Bertrand Piccard likes to push the limits.
As a young boy, he saw several space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral. Ever since then, he was always fascinated with flying. And with human behaviour in extreme situations.
Maybe that is why he became a professional explorer — and a doctor.
He was the first person to circumnavigate the globe nonstop in a balloon. The fear of running out of gas influenced his journey. So he promised that his next trip would be without fuel. In a solar powered plane.
He has long been an advocate for sustainable energies. He had no clue if this would be possible. But this was his dream, and he wanted to do it.
He said he would fly around the world on an airplane that uses the same amount of energy as a Christmas tree. And everyone thought he was crazy.
His reply, ‘People will tell you it’s impossible, and that is why we try to do it.’
Piccard recently made the impossible possible. Last Tuesday, he completed the first voyage around the world with Solar Impulse 2. Solar Impulse 2 is a completely solar energy fuelled plane.
And it is also the first plane capable of flying for an unlimited time without fuel. While flying during the day, the solar panels on its wings capture energy. This energy is then stored in batteries which allows it to fly at night. The plane does not need to stop at all.
And it accomplished the whole trip with no contamination or emissions.
‘People will tell you it’s impossible, and that is why we try to do it.’
The aims of his project was not to develop solar powered planes, but to show the capabilities of renewable energies.
But the plane has demonstrated how solar energy can revolutionise the transportation sector.
And it is not the only time solar energy has been in the media recently.
Electric car company Tesla Motors [NASDAQ: TSLA] has also made news. It has offered to buy SolarCity Corp, a solar energy company run by Chief Executive Lyndon. With this acquisition, Tesla may be aiming to power its electric cars with solar power.
The idea of electric transport powered by solar energy is not new in Australia, either. In Adelaide, the Tindo Electric bus has been functioning for some time. This city council bus is the first in the world recharged 100% by solar energy. Tindo is the Kaurna Aboriginal name for sun.
There are no solar panels on the bus. Instead, Tindo receives electric power from solar panels located in the central bus station. It uses a Swiss made battery with sodium/nickel chloride technology. A New Zealand company called Designline international manufactured the bus.
Even the idea of solar roads is getting momentum. Last year, the US Department of Transportation awarded funding to Solar Roadways. The company produces solar panels that can be walked on and can support the weight of trucks. They contain LED lights that create signage without paint, and heating that can melt snow. The panels are intelligent and can communicate with each other. The company is aiming to be able to charge electric cars while driving.
Electric buses, self-driving cars, solar powered planes and smart roads. Transport seems to be revolutionising quickly. Even oil companies are starting to invest on renewable energy. Could it be that fossil fuel powered transport is nearing the end?
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PS: Selva recently joined the Port Phillip Publishing team as our macroeconomic analyst. She works closely with The Daily Reckoning editor Vern Gowdie on his advisory service,The Gowdie Letter.