More reports on: Aerospace manufacturing

Hybrid electric plane to fly by 2020

29 November 2017

A partly UK-built hybrid electric plane could be flying by 2020 thanks to collaboration between Airbus, Siemens and Rolls-Royce.

The manufacturers would convert a short-haul passenger jet, which would see commercial air travel running partly on electricity become a reality.

According to engineers involved in the E-Fan X project, the technology could mean cleaner, quieter and cheaper journeys. They also held out the prospect of radically changing aircraft and airport design, which could see air travel supplant rail for many more intercity journeys.

The companies are discussing partial funding of the joint project with the UK government to partially fund the joint project, which could cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

They are looking to build an E-Fan X demonstration model based on a BAe 146 aircraft in which an electric unit, powered by an onboard generator, replaces one, and eventually two, of the four gas turbine engines of the plane.

In 2015, Airbus flew a single-seater electric plane, the E-Fan, across the Channel. The E-Fan X passenger jet would require over 30 times the power, two megawatts, for a single electric engine.

Mark Cousins, the head of flight demonstrators at Airbus, said: ''We decided we needed to be more ambitious because the world and technology is moving so fast,'' The Guardian reported.

"We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation," said Paul Eremenko, Airbus' chief technology officer, BBC reported.

The electricity generators, at the back of the E-Fan X plane would be provided by Rolls-Royce and the turbine powering the generator will run on jet fuel and provide power for the electric engine.

Excess power from the generator would be stored in banks of batteries in the aircraft's holds and the stored energy would be used during take-off and landing.

According to a Rolls Royce spokesman, the company wanted to make the turbine as light as possible. He added that "parts of the engine, generator and power electronic systems will be integrated to reduce weight."

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