Boeing producing battery-powered hybrid plane

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on August 2, 2010 at 5:35 PM

SEATTLE - It has long, thin, graceful wings like an unpowered sail plane. That's not by accident.

Boeing's new concept airliner called the Sugar Volt counts on that wing design to help make the concept of a hybrid airliner fly.

The Sugar Volt would rely on battery power during the cruise phase of flight. It would power high-efficiency propellers during the takeoff, climb and other more demanding phases of flight with jet fuel.

The concept was introduced to the public Monday following a lot of buzz at the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual show in Oshkosh, Wisc. But, Boeing spokesman Daryl Stephenson says the idea has been already flying under the public's radar for a couple of months. It's been showing up in aviation and engineering magazines with no big public announcements.

The Sugar Volt is not alone. It's just one of the surviving ideas stemming from a NASA competition involving companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Electric to try and make flying a lot more efficient.

Boeing's Sugar Volt promises fuel savings of more than 70-percent.

The hybrid concept already has a firm hold on the ground vehicle market. The Toyota Prius has been around for several years.  Large hybrid trucks, even hybrid railroad locomotives are on the market. That's easier for a land vehicle because they don't have to lift the weight of batteries into the air like airplanes do. Also, the safety considerations aren't as demanding as they are in aviation.  But, while you can buy a Prius today, your first flight on the Sugar Volt or something like it is still 25 years into the future. 

That said, electric motors can get a new generation of sail planes into the air. 

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