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Siemens and Airbus aim for an electric aircraft breakthrough

07 April, 2016

Siemens and Airbus have signed a long-term collaboration agreement aimed at demonstrating the technical feasibility of hybrid/electric propulsion systems for aircraft by 2020. They have set up a joint development team of around 200 people to drive innovation and the development of electrically powered aircraft in Europe.

The two companies plan to develop prototypes for various propulsion systems with power classes ranging from a few 100kW up to 10MW or more, for applications ranging from helicopters to short- and medium-range passenger aircraft.

Hybrid-electric propulsion systems could slash aircraft fuel consumption and noise levels. They could also help the EU to achieve its target of reducing CO2 emissions by 75% by 2050, compared to those in 2000. This target cannot be achieved using conventional technologies.

“Electric and electric-hybrid flight represent some of the biggest industrial challenges of our time, aiming at zero-emissions aviation,” said Airbus CEO, Tom Enders, at the signing ceremony. “The progress we have achieved in this arena, together with our industrial and governmental partners, in only a few years is breath-taking – culminating in last year's [English] Channel crossing of our all-electric E-Fan aircraft.

“We believe that, by 2030, passenger aircraft below 100 seats could be propelled by hybrid propulsion systems and we are determined to explore this possibility together with world-class partners like Siemens.”

Siemens wants to establish hybrid-electric propulsion systems for aircraft as a future business. President and CEO Joe Kaeser says that the Airbus agreement will open a new chapter in e-mobility. “Collaboration with Airbus Group will create new perspectives for our company and open us up even more to disruptive innovation.

A team of 200 will work to achieve the ambitious targets for electric propulsion systems

“The undertaking will be an important project under the umbrella of our so-called Innovation AG,” he adds. “The aim of this unit is to cooperate with innovative partners in order to identify and invest in new trends and develop future-oriented business opportunities. These partners may include entrepreneurs from Siemens' own employee environment, external start-ups, and newly founded and established companies."

Working with Austria's Diamond Aircraft, Siemens and Airbus first demonstrated a hybrid aircraft in 2011. Since then, Siemens has been developing a motor that delivers five times more power, with no increase in weight. Since 2014, Airbus has been gathering operational experience with its E-Fan two-seater electric aircraft, which is used to train pilots.

Siemens and Airbus have agreed to collaborate exclusively in selected development areas. In parallel, they will continue to work with other partners for small aircraft with fewer than 20 seats.

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