E-Fan is a key element in Airbus’ electric aircraft roadmap, with the goal of achieving emission-free quiet flight. The company is targeting advanced technological breakthroughs that could be key enablers of its long-term goal to ‘electrify the skies.’
Technology improvemens across products
Airbus's research and technology network is leading a company-wide electric aircraft roadmap. This strategy outlines a step-by-step approach for Airbus’s short-, medium- and long-term development of electric planes.
The E-Fan demostrator was a first step in our long-term goals of potentially developing a hybrid-electric regional airliner or helicopter.
The product strategy is closely supported by the roadmap’s other component – the concurrent development of ground and flying demonstrators to evaluate the feasibility and benefits of e-aircraft technology.
This activity is led by Airbus’s E-Aircraft System House and covers research on a wide range of disruptive technologies and programmes, along with collaborative projects. The knowledge and expertise gained will enable improvements across the company's product range, including more on-board electrical power to increase aircraft efficiency, reduce noise and lower emissions.
A central hub for electric aviation in Munich
The E-Aircraft System House is at the heart of Airbus’s electric aircraft activities. This large test and development facility near Munich, Germany will serve as an Airbus focal point to validate electric and hybrid aircraft propulsion technologies.
To reach the necessary levels of maturity for e-aircraft technology, the E-Aircraft System House is initially focusing on:
- Advancing basic technological expertise and capabilities for individual components
- Investigating incorporation of components into sub-systems such as electric fans and propellers, high-voltage platforms, turbines, generators and thermal systems
Ground was officially broken on the facility in Spring 2016 – which enabled the start of construction in 2017 and a planned opening by late 2018.
Advancing Europe’s innovation in electric aircraft
Another important part of the company’s electric aircraft roadmap is teaming with world-class partners to investigate disruptive innovations.
One example with this is Airbus' collaboration agreement with Siemens to demonstrate the technical feasibility of hybrid/electric propulsion systems by 2020. With the goal of advancing European leadership in electric aircraft technologies, both companies are making significant contributions and will create a team of around 200 people for the project.
Airbus and Siemens plan to jointly develop prototypes for various propulsion systems in three general power categories:
- Several hundred kilowatts, for applications such as helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
- Up to two megawatts, typically applicable to intra-urban air vehicles
- Ten megawatts up to 20 megawatts for regional passenger aircraft.
Airbus’ electric aircraft roadmap: a timeline
Airbus begins work with Rolls-Royce on distributed electrical aerospace propulsion (DEAP). This results in the E-Thrust hybrid concept for a future airliner with significantly reduced CO2 and NOx emissions, as well as dramatically lowered noise levels. In this concept several electrically-powered fans are distributed in clusters along the wing span.
In a cooperation supported by Airbus Innovations, the two-seater Diamond Aircraft DA36 E-Star motor glider takes to the skies powered by an electric motor. It is equipped with an Integrated Drive System from Siemens and a generator linked to a small Wankel rotary engine.
The E-Fan demonstrator makes its first public flight and is unveiled at Airbus’s e-aircraft event in France. With two seats and a weight of 600 kg., the E-Fan 1.0 is initially equipped with two electric motors that provide a combined power of 60 kilowatts, each driving a ducted, variable pitch fan.