A hybrid triplane design could offer cheaper airfares than the train

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Is the aeronautics industry about to switch to electricity?

The British aeronautical company Faradair is developing a concept of a hybrid triplane for electric travel over short distances.

The plane, called the Bioelectric Hybrid Airplane (BEHA)will feature up to 19 seats and will be powered by an electric motor driven fan, one gear from BBC revealed. A small gas turbine in the plane will produce the necessary electricity.

Hybrid triplane firm promises low-cost intra-city flights

The BEHA’s tri-level wing design will also allow take-offs and landings on short runways. According to Faradair CEO Neil Cloughey, the BEHA will have fewer moving parts, making it cheaper to operate. Solar panels on the aircraft’s wings provide “always-on” ground power to the cabin.

The reduction in operating costs will also pass through to consumers, enabling flights at a lower price than the train, Cloughey said. And the plane was also designed to be sustainable at a time when governments around the world and the aviation industry are striving to reduce carbon emissions. “We set out to come up with an aircraft that would not only be economical to operate, and therefore cost effective, but also quiet and durable,” Cloughey told the BBC.

BEHA, Cloughey explained, will eventually allow short-haul flights between cities like London and Manchester for around £25 each way (about $30). That’s less than it costs to travel the roughly 163 miles (262 kilometers) between the two cities by train.

Solve the problem of electric aviation

The aviation industry accounts for approximately 2% of all global carbon emissions. Following the latest alarming IPCC report on climate change, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced a commitment achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Most aviation companies, including Airbus, are focused on using biofuels in the near term, although hydrogen and electric-powered aircraft are also considered serious options to reduce emissions.

Faradair, based in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, believes the hybrid system used in BEHA is an ideal alternative to the very limited capacity of battery-electric aircraft. While electric cars are on the way to replacing combustion engine vehicles in the years to come, electric planes are very limited by the weight of the batteries and the power required for take-off. For example, NASA’s prototype Maxwell X-59 electric plane can only fly for about 40 minutes at a time.

Faradair will compete with eVTOL flying taxi startups, including Volocopter and Lilium, which plan to start operating around 2024. Unlike eVTOL flying taxis, the BEHA needs access to a small airstrip. The flip side, however, is that it should have more passenger capacity than most drone-like eVTOL aircraft. Faradair hopes to have its planes flying by 2025 and plans to operate commercial flights by 2027.

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