Aviation's Electric Future Lands at the Paris Air Show
The electric revolution is making its mark at this year’s Paris Air Show with industry giants such as Airbus to nascent developers such as Eviation highlighting technologies that include electric aircraft, urban air mobility vehicles, and autonomous advancements. Their arrival at the show signifies that these technologies will likely become a key component of the future market.
“The Paris Air Show is an exhibition essentially oriented towards the future, which it helps to shape. This is why Innovation is one of the main themes of this 53rd edition,” show organizers said.
As such, the show is marking the return of the Paris Air Lab in the Concorde Hall to provide a venue for presentations and discussions about current and future innovations. Underscoring the interest in next-generation of technologies, the first edition of the Paris Air Lab in 2017 attracted 55,000 trade and general public visitors and 55 delegations.
Among the exhibits are startups in the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) market, which is raising high hopes with analysts suggesting it could be a cumulative $285 billion business by 2030.
To date, more than $1 billion has been poured into eVTOL and hybrid VTOL concepts and at least 125 designs are now on the drawing board in anticipation of what is expected to be at least a $30 billion market annually. Well-known industry players including Airbus, Boeing, Bell, and Embraer are joining companies such as Intel, Amazon, Honda, Toyota, and Uber to explore concepts. And they are among myriad eVTOL startups in the market, and the lab will feature some of these start-ups, including Ascendance Flight Technologies.
Many of the major manufacturers will spotlight their advancements this week in Paris. Airbus (Static C4), which has a number of projects in the works, is showcasing its Vahana all-electric, autonomous VTOL demonstrator that uses eight 45-kilowatt electric motors and a tandem tilt-wing configuration.
While VTOLs begin to take shape, manufacturers are continuing to progress on the electrification of more traditional designs. Israel-based Eviation (Chalet 282, Static B8), is making the global public debut of its all-electric nine-passenger Alice commuter aircraft prototype this week in Paris.
Alice is currently one of the largest aircraft to solely run on electric power. Eviation has teamed up with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) on research and development of the commuter aircraft –the largest aircraft to solely run on electric power. Eviation hopes to fly the aircraft in upcoming months.
Powering the Alice are Siemens motors, though Eviation announced a second engine option for the MagniX engine in late April. Over the past decade, Siemens (Chalet 59) has become a fixture at the Paris Air Show and is now a key driver in numerous of all-electric designs.
The company signed a memorandum of understanding at the 2013 Paris Air Show to explore technologies with Diamond and Airbus (then EADs). In 2017, Siemens’ 260-kW motor powered the Extra 330LE aerobatic plane that performed at the Paris Air Show flying display in 2015.
Airbus, meanwhile, arrives at Paris just weeks after signing an MoU with SAS Scandinavian Airlines for hybrid and electric aircraft eco-system and infrastructure requirements research. Airbus already has been testing hybrid-electric subsystems as it explores the potential for powering the next-generation narrowbody, working with companies such as Siemens.
French startup electric-hybrid aircraft manufacturer VoltAero (Static A6) is displaying an iron bird” mockup of its concept as it preps for flight testing of its Cessna 337-based "Cassio 1" hybrid-electric aircraft.
This type of research is being carried out throughout the industry with major engine-makers such as Rolls-Royce, GE, Honeywell, and Pratt & Whitney all testing hybrid-electric concepts. UTC is investing $50 million in a new lab, “The Grid,” that is devoted to the development of new electric power technologies for future electric and hybrid aircraft. This includes research to further the Project 804, a hybrid demonstrator that involves a re-engined de Havilland Dash 8-100 stationed at Pratt & Whitney’s facility in Montreal, Quebec.
Several airframers have flown or tested concepts, including Diamond Aircraft. And stay tuned—many more are in the works.