Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens have announced plans to collaborate on a hybrid-electric test aircraft that will fly by 2020.
Airbus, Siemens and Rolls-Royce will together manufacture the new E-Fan X hybrid electric motor, which will power a BAE 146 jet. This jet can carry up to a 100 passengers and serves as a regional jet. The engine is expected to be ready for commercial use within a decade.
The pressure to invest in electric aircraft in Europe stems from the EU’s Flightpath 2050 vision, which aims to support the effort to strongly reduce aviation’s emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides by 2050. The EU also wants a strong reduction in noise pollution from aircraft in the coming years.
Airbus is thus far the European aviation industry’s leader in electrification. The company in 2014 introduced the E-Fan electric airplane, a dual-seater plane that flew across the English Channel the following year.
Hybrid aircraft: benefits and risks:
- The benefits of electrification in the aviation industry are clear. It will certainly reduce noise pollution and reduce the sector’s impact on the environment. It will also provide greater stability as far as operating airplanes are concerned.
- Oil prices, for example, account for somewhere in the range of 17-36% of a plane’s operating cost, depending on the price of oil. Oil price fluctuations have a large impact on the total cost of operating airplanes.
- With hybrid planes being less reliant on oil, this ultimately means the total cost of operating planes will become more stable and even reduced. It’s no wonder that even EasyJet is moving in this direction, announcing in September that it plans to develop an electric aircraft together with Wright Electric.
However, players in the aviation industry will make sure the technology is well developed and tested before hybrid and even completely electric planes are brought out for commercial use. The risks involved in air travel are great, and accidents can cause great damage to the image of not only the company operating the plane but also the very technology powering it.
Delays in the E-Fan X project and indeed any other electric aircraft project are therefore a real possibility, as companies will not risk allowing their products to enter the commercial market until they are fully satisfied of their viability.
As part of the E-Fan X programme, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens will each contribute with their extensive experience and know-how in their respective fields of expertise:
- Airbus will be responsible for overall integration as well as the control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries, and its integration with flight controls.
- Rolls-Royce will be responsible for the turbo-shaft engine, two megawatt generator, and power electronics. Along with Airbus, Rolls-Royce will also work on the fan adaptation to the existing nacelle and the Siemens electric motor.
- Siemens will deliver the two megawatt electric motors and their power electronic control unit, as well as the inverter, DC/DC converter, and power distribution system. This comes on top of the E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration between Airbus and Siemens, launched in 2016, which aims at development and maturation of various electric propulsion system components and their terrestrial demonstraion across various power classes.
Source: ICAERO, 2017
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Friday Dec 1, 2017