It’s a vision now shared by the UK government. At the opening of the 2018 Farnborough Airshow, Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark announced that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will invest £255 million to develop greener flight technologies, a share of which will go to E-Fan X. “We are working with industry to lead the world as we embark on this journey into the new age of air travel,” he said.
Airbus believes electric and hybrid-electric propulsion will help the aviation industry meet the goals set out in the Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation, which aims to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and noise levels.
A huge leap forward
Starting in 2010 with the CriCri – the world’s first fully electric aircraft – Airbus has also produced the all-electric E-Fan 1.0 and hybrid E-Fan 1.2, which combined a 60 kW motor with a combustion engine. While these represented major achievements, the steps between each project were incremental. The E-Fan X will be a comparatively huge step forward.
“Our aim is to replace one of four gas turbines on a flying testbed with a 2 MW electric motor,” says E-Fan X project lead Olivier Maillard. “That’s over 60 times more power than the previous E-Fan. Nothing like that has ever flown before.”
Key to this major jump is the rapid pace of development in battery and fuel cell technology. “Now is the right time to focus on larger aircraft and bring hybrid-electric aircraft closer to reality,” Maillard explains. “Quite simply, the industry cannot achieve its sustainability goals with the technologies existing today."