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SUGAR Volt is a hybrid aircraft concept proposed by a team led by Boeing Research & Technology, a division of Boeing. It is one of a series of concepts put forward in response to a request for proposals for future aircraft issued by NASA. It is proposed that SUGAR Volt would use two hybrid turbofans that burn conventional jet fuel when taking off, then use electric motors to power the engines while flying. SUGAR stands for Subsonic Ultragreen Aircraft Research, the "volt" part of the "SUGAR Volt" name suggests that it would be at least partly powered by electricity.
SUGAR Volt would have emissions about 70 percent lower than average airliners today. Noise pollution will also be lower than airliners today. This hybrid-electric approach however remains to be balanced against increased complexity, large electric engine and battery size and weight. While there are no high-power reciprocating engines in production for powering airliners anymore, this hybrid-electric approach also needs to be assessed against piston engines using modern technologies and driving ducted or unducted fans (propellers) : while relying partly on electic power might reduce specific fuel consumption (SFC) compared to a standard turbine-only design (turbofan or lower-consumption turboprops), ultra-low SFC have been demonstrated on large aeroengine developpements such as the Napier Nomad or the Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone using Turbocompound Technology. Such Conversions from turboprop to piston-engines have been carried out, dramatically improving range and/or endurance, such as the Canadair CP-107 Argus anti-submarine patrol bomber of the cold war. More recently, albeit of much lower output, the Orenda OE600 engine was proposed to re-engine old smaller turboprop aircraft.
SUGAR Volt is designed with a long, braced, high aspect ratio wing that decreases induced drag (i.e. due to lift). The wings of SUGAR Volt would enable it to take off in a shorter distance and generate less noise. This was first pioneered for Airliner applications as early as 1948 by french company Hurel-Dubois (now merged into SAFRAN aerospace group) with the Hurel-Dubois HD.10 demonstrator, and then the HD.31/32 and HD.34 full-size Aircraft (still in use with the French Institut Geographique National in the late seveties/early eighties). At some point there was even a turbojet-powered version HD.45 proposed to challenge the well-known Sud Aviation Caravelle, with no success (a probable mismatch between a high-consumption turbojet only good at high subsonic speed, and an airframe that was limited to low to medium speed). Unlike Hurel-Dubois Aircraft, the outer wings of SUGAR Volt would be hinged so they could be folded on the ground to save space, but would also increase the weight of the wing.
- Boeing producing battery-powered hybrid plane, NWCN
- Electric aircraft generates buzz at Oshkosh air show, Chicago Tribune
- Air show examines hybrid airliners, United Press International
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