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Monday, March 13, 2006

From Hybrid Cars To Hybrid Aircrafts

Fortune has an excellent article on Toyota’s Prius – For all its success as a high-quality manufacturer, before the Prius, Toyota had never been much of a pioneer. It was known as a "fast follower," a risk-averse company in which process--the famous Toyota lean production system--trumped product. Toyota unveiled the Prius in Japan in October 1997, two months ahead of schedule, and it went on sale that December. The total cost of development was an estimated $1 billion-after all the anguish, about average for a new car. Toyota is relentlessly adapting hybrid technology to more models, with the goal of offering it in every vehicle it makes. If Toyota can continue to reduce costs, and it most probably will, the potential for hybrids may be nearly unlimited. With its huge headstart, better technology, enormous scale, and powerful will to make hybrids an everyday alternative to the internal combustion engine--a combination no other auto maker can match-it's hard to see Toyota not dominating the industry for years to come. While reading this I was thinking about what impact a similar technology could have on the aerospace industry – I did not need to wait for long – in less than twenty four hours, I read co-incidentally while flying – The Economist technology quarterly covering the interest on hybrid aircrafts. Claiming that the idea is not so far fetched and points to Boeing’s interest in fuel cell auxiliary power units (APU’s). The real challenge seems to be integrating fuel cells into aircrafts. The hope is that this phenomenon is not unique to aviation industry –in every industry as the appetite for fuel cells increases – be it in laptops, locomotives – all now are presumed towards finding a solution towards the goal of building new power sources into their existing products – So in all its likelihood, in 15-20 years, hybrid powered commercial airliners may become a reality – Like the modest beginning that Toyota has while trying out hybrid cars and making it a a big segment, one hopes that we get to see similar things happening in aircrafts – a cherishable goal indeed.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
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