Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens have joined forces to give electric airplanes real lift. First up will be a near-term flight demonstrator that the partners believe will represent a ‘significant step forward’ in hybrid-electric propulsion for commercial aircraft.
The E-Fan X hybrid-electric demonstrator is slated to fly in 2020 following ground testing on a BAe 146 flying testbed, with one of the aircraft’s gas turbine engines replaced by a 2Mw electric motor. The E-Fan X demonstrator will be used to explore thermal effects, electric thrust management, altitude and dynamic effects on electric systems, and electromagnetic compatibility issues.
“We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation,” says Paul Eremenko, Airbus’ chief technology officer.
The partners say one of the main challenges for the aviation sector is to move towards a means of transport with improved environmental performance that is more efficient and less reliant on fossil fuels.
Low-cast airline EasyJet earlier this year allied with Wright Electric to develop a commercial electric plane within the next decade.