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Hybrid electric plane

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Technology Description

In hybrid electric aircraft, an on-board generator powers an electric motor to generate propulsion. Hybrid electric aircraft use jet fuel and may be equipped with a small battery to moderate power output. The electric motor enjoys higher conversion efficiency than a combustion engine (e.g. turboprop or turbofans), thus increasing the overall efficiency of the aircraft.
Airbus, together with Rolls Royce, was developing a prototype for a hybrid-electric aircraft under the E-Fan X programme. Prior to April 2020, they aimed at launching a test flight by 2021 with an aircraft fitted with one electric motor and three regular jet engines. Wright Electric is developing a 186-seat electric aircraft for short-haul range and aims for market introduction in 2030. The company collaborates with EasyJet and Airbus and at this stage does not specify how the electric engine would be powered – considering available batteries it seems safe to assume that this will be hybrid-electric.

Relevance for Net Zero

Analogously to hybrid cars, hybrid electric aircraft may represent the first step towards electric propulsion in aviation. While these aircraft still use liquid jet fuels, they can significantly reduce energy consumption through a more efficient powertrain.

Key Countries

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