E-Fan X: making electric flight and cleaner aviation a reality

E-FanX Airbus 2017

Today’s aviation sector is being challenged to improve its environmental performance by becoming more efficient and less reliant on fossil fuels. Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens are committed to meeting the EU technical environmental goals of the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation — reducing CO2 by 75%, NOx by 90% and noise by 65%. These cannot be achieved with existing technologies, so we are investing in and focusing research work in different technology areas including electrification.

Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion are seen today as among the most promising technologies that will address these challenges.“The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future,” Paul Eremenko, Airbus’ Chief Technology Officer, says.“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. We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation.”

Hybrid Electric flight E-FanX Airbus 2017

Announced at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, the E-Fan X hybrid-electric technology demonstrator is anticipated to fly in 2020. This will follow a comprehensive ground test campaign, provisionally on a BAe 146 flying testbed, with one of the aircraft’s four gas turbine engines replaced by a two megawatt electric motor. Provisions will be made to replace a second gas turbine with an electric motor once system maturity has been proven.

The groundbreaking project will bring together some of the world’s foremost experts in electrical and propulsion technologies.

  • Airbus will be responsible for overall integration as well as the control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries, as well as its integration with flight controls.
  • Rolls-Royce will be responsible for the turbo-shaft engine, two megawatt generator, and power electronics. Along with Airbus, Rolls-Royce will also work on the fan adaptation to the existing nacelle and the Siemens electric motor.
  • Siemens will deliver the two megawatt electric motors and the power electronic control unit, as well as the inverter, DC/DC converter and power distribution system. This comes on top of the E-Aircraft Systems House collaboration between Airbus and Siemens, launched in 2016, which aims at development and maturation of various electric propulsion system components and their terrestrial demonstration across various power classes.
INFOGRAPHIC E-FanX Airbus 2017

The E-Fan X demonstrator will explore the challenges of high-power propulsion systems, such as thermal effects, electric thrust management, altitude and dynamic effects on electric systems and electromagnetic compatibility issues. The objective is to push and mature the technology, performance, safety and reliability enabling quick progress on the hybrid electric technology. The programme also aims at establishing the requirements for future certification of electrically powered aircraft while training a new generation of designers and engineers to bring hybrid-electric commercial aircraft one step closer to reality.

Rolls-Royce Chief Technology Officer Paul Stein says, “The E-Fan X enables us to build on our wealth of electrical expertise to revolutionise flight and welcome in the third generation of aviation. This is an exciting time for us as this technological advancement will result in Rolls-Royce creating the world’s most powerful flying generator.”

Roland Busch, Chief Technology Officer of Siemens, says his company has been driving innovation in core technology fields at “full speed”. He says, “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.”