Although the theme of AirVenture 2010 was "Salute to Veterans," the future of air travel was also brought to the fore – and that means electric airplanes. The focus on e-aviation culminated in the World Symposium of Electric Aircraft last Friday and among the many interesting designs discussed was Boeing's Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research (SUGAR) Volt concept. Borne out of the same NASA research program that gave birth to MIT's D “double bubble” concept, the SUGAR Volt is a twin-engine aircraft design notable for its trussed, elongated wings and electric battery gas turbine hybrid propulsion system – a system designed to reduce fuel burn by more than 70 percent and total energy use by 55 percent. Could this be the future shape of commercial air transportation?
The SUGAR Volt (a choice of name that Chevrolet might have something to say about) is envisioned as running on either fuel or electricity and could include hinges in the wing design so that they could be folded when on the ground. It is designed to fly at Mach 0.79, carry 154 passengers over a range of 3,500 nautical miles and achieve shorter takeoff distance.
A second Boeing-led design known as Icon II was also put forward in the NASA research program. This concept uses a split tail design to achieve supersonic flight over land with reduced fuel burn and noise. Icon II could carry The Icon II concept can carry 120 passengers, cruise at Mach 1.6 to Mach 1.8 and achieve a range of about 5,000 nautical miles.
The goals of the NASA supersonic research program included a 71-decibel reduction below current Federal Aviation Administration noise standards, a greater than 75 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, a greater than 70 percent reduction in fuel burn performance and reduced air traffic congestion and delays at airports.
The program was targeted at designs that could be feasible in the 2030-2035 time frame. It concluded in April and further research announcements are expected.