An anonymous reader writes: By any standard, the Solar Impulse 2 is a marvel of engineering. This solar-powered plane didn't use a drop of kerosene on its epic trip across the Pacific Ocean. It's a real testament to how far solar technology has advanced. Unfortunately, for anyone hoping that we'll all be puttering around in solar planes soon -- well, that's pretty unlikely. From a Vox report, "Consider: The Solar Impulse 2 features 17,000 solar cells crammed onto its jumbo jet "size wings, along with four lithium-polymer batteries to store electricity for nighttime. Yet that's still only enough power to carry 2 tons of weight, including a single passenger, at a top speed of just 43 miles per hour. By contrast, a Boeing 747-400 running on jet fuel can transport some 400 people at a time, at top speeds of 570 miles per hour. Unless we see some truly shocking advances in module efficiency, it'll be impossible to cram enough solar panels onto a 747's wings to lift that much weight -- some 370 tons in all. Nor is it enough to load up on batteries charged by solar on the ground, since that would add even more weight to the plane, vastly increasing the energy needed for takeoff. A gallon of jet fuel packs about 15 to 30 times as much energy as a lithium-ion battery of similar weight. That fundamental difference in energy density is a big reason we're unlikely to see large commercial airliners powered by batteries fill the skies."
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