Airbus and Boeing are expected to turn to hybrid electric technology when they develop the next generation of airplanes because of limits on improving current engines, the head of a major aircraft lessor said on Thursday.
Airbus is already working hard on a hybrid solution but Boeing is likely to be more cautious about making a major investment in a new program given its challenges with the return of the 737 MAX and certification of the 777X, Air Lease Corp Chief Executive Steven Udvar-Hazy said at the Skift Aviation Forum.
“I have serious doubts that either Boeing or Airbus can design an all new airplane using current aerodynamic engine technologies that can have a meaningful – let’s call it double-digit advantage over what we already have,” he said in reference to fuel efficiency. “So what I see evolving is more of a hybrid.”
Udvar-Hazy said hybrid engines would allow for a lighter aircraft weight, as well as a technology transition rather than a step change.
“Almost like we didn’t go from all piston engine and diesel cars to all electric cars,” he said. “There’s that transition with hybrids that have a smaller gasoline engine and then an electric augmentation engine, like the Prius for the example.”
Airbus said last year it was considering producing a hybrid plane by 2035 as it strives for a low-emission aircraft, while Rolls-Royce said in March it expected hybrid planes carrying around 100 people to be flying commercially by 2029.
Boeing did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Boeing’s director of environmental strategy Sean Newsum said in January that scaling up hybrid technology to a 737-sized plane could take decades, though hybrid-powered regional planes could enter service in the 2030s, according to a FlightGlobal report.