Hybrid cars and battery technology have advanced and been on the market long enough for them to become mainstream, but it seems that hybrid technology may be shifting to power other types of vehicles as well. Research is in the very early stages, but a recent development marks the possibility of hybrid aircraft.
According to Forbes, researchers at Cambridge University and Boeing announced the first series of test flights of an aircraft that was powered by a hybrid system.
The hybrid system used in the plane is based on a Honda engine and is a set of 16 lithium polymer cells which are built into the wings. The craft itself is small — a single-seater which is powered by a four stroke piston engine and an electric motor which has the capability of becoming a generator.
The way the aircraft works is the same way that a hybrid vehicle works on the road.
Hybrid cars run from two different power sources — one electric and one traditional fuel source. The vehicle switches from one power source to the other, which is the reason hybrids get such impressive fuel economy. Hybrids are about 20% to 35% more fuel efficient than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles.
The hybrid plane uses the gas engine and the electric motor to take off and during climb, which is when the greatest amount of power is needed. After that, the electric motor then serves as a generator and recharges the batteries during flight.
According to the Cambridge University website, the aircraft uses 30% less fuel than a similar , fuel-based one; however, more research is needed before the technology can be implemented in major commercial airplanes.