The UK will play a crucial role in the development of future electric-hybrid airliners with a flying demonstrator expected to take off as soon as 2020.
Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens have combined forces to develop hybrid-electric propulsion for commercial aircraft. The three companies together announced the groundbreaking collaboration, bringing together some of the world’s foremost experts in electrical and propulsion technologies, at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London in November.
The E-Fan X hybrid-electric technology demonstrator is anticipated to fly in 2020 following a comprehensive ground test campaign, provisionally on a BAe 146 flying testbed, One of the aircraft’s four gas turbine engines will be replaced by a two megawatt electric motor. A second gas turbine will be replaced with an electric motor once system maturity has been proven.
“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 lessons we learned from a long history of electric flight demonstrators, starting with the Cri-Cri, including the e-Genius, E-Star, and culminating most recently with the E-Fan 1.2, as well as the fruits of the E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration with Siemens, will pave the way to a hybrid single-aisle commercial aircraft that is safe, efficient, and cost-effective.
“We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation.”
The E-Fan X demonstrator will explore the challenges of high-power propulsion systems, such as thermal effects, electric thrust management, altitude and dynamic effects on electric systems and electromagnetic compatibility issues.
The objective is to push and mature the technology, performance, safety and reliability enabling quick progress on the hybrid electric technology.
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.
Siemens will deliver the two megawatt electric motors and their power electronic control unit.