Airplanes finally go hybrid-electric

aircraft with a parallel hybrid engine – the first ever to be able to recharge
its batteries in flight – has been successfully tested in the UK, an important
early step towards cleaner, low-carbon air travel. Researchers from the
University of Cambridge, in association with Boeing, have successfully tested
the first aircraft to be powered by a parallel hybrid-electric propulsion
system, where an electric motor and petrol engine work together to drive the
propeller. The demonstrator aircraft uses up to 30% less fuel than a comparable
plane with a petrol-only engine. The aircraft is also able to recharge its
batteries in flight, the first time this has been achieved.

demonstrator is based on a commercially-available single-seat aircraft, and its
hybrid engine was designed and built by engineers at Cambridge with Boeing
funding support. The aircraft uses a combination of a 4-stroke piston engine
and an electric motor / generator, coupled through the same drive pulley to
spin the propeller. During take-off 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 or used in motor assist mode to minimize fuel consumption. The
same principle is at work in a hybrid car.

by University of Cambridge

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