’s when he got the true conviction to fly around the world in a solar airplane, and show to the world that the technologies and actions we can use to protect the environment are exciting.

Around the 5th minute, Bertrand begins highlighting that large, incumbent companies do not transform (or revolutionize) the industry that they already dominate. It’s innovative startups that do it. Natch, he mentioned Tesla Motors and Elon Musk. He also highlighted Masdar, and what it is doing to disrupt the energy market… using oil money.

He then came back around to the point that this whole Solar Impulse initiative is about showing to the world that we can use affordable, clean technologies today — solar panels, energy-efficient products, electric vehicles….

Of course, that’s something CleanTechnica readers know better than just about anyone.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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