Airbus Looks At Electric Future
Airbus is in the electric airplane business for at least the medium term and the next few years could see the first flight of a BAE 146 regional jet converted to fly on electric power. Ken McKenzie, senior VP of strategy and corporate development for Airbus, said what started with a quirky rear-engine ducted fan demonstrator called the E-Fan could be headed for full-scale development into a product line of electric aircraft. That, he said, depends on shareholder support and regulators but he noted that “fossil fuels aren’t going to last forever.” In the immediate future, the company plans to fly a pilot-flown single-seat tilt-rotor and an autonomous four-place quadcopter.
The E-Fan project, which flew on about 30 kilowatts of power, managed a carefully orchestrated crossing of the English Channel two years ago. That project ended in favor of an electric-powered Extra 300 with about 300 kilowatts of power. Next is the regional airliner with a fuselage-mounted generator putting out two to three megawatts of power to energize wing-mounted motors. McKenzie said the company doesn’t know where it will all lead but it intends to be a player in electric propulsion.