If anything can make air travel glamorous again, it's the Volta Volaré, a futuristic private commercial plane that runs on a hybrid battery like that of the Chevy Volt. The Volta Volaré GT4, built by a small company in Portland, Oregon, has an electric battery that can let it take off, ascend, and cruise 300 miles. After that, a 1.5-liter gas engine and 23-gallon tank can extend its range to 1,000 miles. The four-passenger GT4 is supposed to begin testing this spring.
Founder and CEO Paul Peterson says that the GT4 could be much cheaper to run than its gas-powered counterparts. A 200-mile flight, for example, would consume only $20 of electricity compared with about $80 in gasoline. The simplicity of the electric engine could also cut down on maintenance. Though it would certainly provide a bump in fuel efficiency, we imagine most flights would require the gas engine, and it's unclear whether this model could ever be applied to larger commercial liners.
While Peterson hints that the aircraft could eventually go electric-only, we'd likely need to see significant battery improvements before pilots or passengers would be comfortable using a fairly new aviation technology without backup. A few comments in Popular Science have also suggested that solar panels could be placed on the plane's exterior, something that's been done in smaller noncommercial projects. If you want to see what owners of the roughly $500,000 GT4 are being promised, you can take a look at the Volta Volaré reservations page.