Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens have teamed up on a programme called E-Fan X to develop a hybrid electric plane. The programme aims to replace one of the gas turbine engines on a BAe 146 aircraft with an electric engine. Their target is to produce a demonstrator version of the plane by 2020. They will then look to replace a second gas turbine engine with another electric motor. These steps will have to be taken gradually rather than attempting to produce a completely electric aircraft from the beginning as engineers are currently limited by the weight of batteries and cooling equipment.

Each company is to contribute specialist knowledge to the project and will be responsible for the following:

  • Rolls-Royce: Turbo-shaft engine, two megawatt generator, and power electronics.
  • Siemens: Two megawatt electric motors and their power electronic control unit, inverter, DC/DC converter, and power distribution system.
  • Airbus: Overall integration of the system.

Paul Eremenko, Chief Technology Officer at Airbus said that: “The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future”. The partnership will be able to learn from previous forays into electric flight, including the E-Fan (pictured). Eremenko continued on to say that such aircraft “will pave the way to a hybrid single-aisle commercial aircraft that is safe, efficient, and cost-effective…We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation.”

Paul Stein, Chief Technology Officer at Rolls-Royce said that this new technology would “welcome in the third generation of aviation”.

With progress being made to develop electric vehicles on the ground, the next step in the search for cleaner transport solutions is to look to the aviation industry. This partnership will move the industry towards achieving the ambitious goals set by the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation. This includes a reduction of CO2  by 75%, reduction of NOx by 90% and noise reduction by 65%.

 

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