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Battery burnout


Solar Impulse 2 grounded in Hawaii until April 2016


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The daily ascent and descent along with the tropical climate proved too much for the plane's batteries (Keystone)

The daily ascent and descent along with the tropical climate proved too much for the plane's batteries

(Keystone)

The Swiss solar-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 will not be completing its record-breaking, round-the-world voyage this year. Maintenance repairs on overheated batteries mean the aircraft will stay in Hawaii until early spring 2016. 

The most difficult leg of the journey from Nagoya to Hawaii which lasted five days and nights have taken their toll on Solar Impulse’s batteries. 

“Irreversible damage to certain parts of the batteries will require repairs which will take several months,” said a statement from the Solar Impulse team. 

For optimal energy management the plane was forced to ascend to 28,000 feet and descend again which was tough on the batteries in a tropical climate. 

In a video statement released on Wednesday, Solar Impulse founder and pilot Bertrand Piccard accepted that errors had been made in the evaluation of the batteries during steep climbs and that the battery pack had been overinsulated. 

The University of Hawaii, with the support of the Department of Transportation, will host the airplane in its hangar at Kalaeloa airport.

Down but not out

"Solar Impulse will try to complete the first ever round-the-world solar flight in 2016 and this delay will in no way influence the overall objectives of this pioneering endeavour," said the team.  

Piccard said it would now be a flight around the world in two years instead of one and admitted that "making the impossible happen takes more time than the possible".

Putting a positive spin on the turn of events, the crew declared they would use the lengthy layoff to improve the plane's overall performance.

The engineering crew will especially be looking at various options for better cooling and heating processes for very long flights. 

swissinfo.ch

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