Airbus caused a stir two years ago by announcing an ambitious plan to build a hybrid-electric four-seater for the U.S. light plane market dubbed the E-Fan 4.0, plus a smaller two-seat all-electric trainer called the E-Fan 2.0, both of which the company predicted would enter production before the decade was out. That idea has faded away quietly with the departure of Airbus Chief Technology Officer Jean Botti, who had been a strong backer of the E-Fan project.
Andy Anderson, who served as interim CTO when Botti left in March and who is now Chief Operating Officer at the aerospace giant, confirmed to Flying at Oshkosh yesterday that the company has no plans to build the hybrid four-seater.
“Airbus is not a general aviation company,” he said. “Our aim is to research technologies in order to learn and apply them into our overall road map for hybrid-electric technology.”
A new factory in the south of France that Botti had said would build E-Fan 2.0 and 4.0 models will be used instead to allow the company and its VoltAir subsidiary to explore how to introduce future electric-hybrid production concepts, eventually including commercial airliners. Several partners, including Daher and electric motor maker Siemens, are involved in the project.
E-Fan 2.0 has just entered the detailed design phase, Anderson said. He added that the light trainer may yet enter production, but only in “limited” numbers.
Asked about the fate of the four-seat hybrid-electric E-Fan 4.0, Anderson said, “It doesn’t exist.”
“We want to research and understand electric technologies and what we need in order to reach that goal,” he explained. “We had thought about producing a hybrid airplane, but instead we’ve put that technology into E-Fan 1.0, allowing us to reach our goal much more quickly.”
Airbus is showing off the E-Fan 1.0 — now dubbed E-Fan 1.2 — at EAA AirVenture. It no longer has a second, rear seat. In its place is a small two-stroke gasoline engine that drives a range-extending generator, doubling the airplane’s flight endurance to around one hour plus a 30-minute reserve.
E-Fan 1.2 uses its batteries and electric motors during takeoff and landing and the gasoline power plant during cruise. It flew for the first time in France three weeks ago and will head back to continue flight testing after Oshkosh.