The "Dreamliner" is propelled by fuel, but many of its onboard features depart from typical planes by using electrical power. The 787's engine start, auxiliary power unit, wing ice protection, and other units rely on electrical systems, instead of traditional pneumatics. This "no-bleed," electrical architecture allows the plane to produce thrust more efficiently as energy is not diverted away from the high-speed air produced by the engines.
In other words, the 787's jet propulsion is used more for propelling the plane, and not powering the accouterments that make air travel safe and comfortable.
It's also the first Boeing plane to use fast-charging, lithium ion batteries, and is made with lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum.
That means the Dreamliner is 20 percent more fuel efficient and produces 20 percent fewer emissions than similarly sized airplanes, according to Boeing.
It's an important step toward fuel efficiency for an industry whose energy consumption in the United States is expected to grow to 3.1 quadrillion British thermal units in 2035, up 14 percent from what it consumed in 2008, the US Energy Information Administration projects. Air travel will make up 2.7 percent of the total projected US energy consumption in 2035, the agency adds.