This could give OPEC ministers some nightmares: On May 1, a plane is set to take off from Silicon Valley and fly to New York without using a drop of fuel, powered solely by some 2,000-square feet of solar cells covering its wings.
But don’t book your ticket just yet.
Called the Solar Impulse, the 3,527-pound plane with the wingspan of a 747 jetliner will carry a single pilot. The solar cells made by SunPower, each the thickness of a human hair, will supply up to 45 kilowatts of electricity to power four propellers. Battery packs store the electricity to allow the Impulse to fly at night.
“The wingspread has to be tremendously big and the weight has to be tremendously light in order to be able to go day and night,” Bertrand Piccard, a Swiss adventurer, pilot, and co-founder of Solar Impulse, said during a press conference at NASA’s Moffett Field in Mountain View, California. “In that sense, maybe it’s not the easiest way to fly, but it’s the most fabulous way to fly because the more you fly, the more energy you have onboard.”