Delta Airliners Integrating Wheeltug Hybrid Motor Technology

Delta Airliners Integrating Wheeltug Hybrid Motor Technology

Delta Airliners Integrating Wheeltug Hybrid Motor Technology (photo: Pylon757 via Flickr)

Hybrid vehicles keep getting bigger: first there were tiny experimental cars, then hybrid SUVs began to appear on the road. And now some of Delta’s next-generation Boeing 737 aircraft (like the one pictured above) will be equipped with Wheeltug hybrid motors for taxiing on the ground. These motors will improve efficiency and safety while planes maneuver around the tarmac, reducing fuel use and maintenance requirements.

A substantial amount of a typical airliner’s fuel usage and engine wear occurs while the plane is still on the ground. Its jet engines are used to propel it to and from runways, and it requires towing vehicles for precise positioning at the gate.

Using the Wheeltug system, however, an aircraft can propel itself forward or backward via a pair of Chorus Meshcon electric motors that drive the front wheels. Electric power comes from the plane’s existing auxiliary power unit, which is a much smaller gas-powered unit and requires much less fuel than the primary engines.

The Wheeltug system requires no modifications to the airframe aside from additional wiring, and the joystick steering control doesn’t interfere with existing cockpit designs. The manufacturer estimates that a Wheeltug-equipped 737 aircraft could save nearly 100,000 gallons of fuel per year, while avoiding the safety and maintenance concerns of jet engine use on the ground. And as airports become busier and more crowded, the system could speed turn-around times by eliminating the need for tug vehicles to position planes at their gates.

(Via Wheeltug PLC)

Comments

  1. Thomas says

    “Electric power comes from the plane’s existing auxiliary power unit, which in turn gets recharged from engine power during flight.”

    I’d love to see your news source for this APU that magically recharges is flight. Please do not make up facts. The 737 has a gas turbine APU.

  2. Benjamin says

    Thomas-
    You are correct that the 737’s APU is gas powered, although it uses far less fuel than the main engines – and thus makes the WheelTug system much more fuel-efficient for taxiing than using primary engine power.

    Some smaller turbine engines do use an all-electric APU for startup. I mistakenly believed that the 737 had this type of design, and I’ve updated the original article to correct this detail. Honest error – I certainly wasn’t trying to “make up facts”.

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