Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens will collaborate on a hybrid-electric technology demonstrator expected to fly in 2020 called the E-Fan X, the companies announced Tuesday at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London. The partners plan to replace one of the four gas turbine engines in a BAe 146 test bed with a two-megawatt electric motor. Plans call for the replacement of a second gas turbine with an electric motor once the program achieves sufficient system maturity, said Airbus.
“The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future,” said Airbus chief technology officer Paul Eremenko. “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.”
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 matters. The program aims “to push and mature” the technology, performance, safety and reliability for quick progress on the hybrid electric technology. It would also establish the requirements for future certification of electrically powered aircraft while training a new generation of designers and engineers on the technology.
Under the development plan, Airbus will assume responsibility for overall integration and the control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries, along with its integration with flight controls. Rolls-Royce, meanwhile, will contribute the turboshaft engine, two megawatt generator and power electronics. Along with Airbus, Rolls-Royce will also work on the fan adaptation to the existing nacelle and the Siemens electric motor. Finally, Siemens will deliver the two megawatt electric motors and their power electronic control unit, as well as the inverter, AC/DC converter, and power distribution system. The Siemens contribution adds to the E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration between Airbus and Siemens, which aims at development and maturation of various electric propulsion system components and their terrestrial demonstration across various power classes.
“In April 2016 we opened a new chapter in electric-mobility with the collaboration with Airbus,” said Siemens chief technology officer Roland Busch. “Building up electric propulsion for aircraft, we are creating new perspectives for our company and also for our customers and society. With the E-Fan X partnership, we now take the next step to demonstrate the technology in the air.”
The companies see the studies as a step toward meeting the EU technical environmental goals of the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation, which calls for a reduction of CO2 by 60 percent, a reduction of NOx by 90 percent and noise by 75 percent. “These cannot be achieved with the technologies existing today,” said Airbus. “Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion are seen today as among the most promising technologies for addressing these challenges.”