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In recent years more and more vehicle types have been designed to be hybrid, or fully electric, in an attempt to reduce reliance on petroleum products and reduce carbon emissions. The latest vehicle to receive a “green” makeover is the aeroplane.
Traditionally engineers struggled to develop electric planes due to the low energy density of batteries; they were too heavy and could not provide sufficient power. Paul Peterson, founder and CEO of Volta Volare, the aeronautics company based in Portland, Oregon, said that due to the vast amount of research and progress over the last few years, electric car batteries now have a sufficient energy density to make hybrid planes possible.
This spring his company will begin to test its four passenger GT4, which runs a hybrid powertrain similar to the one found in a Chevy Volt, where batteries are backed up by a petrol engine. The GT$ will take off and then cruise for 300 miles on its batteries alone. Whenever the power level in the batteries drops to 25% a 1.5 litre, supercharged petrol engine will automatically kick-in and start to recharge the batteries. The 23 gallon tank will help to add an extra 1,000 miles of range.
A 200 mile and hour flight in a single engine, private jet would consume about $80 of aviation fuel, whereas the same flight in the GT4 would only consume $20 of electricity. The electric motor would also be far easier and cheaper to maintain, and Peterson hopes that these savings will help make private jets much cheaper and more accessible to the public.
As battery technology continues to improve the petrol engine could be removed, converting the GT4 into a fully electric aircraft.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com