France, Germany and UK: Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens have partnered to develop a hybrid electric engine and advance battery technology and electric motors, in a move to reduce flying costs and steer away from fossil fuels.
It is expected to fly in 2020 following a comprehensive ground test campaign on a short-haul airliner—British aerospace 146—flying testbed, with one of the aircraft’s four gas turbine engines replaced by a two megawatt electric motor. If the first tests are successful, a second turbofan engine will also be replaced with an electric propulsion unit.
“The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future,” said Paul Eremenko, chief technology officer, Airbus. “We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation.”
The European Union is committed to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation aims to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 75 percent, nitrous oxide by 90 percent, and noise by 65 percent. Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion are seen as the most promising technologies for addressing these challenges.
The E-Fan X will contain a fan run by a two-megawatt electric motor built by Siemens, instead of a jet turbofan power plant. Siemens will also provide the power electronic control unit, as well as the inverter, direct current to direct current converter, and power distribution system.
The electric fan will run on electricity provided by a two-megawatt generator powered by a turbo-shaft engine, both produced by Rolls-Royce. Airbus will be responsible for overall integration, control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system, the batteries, and integration of the modifications with the cockpit flight controls. Airbus and Rolls Royce will collaborate on modifying the drive fan.
The goal of the demonstrator is to study thermal effects, electric thrust management concerns, altitude and dynamic effects on electric systems, and electromagnetic compatibility issues. It will test the performance, safety, and reliability of hybrid electric systems, and also establish requirements for future certification of the next generation of hybrid-electric commercial aircraft.
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