Siemens Electric Airplane Makes U.S. Debut

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Siemens brought its prototype electric aircraft to the U.S. this week for the first time, showcasing the airplane at the company’s Innovation Day in Chicago. “Electric propulsion is one of the transformative technologies that will help the industry meet the goals of reduced fuel, emissions and noise,” said Teri Hamlin, vice president of electric propulsion for Siemens. “By accomplishing testing on our systems on select flying testbeds in the lower power classes, we are gaining valuable experience and knowledge that accelerates and validates our other developments in hybrid-electric propulsion systems in the high power classes.” Further testing of the technology will take place in Waco, Texas, at the Texas State Technical College Airfield.

The Texas facility will become home to the eFusion aircraft, a flying test bed featuring the Siemens 55-kw electric propulsion unit, the company said. The Texas facility also will be key in data collection on new electric propulsion systems, enabling safety standards and certification efforts for the aerospace market. Siemens also is working with Airbus on the “City Airbus” demonstrator, a VTOL designed for urban mobility. That aircraft will fly for the first time later this year, Siemens said. The company also said recently it will collaborate with Airbus and Rolls-Royce to further develop innovations in the field of hybrid electric propulsion.

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Comments (20)

" meet the goals of reduced fuel, emissions and noise,"

Who set those goals?
I want faster, less expensive, and easier to update/change.
I don't want expensive, sketchy support, low range, and business-as-usual part 91/43.
I don't think the goals they have match with the customer....

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 29, 2018 9:59 AM    Report this comment

I can't wait to spend $500K for a coal burning airplane that will run for 20 minutes.

Posted by: Leo LeBoeuf | March 29, 2018 12:39 PM    Report this comment

I continue to be befuddled by the notion that -- somehow -- an electric airplane (or car) doesn't use energy. Hmmm ... maybe it grows on trees and I didn't get that memo?

Unless and until the little green aliens give up the secret of how their UFO's fly, an electric airplane is nothing more than a gimmick with today's battery energy density levels. Then again, maybe its a hybrid and they've put a little popup windmill on this thing to recharge the battery? :-)

And the notion that they'll be able to build a commercially viable and certificated airplane exceeds the bounds of reality. At the speed with which the FAA operates ... it's more likely that the Sun will become a red dwarf first.

All they're doing is transferring the place where the pollution occurs from the vehicle to the power generation plant. I guess they haven't figured that out?

Posted by: Larry Stencel | March 29, 2018 1:20 PM    Report this comment

There are tremendous benefits to electric airplane beyond cleanliness:
- Eliminations of dozens of expensive components for holding, conveying, and mixing fuel, then getting riding of the combusted materials: fuel caps, tanks and lines, fuel drains, fuel selectors, mixture controls, carbs, spark plugs, magnetos, pistons, rings, valves and springs, pushrods, cylinders, turbos, mufflers, exhaust pipes and brackets, air cleaners, many cooling components, etc
- All the other stuff you can forget about:: oil consumption, exhaust stains, fuel stains, alternators, getting on a ladder to refuel a high-wing.
- No reciprocating engine parts.
- Reduced vibration = less stress on airframes, props, etc. = lighter components.
- No combustion noise.
- The equivalent of refilling the tank doesn't add weight..
- Reduced likelihood of fire.
- Torque!
- No loss of power with altitude.

I think flight schools will be the first big market, which will require quick-change battery modules.

I think getting the range and carrying capacity of my 210 will take longer, but I'd love to have a two-seater electric as a second plane ASAP.

Posted by: Art Friedman | March 29, 2018 4:11 PM    Report this comment

You might want to talk with Boeing, Art, regarding the reduced liklihood of a fire.....

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | March 29, 2018 5:59 PM    Report this comment

Is there any indication of what the power to weight ratio would be? If the airshow performance only runs 5 mins, you wouldn't need crap loads of batteries, no?

Posted by: Craig Spirko | March 29, 2018 10:25 PM    Report this comment

If you have never driven an electric vehicle (EV), you probably just can't understand what a huge difference there is in operating one vs and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. It's not evolutionary, it's revolutionary. I own a Chevy Bolt and despite it's limitation, which are mostly related to infrastructure, I never want to own another ICE car.

Sure, you are not going to be flying an electric plane cross country anytime soon, though it may be sooner than you think. But for an ab-initio trainer, I don't see how you could do better than electric.

As far as expense goes, there is basically no maintenance on an electric vehicle but tires, and I suppose brakes for a plane. Those electrons that power it are about 1/3 to 1/2 the price of equivalent energy for auto gas. You can do the numbers for avgas.

