January 26, 2013
Hybrid Wing Design To Cut Fuel Usage In Half

Kevin Bullis, energy editor at Technology Review has the details. Composites. Super-efficient jet engine. A flying wing. Sounds like fun. When can we ride on one?

Combined with an extremely efficient type of engine, called an ultra-high bypass ratio engine, the hybrid wing design could use half as much fuel as conventional aircraft.

NASA, Pratt & Whitney, Boeing, and some other companies are working on this. Given the long design cycles for airplanes do not expect a substantial impact on passenger aviation until the 2020s.

What I wonder: will increasing energy efficiency of aircraft make passenger trains an environmentally bad idea for passenger transport? I can see electric trains in France making sense because of France's heavy reliance on nuclear power. But do the electric trains in China, powered by massive fleets of polluting coal electric power plants, really make sense as compared to passenger aircraft travel? I'm guessing no. As for diesel-powered passenger trains in the US with low load capacities: how can they make environmental sense as compared to flying?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 January 26 02:24 PM 

Engineer-Poet said at January 27, 2013 7:54 AM:

They were claiming 70% fuel savings just a couple of years ago, so you have to ask why the future isn't what it used to be.

Ronald Brak said at January 27, 2013 1:02 PM:

Apparently trains use less energy per passenger kilometer than planes in the US, although the difference isn't huge. Rail in Europe and Japan does much better. Trains are slower which cuts down on air resistance and they don't climb nearly as much. Not sure what the efficiency of a jet engine is though, 30%? Planes are as all fossil fuel powered at the moment, with insignifcant exceptions, while electrified rail can be powered by low emission energy sources, as in the example of France that was given. As the amount of electricity from low emission sources is increased the less environmentally damaging rail becomes.

Doug said at January 28, 2013 2:09 PM:

Bring on the new aircraft technology!

@Ronald, no offense but I call hogwash as to any discussion of building high speed trains. Japan and Europe are smaller and like us, constrained by what they already have. Infinite money does not exist. Unneccessary billions in expense, and more billions in neverending ongoing subsidies, to redundantly meet a need already sufficiently well met. In other words, a monumentally huge boondoggle, just really to feed the unions and politically-connected contractors and a huge host of other ancillary interests, i.e., leeches. All together, just business as usual in the good old USA. :(

Trains these days make economic sense only for very heavy cargo with low urgency as to delivery. Going slow, sleeping with strangers, and arriving unwashed and sweaty just doesn't sell any more. Hasn't for fifty years.

Ronald Brak said at January 28, 2013 3:31 PM:

Er, no offence taken Doug, because I didn't mention building high speed trains. As for rail freight, demand for that has been going up with oil prices, for obvious reasons. But now that I think about it, a north-south shinkansen on either side of the largest contigious blob of the United States might be a good idea. Then I could fly to Canada, vist Niagra Falls, take the train down to New York, use the train to check out the south, and then head down Florida and go to Disneyworld or land or whatever it's called. I know it will cost vast sums of money to build a high speed train for me, but I think it's worth it so I won't have to put up with airport security.

Doug said at January 28, 2013 5:40 PM:

OK, I cannot take issue with not wanting to deal with DHS! Of course, we could just shut down DHS and build the Shinkansen with that money!

kelsey said at February 25, 2013 9:37 AM:

I'm doing a survey for my marketing research class, and the survey is based on the importance of environmental issues to an individual. I was wondering if it would be possible to send you a link of the survey for you to post on your blog and have both you and your followers fill it out. Please let me know if we can set this up. Thank you.

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