Hybrid and Electric cars are becoming more popular every day. I believe all of you heard of the California-based car-manufacturer Tesla and the currently, most famous model, the Tesla Model S.
All major car manufacturers have now either electric cars in their portfolio or some kind of hybrid car. Now this technology is about to take off, literally.
easyJet, the british discount airline, recently revealed their plans of an hybrid-plane. Yes you heard right, hybrid!!! The concept is a little bit different as you might think.
It doesn’t use electic power for propulsion in the air, it rather uses it on the ground for taxiing. The plan of easyJet is to have a hydrogen fuel cell stowed in the aircraft’s cargo hold. This concept allows energy to be captured as the aircraft brakes on landing and recharge the lightweight batteries. Similar to the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) found in Formula 1 cars.
This energy can then be used during taxi operations on ground and even to power up the aircraft. The main wheels of the aircraft will be fitted with electric motors and the aircraft itself with electronics for the pilots to control the system. This would allow the plane to taxi to the start position without using jet engines. This would also allow the aircraft to move from the stands without a tug, resulting in quicker turnaround times.
easyJet planes taxi about 20 minutes per flight, which is 4% of the total fuel consumption of the airline. This 20 minutes equal about four million miles a year, which would let you travel to the moon 8 times and back.
The only waste product would be fresh and clean water which could be used to refill the aircraft’s water system throughout the flight. easyJet is even planning to have their first trial take place later this year.
Below you can see a concept image of the system. One even shows a photovoltaic blanket on top of the fuselage. This is actually a great idea, because aircrafts see a lot of sunshine once they are above the clouds. I don’t know what the plans are for this, but it could either be used to recharge batteries or even to regenerate hydrogen. Regenerating hydrogen is still to dangerous to use it in a commercial airliner for now.
The University of Cambridge is also researching on hybrid planes. If this technology can power up aircrafts efficiently for a long distance, it would mean the end of the “Jet Age”. Just because the propulsion system will change back to propellers instead of jet engines.