Cost assessment of near- and mid-term technologies to improve new aircraft fuel efficiency

Published Tue, 2016.09.27 | By

Anastasia Kharina, Daniel Rutherford, Mazyar Zeinali


Finds that fuel consumption of new aircraft designs could be cut by 25% in 2024 and 40% in 2034 using cost-effective emerging technologies—double the rate of improvement seen in designs coming from manufacturers now in response to market forces alone.

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This report summarizes the results of the first independent, bottom-up cost assessment of near and mid-term technologies to improve new aircraft fuel efficiency. Carried out in cooperation with a blue ribbon panel of technical experts and consultants using NASA and DoD-approved models to evaluate aviation technology programs, it assesses over 45 discrete technologies.

The analysis identifies significant potential to reduce emissions in-sector through emerging fuel efficiency technologies. The rate of fuel efficiency improvement for new aircraft can be more than doubled through 2034, from about 1% today to 2.2% annually, by the adoption of cost effective technologies to improve engine efficiency, reduce aerodynamic drag, and trim aircraft empty weight.

Key findings:

  • The fuel consumption of new aircraft can be reduced by approximately 25% in 2024 and 40% in 2034 compared with today’s aircraft by deploying emerging cost-effective technologies. These improvements dwarf the fuel efficiency of new “project” aircraft designs (mostly re-engined aircraft) being brought to market by manufacturers today.
  • Airlines could reduce their fuel spending over the 2025 to 2050 time frame by 19% compared with the baseline case by adopting cost-effective technologies. If passed along to the consumer, these savings could lower ticket prices by up to $20 for short-haul flights and $105 for long-haul flights.
  • Additional efficiency gains are possible but will require government support through policies like efficiency standards, carbon pricing, and research support for technology development.

Press release