Accelerating the Future of Aircraft with Electricity

October 24, 2016

It seems as though it’s becoming a daily occurrence for companies to launch initiatives to create the greenest technologies. Airbus has decided to join the race and create aircraft which produce zero CO2 emissions.

efan2E-Fan 4.0 Concept
[Image Source: Airbus Group]

The plane of choice is the Airbus E-Fan, and its engines are powered entirely by electricity. Their goal is to create ‘short-range commercial aircraft‘. The E-Fan first earned its name in the record books in 2014 when they flew across the English channel with the first twin-engine electric plane to become the first all-electric plane to traverse the 74-kilometer gap.

Lithium-ion batteries power the E-Fan, holding it in the air for 40 minutes. The carbon fuselage and electric engines only weigh 600 kilograms. The plane has since been upgraded to a two-seater E-Fan 2.0, an electric two-seater aimed at pilot training. The next generation of E-Fans will be the 4.0 which aims to be the first 4-seater electric plane targeted towards short-distance commercial flights.

The updated E-Fan can reach speeds of up to 200 km/h while weighing 100 kg less than its predecessor. Currently, the aircraft uses two battery packs which can provide 60 kilowatts of power to the engine for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Flying Farther Than Ever Before

The plane is nothing like the Solar Impulse II which recently completed its trip around the world by only using solar panels and battery banks. The aircraft, however, was incredibly slow and completely unpractical for commercial use at this time. However, Airbus’s recent efforts may revolutionize the electric aviation market yet.

Going further, the company is pushing to integrate hydrogen fuel cells to power electric motors. Ideally, the new concept will reduce carbon emissions by 75%, NOx emissions by 90%, and reduce 65% of the noise. The idea is to create a hybrid aircraft which uses both electricity and hydrogen/oxygen propellants to take advantage of both technologies. One efficient turbine mounted at the rear will provide partial thrust and will be able to recharge the batteries.

Currently, there are very few electric aircraft on the market for civilian use. However, new innovations could unlock the potential to create super efficient aircraft and pave the way for the future of aviation.

Via Airbus

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