Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens this week announced a partnership that the companies claim will be a “significant step forward in hybrid-electric propulsion for commercial aircraft.” The E-Fan X hybrid-electric technology demonstrator is set to take flight in 2020, with the goal of this new partnership being a revolution in flying that will be clean, efficient and cost-efficient.
“The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future. The lessons we learned from a long history of electric flight demonstrators, starting with the Cri-Cri, including the e-Genius, E-Star, and culminating most recently with the E-Fan 1.2, as well as the fruits of the E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration with Siemens, will pave the way to a hybrid single-aisle commercial aircraft that is safe, efficient, and cost-effective,” said Paul Eremenko, Airbus’ Chief Technology Officer. “We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation.”
The ground test will begin with a British Aerospace 146 flying testbed; however, a two-megawatt electric motor will replace one of the aircraft’s four gas turbine engines. As testing progresses, a second electric motor will replace another gas turbine engine. Ultimately, the companies believe the E-Fan X program could pave the way for safe and reliable hybrid electric technology, while also serving as a training platform for a new generation of designers and engineers.
Each company plays a specific role in the development of the demonstrator, as Airbus will handle the “overall integration” and Rolls-Royce will be responsible for the turbo-shaft engine, two megawatt generator, and power electronics, according to a joint statement. Siemens, which previously announced an E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration with Airbus in 2016, is providing the two megawatt electric motors and their power electronic control unit, among other power aspects.
“Siemens has been driving innovation in core technology fields at full speed,” said Roland Busch, Chief Technology Officer of Siemens. “In April 2016 we opened a new chapter in electric-mobility with the collaboration with Airbus. Building up electric propulsion for aircraft, we are creating new perspectives for our company and also for our customers and society. With the E-Fan X partnership, we now take the next step to demonstrate the technology in the air.”