The United Kingdom is taking an important step towards cleaner, low-carbon air travel with the first successfully tested airplane with a parallel hybrid-electric engine. The novel aircraft is the first of its kind due to the ability to recharge its batteries while in flight.
This development comes out of the University of Cambridge in conjunction with Boeing, where they have worked to successfully develop a parallel hybrid-electric propulsion system for an aircraft that will use up to 30 percent less fuel than a comparable plane with a petrol-only engine.
To create the plane, the researches used the same basic principals as in a hybrid car. The aircraft uses a 4-stroke piston engine and an electric motor/generator. When maximum power is required – i.e. during takeoff – the engine and electric motor work together to power the plane. Once cruise height is reached, the motor switches to generator mode to recharge its batteries.