Home' Asian Aviation : AAV February 2018 Contents 16 AsianAviation | February 2018
Electric plane designers
dream of hybrid future
Late in 2017, three major players in the aviation world announced they were embarking
on the plane of the future — a hybrid-electric jet they hope will revolutionise the industry.
Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens have formed a partnership to develop a flight demon-
strator called the E-Fan X. The companies hope the plane will fly in 2020 following a
comprehensive ground test campaign, provisionally on a BAe 146 flying testbed, with one
of the aircraft’s four gas turbine engines replaced by a two-megawatt electric motor. Pro-
visions will be made to replace a second gas turbine with an electric motor once system
maturity has been proven, the companies said.
The E-Fan X is an important next step in the goal of making electric flight a reality in the
foreseeable future, Airbus officials said when the announcement was made. 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 issues. The objective is to push and mature the technology,
performance, safety and reliability enabling quick progress on the hybrid electric technol-
ogy. The programme also aims at establishing the requirements for future certification of
electrically powered aircraft while training a new generation of designers and engineers to
bring hybrid-electric commercial aircraft one step closer to reality.
As part of the E-Fan X programme, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens will each contribute
extensive experience and know-how in their respective fields of expertise:
Airbus will be responsible for overall integration as well as the control architecture of
the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries, and its integration with flight controls.
Rolls-Royce will be responsible for the turbo-shaft 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. Siemens will deliver the two-megawatt
electric motors and their power electronic control unit, as well as the inverter, DC/DC con-
verter, and power distribution system. This comes on top of the E-Aircraft Systems House
collaboration between Airbus and Siemens, launched in 2016, which aims at development
and maturation of various electric propulsion system components and their terrestrial
demonstration across various power classes.
Among the top challenges for today ’s aviation sector is to move towards a means of
transport with improved environmental performance, that is more efficient and less reliant
on fossil fuels. The partners are committed to meeting the EU technical environmental goals
of the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation (reduction of CO2 by 60
percent, reduction of NOx by 90 percent and noise reduction by 75 percent). — MATT DRISKILL
The CityAirbus programme has reached an-
other important milestone: the completion
and “power on” of the “iron bird” ground test
facility in Taufkirchen, Germany. This enables
the verification of the entire electric propul-
sion system of CityAirbus, developed by
Airbus’ E-Aircraft Systems unit. The first full
electric propulsion test bench has the capa-
bility to operate the propulsion system chain
from flight controls to the dynamic loads of
the propellers. This allows the verification of
the electric, mechanical and thermal dynam-
ics. After being maturated and verified on
the iron bird, the propulsion system will be
embedded on the demonstrator by mid-2018.
The test bench configuration reflects the
CityAirbus architecture including motors,
power electronics and distribution boxes
developed and produced by Siemens in the
frame of the cooperation agreement between
Airbus and Siemens on electric propulsion.
Meanwhile the development of the CityAir-
bus demonstrator itself is ongoing. The first
structural parts have already been produced
and are on the way to being assembled.
These important development steps pave
the way to the CityAirbus’ first flight before
the end of 2018.
CityAirbus is a multi-passenger, self-pi-
loted battery-powered vertical take-off
and landing vehicle designed for urban air
mobility. It is designed to carry up to four
passengers over congested megacities in a
fast, affordable and environmentally friendly
way. — MATT DRISKILL
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