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The solar-powered plane that is attempting an around-the-world journey to demonstrate environmentally-friendly technologies will be grounded in Hawaii through the spring of next year after suffering battery damage on a record-setting flight across the Pacific.
The sun-charged batteries that power the Solar Impulse 2 overheated during a 5-day, 5-night non-stop flight piloted by Solar Impulse CEO Andre Borschberg, and it will take through April of 2016 to perform the necessary maintenance, the plane’s crew said on Wednesday. The problem started after soon after Solar Impulse took off from Nagoya, Japan, and while the team was aware of the problem there was little they could do until after it landed.
“Irreversible damage to certain parts of the batteries will require repairs which will take several months,” the team behind Solar Impulse said in a press release on Wednesday. “In parallel, the Solar Impulse engineering team will be studying various options for better cooling and heating processes for very long flights.”
Bertrand Piccard, who’s the chairman and co-founder of the $150 million Solar Impulse effort as well as one of the plane’s pilots, said the battery problems were a small –- though serious -– bump in what was otherwise a successful flight.
“The record-breaking flight from Japan to Hawaii was a historic first for aviation, it’s a historic first for renewable energies, it’s a huge success for Solar Impulse, but it has a cost, and the cost is that we overheated the batteries during the first day of the flight,” said Piccard, a psychiatrist and longtime adventurer.
The team is about halfway through their trip around the globe without using a single drop of fuel. After repairs, the crew plans to fly from Hawaii to Phoenix, and then make stops in the U.S. Midwest, New York and Europe or north Africa before touching down where the plane started its 22,000-mile odyssey, in Abu Dhabi.