Electric Airliner Demonstrator Announced

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Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens are partnering to build a partially electric-powered airliner demonstrator intended to provide the initial data toward developing a fully electric-powered passenger aircraft. The high-powered partnership hopes to have a modified BAE 146 regional airliner, dubbed the E-Fan X, flying with one of its four engines running on electricity instead of kerosene by 2020. “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, Airbus’ Chief Technology Officer. The two-megawatt electric motor will be powered by a gas turbine generator located in the fuselage and the aircraft will be a test bed for all the parameters of flight for a fully electric plane. “The objective is to push and mature the technology, performance, safety, and reliability enabling quick progress on the hybrid electric technology,” Airbus said in a news release. After tests with one electric motor, the plan is to install a second one, which likely means all-electric test flights with the jets as a backup.

Under the deal, Rolls-Royce will supply the gas turbine generator and associated electronics and help Airbus adapt the engine nacelle for the ducted fan. Siemens will provide the motor and all the controls and systems that support it while Airbus will be responsible for putting it all together on the airframe. The three companies will throw their combined R&D horsepower behind the project with an eye on the 2050 target by the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation to cut CO2 emissions from aviation by 75 percent, nitrous oxide by 90 percent and noise by 65 percent. “These cannot be achieved with the technologies existing today,” the news release said.

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