Now, Bertrand Piccard is giving Formula E an uplift, lending his support to the all-electric race series.
Speaking on December’s Supercharged show, the Swiss adventurer praised Formula E for leading the charge to make electric cars more practical and attractive.
“Formula E is for car racing, what Solar Impulse is for aviation,” told Supercharged presenter, Nicki Shields.
“It’s a new laboratory showing how clean technology can be sexy. It’s not anymore about something that is boring and expensive, it’s something that really attracts the awareness of people. It’s spectacular.”
Piccard and compatriot Andre Borschberg completed their historic solar-powered flight in July, touching down in Abu Dhabi after covering 26,700 miles (43,000 kilometers) over 23 days.
With room for only one in the cockpit, Piccard and Borschberg took turns to pilot Solar Impulse during the 17-leg adventure which took 16 months to complete.
The small cockpit contrasted with the vast 72-meter wingspan — wider than a Boeing 747 — lined with 17,000 solar cells, with four batteries powering four engines.
“It feels like science fiction,” he says. “You look at the sun and you look at your four electric motors turning the propellers and you have no noise, no pollution, no fuel and you know you can fly forever … it’s the wonders and miracles that clean technologies can achieve.”
With his solar flight challenge complete, Piccard is now using that success to drive take up of renewable power on the ground, launching a new initiative at last month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco.
“For me, this is the real accomplishment of the Solar Impulse project. It was my goal of what I initiated with this project — to have a credible tool to encourage solar and clean technologies.”
Formula E is currently on its winter break but returns with the Buenos Aires ePrix on February 18 — round three of the 2016-17 world championship.
The current season opened with new races in Hong Kong and Marrakech and will conclude with first-time venues Montreal and New York in mid-2017.
As far as Piccard is concerned, the sport is only going in one direction in terms of popularity, helping persuade car owners to make the switch from old energies to new.
“This is the future of car racing. People are starting to get fed up now of cars that make so much noise, so much pollution. You have to go into the future, not into the past.”