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Consortium plans to build a hybrid-electric passenger plane

20 December, 2017

Siemens, Rolls-Royce, and Airbus have formed a partnership to develop a partly electric powered passenger aircraft as a step towards a new generation of commercial aircraft with hybrid-electric propulsion. By 2020, they are planning to fly a testbed aircraft in which one of the four gas turbine engines has been replaced by a 2MW electric motor.

This plane –  ­to be called the E-Fan X hybrid-electric technology demonstrator – will probably be based on a BAe 146 aircraft. Once it has proved itself, a second gas turbine could be replaced by another electric motor

“The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality,” says Airbus’ chief technology officer, Paul Eremenko. “We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation.”

The 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 aim is to push and mature the technology, performance, safety and reliability, enabling quick progress on hybrid electric propulsion.

One of the conventional gas turbine engines in the testbed aircraft will be replaced by a 2MW electric motor

Siemens will supply the 2MW electric motors and their controls, as well as the inverter, DC/DC converter, and power distribution system. Rolls-Royce will be responsible for the turbo-shaft engine, a 2MW generator and power electronics, while Airbus will be in charge of integration as well as the control architecture of the propulsion system and batteries and its integration with flight controls. Airbus and Rolls-Royce will also work together to adapt the aircraft to accept the electric motor.

The partners say they are committed to meeting the environmental goals of the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation, which include cutting CO2 emissions by 75%, NOx emissions by 90% and noise levels by 65%. These targets cannot be achieved using today’s technologies. Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion are seen as among the most promising technologies for meeting these goals.

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