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SUGAR: Electric Passenger Aircraft

SUGAR Volt: Boeing’s Hybrid Electric Aircraft

NASA asked a Boeing-led team to explore the possibilities of a hybrid electric aircraft. Marty Bradley, Boeing Research and Technology, explains how the SUGAR Volt concept is defining the future of flight. Learn more about how Boeing innovates at

How do you see the future of flight? What’s the shape of things to come? How might jetliners be designed and powered, not just a few years from now but decades?

These are some of the questions that NASA asked a Boeing-led team to examine. There was a time at a conference on advanced aircraft technologies [Marty Bradley – Technical Fellow, Boeing Research & Technology] where somebody stood up and said, “What about electric airplanes?” And everybody laughed.
And that was only about 5 years ago.
So we sort of took that as a challenge.
Can we make an airplane that has electric motors and batteries actually work?
[narrator] After looking at hundreds of ideas, one concept emerged
as potentially viable and desirable.
The team calls it SUGAR Volt.
[Bradley] SUGAR Volt is really similar to what people do with hybrid electric cars.
We have an engine that will operate on a combination of electrical power
or conventional jet fuel.
So it plugs in at the airport, charges its batteries up, flies its mission.
[narrator] SUGAR stands for Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research.
“Volt” suggests that it would be driven, at least in part, by electricity.
The SUGAR Volt concept has twin engines that burn fuel in each engine’s core
when great power is needed, such as takeoffs.
Then, to enable portions of the flight to be made with lower or even zero emissions,
it would use electricity to supplement or even replace power to the turbo fans.
[Bradley] We’re looking out to the 2030 to 2050 time frame.
The goals that we’re working to in the SUGAR study
are to reduce the amount of fuel burn by approximately 70%
compared to what airplanes do today,
and, along with that, also be quieter and reduce the environmental impact
of air transportation.
[narrator] The SUGAR Volt’s long wings are designed for greater lift and less drag.
So the aircraft would not only be more fuel efficient;
it would have shorter takeoffs and generate less noise.
To save space on the ground, the wings would also be designed to fold,
allowing use of the same airport gates that exist today.
[Bradley] The SUGAR Volt airplane combines a whole suite of technologies together.
It includes advanced aerodynamics, it has a better wing,
it has a higher-span wing. It’s more efficient. It has better propulsion.
But what the SUGAR Volt adds is it adds a hybrid electric approach.
We’re defining the future of commercial air transportation.

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