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Space + FlightSpace & Flight

Hybrid Airliner Promises Thriftier, Quieter Flights

ByTim De ChantNOVA NextNOVA Next

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At the Paris Air Show, Airbus parent company EADS introduced a new concept hybrid airliner called E-Thrust. Jason Paur, writing for Wired:

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The idea behind the E-Thrust is to use several electrically driven fans to provide the thrust, but the power supply will be a gas-turbine engine employed during cruising when it just needs enough juice to stay in the air. When it needs more power — during takeoff and climbing — an “energy storage system,” (aka batteries) will provide an additional source of grunt for the fans.

The E-Thrust concept uses one gas turbine engine to keep six electric fans churning while at cruising altitude. At take-off, a battery provides additional power to get off the ground.

Most modern commercial aircraft use turbofans, which produce nearly all of their thrust not from jet turbine’s exhaust but from the large fans that surround it. By replacing all but one of the turbines with electric motors, EADS hopes the proposed aircraft will help cut CO

2 emissions by 75%. Plus, they would be significantly quieter, creating less disruption for airport neighbors and making for a more pleasant flight for those onboard.

E-Thrust is just a concept so far—meaning it’s a least a decade or more off—but given that EADS and Boeing are both working on hybrid designs suggests that in the not-so-distant future, you may be cruising at 36,000 feet powered by a stream of electrons.