Researchers from the University of Cambridge have teamed up with Boeing to test the world's first hybrid-electric aircraft, capable of using 30% less fuel than gas-only planes. While we're all becoming fairly familiar with hybrid cars, hybrid airplanes still only exist in our imaginations -- until now.
This single-seat aircraft is powered by a Honda 4-stroke piston engine and a custom-built electric motor and generator. The power sources are paired together so that either one can be used to drive the propeller. During periods of high power requirement such as take-off, the airplane is capable of using both the engine and motor to drive its propeller.
This innovative hybrid-electric aircraft underwent its test run at the Sywell Aerodrome near Northampton in the UL. It was made to carry out a series of 'hop' flights on the runway, before then demonstrating its ability to perform longer flights at an altitude over 457 meters. Upcoming tests are set to focus on improving fuel economy and optimizing performance.