Hybrid technology isn’t just for cars or trucks. Anywhere there’s waste heat or kinetic energy that can be recaptured—which means virtually every mode of transportation—there’s an opportunity for hybrid tech to make the entire mission more fuel-efficient.
Such is also the case for big passenger jets. According to the Los Angeles Times, Airbus is looking into the possibility of going hybrid with the replacement for one version of its most mainstream jetliners, the narrow-body A320neo.
A hybrid passenger plane might use electric propulsion at the wings and a single jet engine at the rear. Operationally, it would save the electric boost for takeoff and landing, when it’s needed either as peak power or as an extra measure of safety.
To put this in perspective, diesel-hybrid trains already in use today cut carbon emissions by 50 percent or more while removing much of the dirty stuff—the particulate emissions and other criteria pollutants—emitted when the train is accelerating at lower speeds out of urban areas. With diesel trains falling out of favor, they're seen as an alternative where overhead lines or track conduits can't easily be placed.
Zunum range-extended electric regional jet - concept design
Airbus isn't the only one, either. In an arena of companies vying for smaller form factors of electric flight, larger standouts include Zunum, a venture aiming for all-electric regional jets, with funding from JetBlue and an offshoot of Boeing. And NASA is also working on a hybrid airplane engine.
The Airbus hybrid could be ready by 2035 and might be a little slower than existing models, suggested the LA Times report, which originated with internal sources at Airbus. But it would go a long way toward achieving that company’s goal of reducing CO2 by 75 percent by 2050.