Will the hybrid and electric plane be the future of travel?

From a $40,000 electric model to commercial flights, what does the future hold for hybrid and purely electric planes?
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

As supplies of fossil fuel dwindle, each flight costs more to launch, and the customer is left footing the bill.

Could designs inspired by hybrid cars lessen these energy pressures the travel industry faces?

An ambitious design called the eConcept, designed by European company EADS and Rolls Royce, imagines how technology and materials can be combined to create a more efficient, quieter craft that does not have to rely purely on oil.

Instead of using multiple turbines, a system called the "E-Thrust," a single turbine, distributes electrical power where and when it is needed most. The positioning of the turbine at the rear is meant to reduce drag and improve efficiency -- while generating power for fans designed to push the plane forward.

"A conventional aircraft looks like a tube, with two wings and two engines, all designed by people who have never met each other," Chief Technical Officer of Rolls Royce Ric Parker told the BBC. "The E–thrust system is a much more integrated design, where the propulsion system is actually built into the body of the aircraft. This makes the aircraft much more efficient even without all the exciting electrical technology."

NASA and Boeing are looking at ways to build the technology required for these futuristic designs. Superconducting materials and cryogenic coolant systems will be necessary, but the groups' researchers are currently focusing on battery improvements. The Sugar Volt is one such project; batteries suitable for aircraft which would use fossil fuel for takeoff, and then switch to electricity when the plane is cruising -- using only 30 percent of fuel that planes currently consume.

It is hoped that eventually the eConcept will be able to use the same method. Batteries will be used for energy storage and as a reserve, and power will be diverted to the fans at takeoff -- before power is then rerouted from the turbines to recharge the batteries when the plane is at cruising altitude.

Another innovative design on the cards is the $40,000 eSpyder, designed by GreenWing International. The eSpyder relies purely on electrical power and is able to reach a maximum speed of 68mph. If you maintain "peak efficiency" rates of 38mph, you can expect to stay in the air for 90 minutes between battery charging of 2-3 hours.

The eSpyder is the first electric airplane to be certified by German authorities, although is not accepted as a light sport aircraft in the United States -- yet.

Via: BBC | Wired

Image credit: Craig Payton

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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