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Record-breaking motor is ‘five times more powerful’

24 March, 2015

Airlines operating such aircraft will benefit from cost savings. “Kerosene accounts for over 50% of an aircraft’s lifecycle costs,” Anton explains. “The use of hybrid electric drives would reduce fuel consumption by around 25%, with the result that the total costs of an aircraft would fall by about 12%.”

This is because an intelligent hybrid drive combining an electric motor and a combustion engine can use turbines that not only are much smaller than today’s, but can also be operated continuously at peak efficiency during flight. Today’s turbines, by contrast, are designed to deliver a maximum level of power that is needed only during takeoff and ascent. At other times, they need only 60% of their maximum output.

Getting ready for takeoff: Siemens' lightweight 260kW motor

“With a kerosene-electric hybrid drive system, the turbine would run continuously at optimum power and provide energy, via a generator, for the electric motor powering the propeller,” Anton explains. “During takeoff, extra energy would be provided by a battery.”

Anton reckons that Siemens is a least three years ahead of others developing lightweight motors for aviation. The company is now working with Airbus to turn this vision of electrically-powered flight into reality. Under a 2013 cooperation agreement, Siemens is focusing on the electric drive systems, while Airbus is working on new aviation concepts. If the engineers can develop motors that are even lighter and more powerful, the first 60–100-seater aircraft with a hybrid electric drive could be ready for takeoff by 2035.

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