Some technologies are thought to be modern and in fact date back hundreds of years. If you play the online slots Canada has to offer, you might not be aware that online casino games have been around for more than two decades. Hybrid cards are also not as new as you might think. Hybrid or gas/electric vehicles date back as far as 1889 and are only now going mainstream. However, electric/hybrid aircrafts are another story altogether.
Thanks to the efforts of Rolls Royce, Airbus and Siemens, we could be seeing the first ever hybrid-electric plane take to the skies by 2020. The three technology/aircraft design companies have partnered up to develop a state of the art near-term flight demonstrator that will run on hybrid technology. After an extensive ground test campaign, the brand-new E-Fan X demonstrator will run on a Bae 146 flying test bed. For now, one of the aircraft’s 4 gas turbine engines will be swapped out and replaced with a two-megawatt electric motor.
Hybrid Technology – The Future of Aviation
Once the technology has improved or evolved as it were, the plan is to swap out a second gas turbine engine with a 50/50 split of gas and electric to power the plane. According to Airbus CTO, Paul Eremenko, the E-Fan X is a big step in their goal of making electric flight a reality in the near future. While it is still in its infancy, the program aims to mature the hybrid technology, the performance factor and the reliability of electric flight and make it feasible in commercial aircraft.
At the same time, the program helps to create requirements for future certification of hybrid planes while training a whole new generation of engineers and designers. Eremenko continued, saying that the lessons learned from a lengthy history of hybrid or electric flight demonstrators will ultimately pave the way for single-aisle commercial planes that are cost-effective, safe and incredibly efficient.
According to the terms of the partnership agreement, each firm will play a major role in the development of the E=Fan X. Whether it be administration of orders, or the actual build. The joint effort is part of a plan to meet the environment goals for the Flightpath 2050 vision for Aviation by the European Commission. The aim is to reduce 75% of all CO2 emissions, 90% of all NOx emissions and 65% noise within the next 30 years.
Airbus feels the only way to meet these challenges is to develop electric and hybrid-electric propulsion system. Paul Stein, the CTO of Rolls-Royce said that the E-Fan X enables the company to build on their expertise to revolutionise flight, moving us into a third generation of aviation. The project will result in Rolls Royce creating the most powerful flying generator the world has ever seen.
Both AgustaWestland and Boeing are also on board with the idea of hybrid engine technology for aircrafts. As it stands, the DA36 E-star already has an electric motor, however, the E-Fan X is project is the first to think about mass commercial flight rather than light aircraft application.