Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens have formed a partnership to develop hybrid-electric propulsion for commercial airliners.
The companies are planning to build the E-Fan X hybrid-electric technology demonstrator, based on a British Aerospace 146 flying testbed, with one of the jet’s four gas turbine engines being replaced by a two-megawatt electric motor. The aircraft is expected to fly for the first time in 2020 following a comprehensive ground testing programme. During the aircraft’s conversion, provision will be made to allow a second electric motor to be fitted as the system’s maturity is proven.
Paul Eremenko, Airbus’ Chief Technology Officer, explained: “The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality. The lessons we’ve learned from our long history of electric flight demonstrators, starting with the Cri-Cri, including the e-Genius, E-Star and culminating recently in the E-Fan 1.2 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 will explore the challenges of high-power propulsion systems, including thermal effects, electric thrust management, altitude and dynamic effects on electric systems and electromagnetic compatibility issues. The objectives of the demonstrator programme are to push and mature the idea, performance, safety and reliability enabling quick development of hybrid electric technology.
The partners are committed to meeting the European Commission’s ‘Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation’, which calls for a reduction of CO2 by 75%, NOx by 90% and noise by 65% compared to today’s levels. They believe that the development of electric and hybrid-electric propulsion aircraft are the most promising technologies to address these challenges.