Are hybrid-electric airliners ready for takeoff?

Image source:

Much has already been said about the need for vehicles to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions.  On the ground, electric and hybrid-electric cars have been developed to achieve this objective.  While the aviation industry has lagged in this regard, hybrid airliners are becoming a reality, and not just a dream.

In the past, one of the main hindrances in the development of hybrid airliners is the heaviness of the batteries, which has led to safety concerns.  Compared with jet fuel, electric batteries carry much less energy for every unit of weight.  Even though electric motors are more efficient in converting energy into power than traditional engines, the total weight of a hybrid aircraft had been deemed too large for flight.

Image source:

But battery technology is continuing to advance.  Lithium-polymer batteries are continuously being improved, making it possible to manufacture lightweight hybrid aircrafts.  That these batteries can be recharged during flight makes the prospect of creating fuel-less airplanes even more promising.

Hybrid aircrafts have already been tested, and the results are encouraging.  When taking off, both the engine and motor are needed for the requisite power and speed.  But when the plane is cruising, the electric motor or generator takes over.  The capacity of the batteries may only allow a series of intercity or regional hops, for now.  But engineers are optimistic that by 2022, hybrid airliners that have a higher mile range can be used for commercial purposes.

Scott Beale has served in the aviation industry for more than 20 decades, successfully growing businesses, both which he acquired and founded.  Read more about the industry here.