In the interest of efficiency and eco-energy, aircraft manufacturers have turned to hybrid and/or fully electric engines.
Airbus have already revealed their roadmap for the development of an electric plane and the European aircraft manufacturer is not the only one in the race, Boeing and some start-ups have also joined the race.
Airbus announced its partnership with Siemens and Rolls-Royce to develop the ‘E-Fan X’, a hybrid propulsion aircraft whose first flight is scheduled for 2020. The first tests will be on a BAe146 plan, where one of the four reactors will have been replaced by a 2 megawatt electric engine.
A second turbine will then be replaced by an electric engine once the maturity of the system has been demonstrated. The next step for Airbus will be to develop a single-aisle electric or hybrid aircraft close to the A320, however no date is yet given for this project.
E-FAN X developed by AIRBUS, Rolls-Royce and Siemens
An aircraft of this size needs a power of at least 40 MW for take-off and 20 MW to sustain the flight, yet with the 2MW E-Fan X Airbus are still a long way from achieving this goal.
However, important technological issues still need to be overcome: low density of electric batteries, electrical thrust management, heating problems related to high electric power, effects of altitude and dynamics on electromagnetic systems are some of the first technological challenges to be addressed by the projects designers.
If other industries having already jumped on the electric train, with the automotive industry in the lead, the energy transformation of the aerospace industry is more complex and undoubtedly will take longer, but the question is not whether this transformation will take place, but when?
Wadii, Consultant, Leyton France