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The Simple Physics of Energy Use$
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Peter Rez

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198802297

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198802297.001.0001

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Air Transportation

Air Transportation

(p.152) 10 Air Transportation
The Simple Physics of Energy Use

Peter Rez

Oxford University Press

When an airplane is full, the energy used to travel a given distance compares very favourably with driving an economical car. Primary energy use is less since airplane turbofan engines are more efficient than car engines. Even airplanes with propellers driven by petrol engines are more efficient than cars as the engines are operating at near-peak rpm and producing a higher proportion of the rated power. Air travel uses a lot of energy because it makes travelling long distances easy, even if not very comfortable. The airplane is limited by the weight it can carry, which puts a limit on how tightly the passengers can be squeezed together. Given that drag will always be a factor in high-speed transportation, even for ground transportation, energy use can be minimised by reducing the cross-sectional area and squeezing more people into even smaller spaces, such as in the hyperloop.

Keywords:   parasitic drag, induced drag, propeller, turbofan, turbojet, range, endurance, pressure ratio, turbine inlet temperature, bypass ratio, hyperloop

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