World’s First Hybrid Airplane Engine Was Successfully Tested

Maybe I should fly a hybrid. I do have a shirt that says, “Go Green”.

Airplanes have three major problems: they are inefficient, they are big, and they run on toxic fuels. A fully laden A380, according to its engine maker Rolls Royce, uses as much energy as 3,500 family cars, equivalent to six cars for each passenger. Long haul flights produce on average twice as much emissions per mile traveled per passenger than cars and short haul flights produce three times as much.

“Although hybrid cars have been available for more than a decade, what’s been holding back the development of hybrid or fully-electric aircraft until now is battery technology,” said Dr Paul Robertson of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering.

However, the airplanes will soon go hybrid!

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, in association with Boeing, have successfully tested the world’s first aircraft powered by a parallel hybrid-electric propulsion system, which is capable of recharging as the plane flies.

Planes_go_hybrid-e_3145841aThe engine itself is based on a Honda engine, and combines a four-stroke seven-kilowatt piston engine with a 10-kilowatt electric motor and generator, coupled through one drive pulley to spin the plane’s propeller. During takeoff and climb, when maximum power is required, the engine and motor work together to power the plane. But once cruising height is reached, the electric motor can be switched into generator mode to recharge the batteries — a set of large lithium-polymer cells located in special compartments built into the wings — or used to power the motor to minimize fuel consumption.

“Hybrid electric is one of several important elements of our research efforts, and we are learning more every day about the feasibility of these technologies and how they could be used in the future,” said Marty Bradley, Boeing’s principal investigator for the program.

The test flights took place at Sywell Aerodrome, near Northampton, United Kingdom with a small prototype that weighs less than 992 lbs. These tests consisted of a series of “hops” along the runway, experimented its takeoff and landing capabilities, and followed by longer evaluation flights at a height of over 1,500 feet.

This is an important step in the development of hybrid or fully-electric aircraft. There are a lot of research being conducted before commercial airliners will be powered entirely with electric motors.

Hybrid aircraft are now starting to become viable!

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