5 years ago at a conference on advanced aircraft technologies someone brought up the question of electric airplanes. All the engineers there laughed at the idea but Boeing took it as a challenge. They started to think about ways they could make an airframe combined with a power plant that would be electric. What they came up with is the "SUGAR Volt." (SUGAR is an acronym that stands for Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research.)
The airframe that they came up with features extra wide, foldable wings for 2 purposes. One is to increase lift and reduce drag, this would also make the aircraft produce less noise because the engines would not have to work as hard. The second is because they are foldable, the planes can still be used at current airports without any changes being made to the terminals.
The Electric Hybrid plane has the ability to engage the engines during times when a plane typically needs more power like during takeoffs and landings, but can switch to all electrical, zero emissions mode to power the turbofans. And because it runs on batteries, it would just plug in when it got to the terminal. With the battery technology that will be available in the next 30 years this will be an option.
In simulation tests, the SUGAR Volt uses 70% less fuel than todays airliners. They will also be quieter and reduce the environmental impact of the airplane.
SUGAR Volt and Icon II
Do not expect to be riding in the fancy new planes any time soon. They aren't even practical with today's battery technology and Boeing is not looking for a release of the technology until at least 2030-2050.
Big thanks to Boeing for the Image and video!