Undergraduate Team Aircraft Design
Design of a 2030 Regional Airliner Considering Hybrid Electric Propulsion
Fuel consumption of ground vehicles can be reduced with plug-in hybrid propulsion, where both petroleum and electricity are stored on the vehicle. This has been enabled by recent advancements in battery technology, but it has not reached a level where enough energy per pound can be stored for commercial airliners to get a similar benefit. However, batteries have been improving rapidly, and may reach a point where they can be useful on aircraft, especially for short missions.
Recent NASA-funded research into technologies for commercial aircraft in the 2030-2035 timeframe has identified hybrid electric propulsion as a potentially “game-changing” technology. A hybrid propulsion system combines the best features of gas turbine (high thrust/weight, high energy density Jet-A fuel) with the best features of electric propulsion (high efficiency over a wide range of operating speeds, no local emissions, potentially lower noise).
Airliners typically fly much shorter ranges than their maximum range capability. Especially at these shorter ranges, electric propulsion has a greater potential benefit. Hybrid propulsion, where some of the energy stored on the aircraft is jet fuel, and some is electricity in batteries, can allow aircraft to efficiently fly a wide range of missions, by varying the ratio of electrical energy (batteries) to chemical energy (jet fuel) loaded on the aircraft.
Considering hybrid electric propulsion and advanced modular batteries, design a regional-sized commercial airliner with the lowest operating cost per seat-mile for the economic mission of 400 NM. Determine if hybrid electric technology offers fuel burn, cost, noise, or emissions advantages over conventional propulsion.