We are still beginning to develop and understand the capabilities of an electric aircraft. Yet, the idea of a hybrid commercial plane is on the horizon.
Similar to the heroes in Marvel’s latest Avengers film trailer, the world’s leading experts in electrical propulsion from Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens have “assembled” at Royal Aeronautical Society to tackle the mission of creating more sustainable commercial flights. For the first time in history, in 2020, these companies will be testing a large demo version, of a hybrid electric passenger plane. The aircraft, called the E-Fan X, aims to prove that the mixture of conventional and electric engines will work. What does that mean for you and me? If things go well, projects like these could potentially reconceptualize commercial flight travel, opening the floodgates for redesigned planes, efficient airports and most importantly a smaller environmental impact.
The Age of Airline Emissions
How big of a carbon footprint has the age of airlines left on the world? It is quite staggering when you realize a person flying a round trip from New York to London produces around the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as someone heating a residential home for a year. Taking electric to the air only makes sense, especially how quickly the automotive has adapted to minimize emissions. The E-Fan X aims to be a charged shift in the aircraft industry. Dr. Frank Anton, Head of eAircraft at Siemens, hopes to “hand over electric propulsion to the next generation in order to make aviation continue on this planet.” The 2020 demonstrator flight is a British Aerospace 146 with one of its engines replaced by a two-megawatt electric motor. By testing the E-Fan X demonstrator and its electric propulsion system in flight, the partnering companies will potentially learn how to harness this disruptive innovation for aviation.
Dr. Anton believes the electric aircraft could completely revolutionize the industry. Having electric motors in a plane could force a complete redesign of the modern airplane. Quieter and cleaner travel could translate into having airports situated closer to major cities. The success of E-Fan X could be the needed spark to set off this sustainable chain reaction.
Where Will We Fly?
Yes, it still may be a while before we are all boarding a fully electric jumbo jet, but projects like E-Fan X are the right step in a major industry that is slowly re-innovating. It is good to mention that the Siemens, Rolls Royce, and Airbus are not the only three companies in the electric arms race. Boeing, easyJet, and Raytheon are also dedicating substantial to creating more sustainable aircraft. As more carriers take this new technology off the ground, carriers are beginning to realize that the technology will not only reduce emissions but also flying costs. Are you looking forward to our electric future?