The Best Idea From Siemens: The World's First Hybrid-Electric Airplane

By The Editors

We asked Siemens, the international industry juggernaut, to reveal its most exciting new innovation. Here's what the company selected.siemens plane2.png

The problem: Air traffic accounts for two percent of CO2 emissions around the world, and the European Union is locked in an international battle to force airlines to pay for pollution they leave in EU airspace. As cars undergo a hybrid craze, planes need a similar innovation revolution, or else prices and pollution will continue to rise.

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The idea: This summer, Siemens unveiled the world's first hybrid electric plane -- a two-seater motor glider that completed its first flight in Vienna, Austria. Siemens' aircraft is the only one of its kind in the world, and the first to use a "serial hybrid electric drive," a technology reserved mostly for advanced electric cars, like those produced by Tesla. The small combustion engine uses an electric generator and a super-powered electric motor to drive the propeller.

The potential: Siemens hopes that, as the technology improves to accommodate more small, medium and even large-scale airlines, hybrid planes will reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions by 25 percent over today's most efficient planes, making air travel more sustainable.

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Want to share your company's best idea -- or your own! -- with us for our Best Ideas series? Leave yours in the comment section or email me a description and a photograph at dthompson@theatlantic.com.

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/11/the-best-idea-from-siemens-the-worlds-first-hybrid-electric-airplane/248010/