The current Airplane Geeks podcast talks a lot about this topic.

Finally, nobody has ever said that electric vehicles don't use energy. That assertion as well as people stating that is a common claim of proponents is patently ridiculous. EVs do two thing. First they are generally more end-to-end efficient. This is a really hard number to come up with but the best estimates are that on average, in a car, they use 1/2 to 1/3 the energy of a ICE vehicle. That's average. You can come up with edge conditions in both directions. Second they enable very flexible sourcing of energy, from fossil fuels to solar, wind, atomic, fuel cells etc. And driving an EV is just pure fun!

Ron

Posted by: Ron Steele | March 30, 2018 8:35 AM    Report this comment

Electric cars are NOT revolutionary, they are evolutionary. 120+ years of electric cars has relegated them to platypus status because evolution has shown that they can't compete. They still can't compete and can only survive in safe spaces away from the real world of transport.

LOL, infrastructure building to support niche "green" vehicles takes a LOT of coil/oil/gas and then it takes VAST areas of land to actually get enough solar power to run anything more than a 1000# death trap of a car. There again, evolution will weed out the weak....

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 30, 2018 9:13 AM    Report this comment

I am reading some of the comments here about the ecological impact of an electric power airplane and am astounded at the lack of understanding. An electric airplane for example in Arizona that flies once a week or once a month, can be totally solar powered. Place panels on the roof and get your 3 hours of flying per week for Mmmm nothing. Wind power, Nuclear power gas power. Coal is not the only thing that feeds the grid. As for the powerplant itself,, there is no comparison, quiet, reliable did I say reliable with only one moving part... Nothing zero zilch zippo and nada will compare to an electric motor and Batts. Yes, it will be a while before I can use it for charters, but for the great majority of weekend warriors that aircraft engine combo is all they will ever need, to put a smile on their faces and free no cost flying. Like I mentioned earlier, place solar panels on the roof and let them charge. Won't be long before FBO's have 400 v charging stations,! Think this through folks, you don't need a fuel farm with impact statements,, you can install a charger or 10 of them in a week. Yes, I am sure that SigLature will try to rip us off with charging,, but maybe they will roll it into their ramp fees.
I'd love not to have to invest in ANR headsets anymore (Invest,,,???, should be expensed). Instant power just go baby.
I remember when some people rather vocal were against microwave ovens, yes it was before the internet,,, so it wasn't as crazy as it is now in terms of loudness... . Now everybody has one.
Hey if I can warm up to the idea of plastic airplanes none of you should have issues with electric propulsion airplane.

Posted by: Max Mason | March 30, 2018 9:56 AM    Report this comment

What cynics fail to comprehend is that it is the 98% efficiency of electric propulsion that enables it to compete with ~30% efficient petroleum-based engines.

And then there is the fact that the current world population of 7.2 billion is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, according to a United Nations report; that's a 29% increase in the number of people consuming resources within 32 years Continuing to treat Earth's environment as a boundless open-system is shortsighted if not criminal....

Posted by: Larry Dighera | March 30, 2018 10:09 AM    Report this comment

YARS, are you referring to Trans World Airlines Flight 800 that exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near New York, on July 17, 1996 due to fuel tank explosion?

Posted by: Larry Dighera | March 30, 2018 10:13 AM    Report this comment

LD:

I was thinking about a January 7, 2013 bar-b-que at Logan in Boston - and several other early-lifetime events.
wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_787_Dreamliner_battery_problems

The 747 has been in service since 1969, and has experienced ONE - alleged - fuel tank explosion. The Dreamliner barely had entered service when its battery problems required a fleet-wide grounding and a re-design of the affected components.

A lithium-ion battery fire is a sight to behold - from a safe distance. The tighter you try to pack them, the dicier the down-side eventuality becomes. Rapid-discharge events (think "takeoff and climb") exacerbate the problem. Is it a worthwhile risk? Perhaps. But no informed person can rationally assert that a lithium-ion stack offers a lower risk of fire than does a tank of avgas or Jet-A.

Consider the weight of a 75kwh battery. Compare/contrast with the weight of 60 gallons of avgas. Decisions; decisions.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | March 30, 2018 12:44 PM    Report this comment

"What cynics fail to comprehend is that it is the 98% efficiency of electric propulsion"

LOL, funny.
What you don't admit are all the losses in efficiency of collecting, transferring, inverting, storing, transferring again and then using. Heck, just the inverter at my house looses 10% in the transfer and uses 100W continuous just to run it. Add the fact that you need DOUBLE the battery capacity that you will be using (so you don't kill the batteries by drawing them too low) so, like YARS said, actual battery weight gets real serious for the amount of work you intend to do.

