Clean Disruption News: Electric aircraft nears take-off as Rolls-Royce, Airbus & Siemens team up to build ‘e-jets’
Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens have teamed up to develop the technology needed to create electrically powered aircraft.
In 2020 the companies plan to fly a demonstrator aircraft with one of its existing jet engines replaced by an electric unit.
The engine will use a fan powered by electricity from an on-board generator located in the fuselage of the “E-Fan X”, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The companies hope the concept demonstrator – which will also contain batteries, making it a hybrid aircraft – will help perfect the technology that could see “electric jets” flying short-haul routes of about one hour within a generation.
Paul Stein, chief technology officer at Rolls-Royce, said: “Aviation is the last frontier of the electrification of transport. It could lead to a step change in the way we fly with greater efficiency and less noise.”
Successfully developing an electric aircraft could reduce fuel consumption by up to 10pc, predicted Mark Cousin, head of flight demonstration at Airbus, potentially making flights cheaper – if airlines are willing to pass on the savings.
The partners also say that electric jets, which use a gas turbine to generate electricity, which is then routed to propellors located around the aircraft, would also “significantly” reduce the amount of noise.
They expect the technology to be first used in regional aircraft seating about 100 to 150 people, servicing the shortest of short-haul routes such as London and Paris. Ultimately it could be extended to long-haul routes.
Moving to electric aircraft would help the aviation industry meet EU targets which by 2050 want to see a 60 per cent reduction in emissions of CO2, 90 per cent less NOx and noise 75 per cent lower.
Although the gas turbine would drive the propellors through a generator system, batteries would provide extra power only when it is needed, such as during take-off, making aircraft more efficient overall.