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Image of Hybrid-Electric Aircraft flight-performance simulator with a parallel hybrid drivetrain.

Although hybrid-electric cars are becoming commonplace, similar technology applied to airplanes comes with significantly different challenges. University of Illinois aerospace engineers are addressing some of them toward the development of a more sustainable alternative to fossil fuels to power airplanes.

They created a flight-performance simulator with a parallel hybrid drivetrain integrated into the simulation. The researchers compared the sensitivity of range and fuel economy to the level of electrification, battery specific energy density, and electric motor power density and determined that a hybrid-electric drivetrain can lead to substantial improvements in fuel efficiency of a given aircraft configuration.

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