As far as FBO's having 400 v charging stations, BS! They won't even supply MoGas because there is not enough business to do it. Electric charging stations with brand new high amp service boxes back to the utility grid? Dream on.

If you live in Arizona and have a PRIVATE hanger that you can put screws into an mount an array on and a brand new electric plane........... then you are already paying way too much just to fly once a month! Q.E.D.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 30, 2018 2:26 PM    Report this comment

@YARS: Your early-Dreamliner example serves to confirm that concentrations of chemical potential power (fuel), be they petroleum or lithium based, must be designed so that uncontrolled release of that energy is prevented. I think we can both agree with that.

The dearth of electric automobile fires, compared to the number of those powered by gasoline/diesel, is silent testament to the acceptable safety of lithium "fueled" transportation.
[Supporting URL removed due to forum policy]

How fair is it to compare mature technology with what amounts to prototypes?

Posted by: Larry Dighera | April 1, 2018 7:28 AM    Report this comment

@Leo LeBoeuf: Please consider that the Siemens electric prototype is not intended to be a viable commercial product, but a robust testbed with which iterative engineering advancement of this novel technology may be developed. It is powered by a 350 HP motor, while the Extra 330 is powered by a 315 HP IC engine; with additional power comes additional "fuel" consumption.

Fuel cost is the largest expense of aircraft ownership, in my experience.

Consider that solar electric production has grown at a rate of 59% annually over the last ten years (Google "solar-industry-research-data"). It has the potential to provide significantly cheaper and cleaner power in the future without the hazards associated with fracking and petroleum production (aquifer poisoning, earthquakes, environment destruction, spills/leaks,...), and it's "sustainable" (doesn't consume natural resources).

There can be little question that solar electric is the future.

Posted by: Larry Dighera | April 1, 2018 8:10 AM    Report this comment

@Mark Fraser: Certainly there are potential inefficiencies with electric motive power systems, and I'm sure Siemens is working diligently to minimize them as part of their development effort.

With regard to your home solar battery reference, I presume your necessity for doubling the number required is result of archaic lead-acid chemistry. Are you familiar with LiFePO4 battery chemistry that maintains its initial terminal voltage to 80% State Of Discharge?

Posted by: Larry Dighera | April 1, 2018 8:22 AM    Report this comment

@Larry Stencel : How likely did you think the circumnavigation of Earth by photovoltaic powered aircraft like the Solar Impulse might be?

Posted by: Larry Dighera | April 1, 2018 8:27 AM    Report this comment

@Larry Dighera,
Yes, I'm talking about so-called "archaic" lead-acid chemistry.
If I was talking about LiFePO4 then it would cost 4X more per-battery!
Why would anyone pay 400% more to get a gain of 30% storage for home use?

As far circumnavigation of the Earth by photo voltaic powered Solar Impulse, look at the MASSIVE oil/gas support team that was needed to make that "clean" flight possible. They could have flown around the world in a Bonanza in 1/50th of the time and 1/50th TOTAL energy used to get the Solar impulse to do it. Once you look at the whole system, the "magic" disappears.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | April 1, 2018 9:46 PM    Report this comment

LD:

I have no "beef" with electric aircraft, per se. But batteries as a power source? For lugging around four American adults, at customary airspeeds, for 4-1/2 hours or so? The proposition is absurd. That mission profile isn't a lot to ask - it's just way too much to ask or to expect of any available or forseeable battery technology.

But hybrid electric technology? NOW we're talking about something that's both doable and - in the right circumstances - desirable.

As for prototypes (developmental articles) versus mature technologies, I remember some useful advice given to me by my Irish grandmother: "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | April 2, 2018 5:13 AM    Report this comment

Flying Magazine has a nice article on this subject titled: "Electric Aircraft Might Become an Industry Standard Sooner than Expected." (Google it)

... Bowles reminds the naysayers of electric power plants about earlier days in aviation when people said jet engines weren't going to be all that useful.

"People wondered what good jet engines would be on straight wing aircraft or an aircraft that only flew at low altitudes demanded where jet power plants were quite inefficient. We simply designed aircraft that could take advantage of those new technologies. We need to think of battery power the same way. What additional advantages might electric offer us?"

Posted by: Larry Dighera | April 5, 2018 9:34 AM    Report this comment

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